In the storm’s wake, out with the fake!

Posted by
November 4, 2012

There’s nothing like shining a flashlight into a dark cupboard to really put a spotlight on your food purchasing skills.

To be sure, in planning to ride out a history-making hurricane “good” or “bad” food isn’t necessarily on top of most people’s minds, but it should be. For many of us on the East Coast trampled in Sandy’s walk inland, the storm probably brought out the worst in our eating habits – for example, one fairly careful eater I know has been living on Goldfish crackers and Pepsi for almost a week now. There is no excuse for this!

While there’s plenty of advice online about what to buy and what to do when preparing for a blackout, most tips involving food mention some pretty bad items, things no one should be eating, much less those stressed out to the max who need better nutrition than Twinkies, Spam and items filled with MSG and high fructose corn syrup will give you.

After the first buffet round of extreme eating to consume the still-edible contents of your refrigerator, days (or weeks) without power can turn into a “Rambo”-like existence with “the maddening loss of conveniences and the shortage of food (driving) you over the edge,” says author Jon Robertson in his vegetarian gourmet survival guide, Apocalypse Chow.

While Chow gives much practical – and humorous – advice for dealing with days on end with no power, it also offers scores of recipes, many quite gourmet, to make with either no heat, or a one-heat source (such as a one-burner butane stove), including “fire-roasted blueberry cobbler,” and “almost instant black bean chili.”

If you’re not the kind to care about going gourmet during a prolonged period of being “powerless,” there are many items you can stock up on that won’t turn your Spartan existence into a digestive nightmare.

A perfect time to rediscover real food

Fresh fruits such as apples, oranges and grapefruit can keep well for a time without refrigeration, and bananas, if not too ripe to begin with, can last up to seven days before they are considered pie or bread fodder. Root vegetables, such as carrots, turnips, beets, potatoes and sweet potatoes can keep for weeks in a cool, dry and dark place and cooked using a gas range. The fresher they are to begin with, the longer they will keep. Canned soups and chili without such ingredients as hydrolyzed proteins, MSG and HFCS (Amy’s brand is a good choice); peanut butter without HFCS or hydrogenated oils; 100 percent juice in boxes; nuts and seeds without MSG-type flavor enhancers; organic canned beans and vegetables; canned or pouch tuna and salmon and canned fruit sweetened with fruit juice are just a few of the better options available. (For an interested viewpoint against the concept refrigeration in general see The Anti-Fridge blog here).

Gas stoves and ovens will typically work during a power outage and, in addition to a hot meal, will provide you with numerous other choices. And if a prolonged blackout has forced you to trash everything in the fridge, consider it a sign from the food gods, and make a pledge to never, ever put fake food in it again.

As odd as it sounds, being stuck at home without a working microwave and not much of anything else to do could be a good time to reconnect with actual food ingredients, not to mention a different way of preparing them. As Chow author Robertson observes,  “If you’re lucky enough to escape with your hide, missing the conveniences of life as you know it can drive you mad. The days pass. You gaze upon your silent appliances, the unseeing eyes of your computer and TV, and wish you had something to eat besides another jar of salsa.” In which case, “eating great meals can go a long way toward helping you feel better.”

To say nothing of enabling you to reconnect with genuine food – and banishing those products guilty of food identity theft from you life.