Friday, November 17, 2006

Question of unknown origin

How long could your household subsist on what's in the refrigerator and pantry? This assumes that there is electricity and there is tap-water and there is fuel for cooking but that gardens and stores are not available. Another question that would follow from that, although not posed originally, is: what would you save until last? Would this be something you really like? Or would it be something you detest but would eat if necessary to survive? We've been having a lot of fun with this, but I'm not sure what my answers would be, other than that any true perishables would have to be consumed first. We once lived where many people kept a year's supply of provisions always on hand, rotating out what was no longer good for use. When I was a kid, everybody talked about "the squirrel shelf," meaning, figuratively, the pantry equivalent of what our bushy-tailed friends store for winter. We always have flour, cereal for eating both cold and hot, rice, potatoes, powdered buttermilk, split peas, nuts, onions, garlic, ginger, and canned beef and chicken broth on hand, as well as canned fruits and juices. When we lived fifty and sixty miles over bad roads from where there was any real shopping, we thought a lot about keeping staples stocked, including powdered milk for enriching things baked. Eggs and various creatures freshly killed or caught, whether domesticated or wild, were usually available there. Some of this shades over into what people try to keep in their refrigerators at all times.


At 8:41 PM, November 20, 2006, Blogger VWing said...

My friend and I, both veterans of serious poverty in our youth, used to compile lists of what we would buy at the grocery store if we were down to $20 and weren't terribly sure when the next money would arrive.

Rice, beans, onions (for the beans), eggs, powdered milk, day old bread, oatmeal, . . .What would you buy?

At 5:31 AM, November 21, 2006, Blogger Rantor said...

BTDT, and a double sawbuck doesn't go far at all these days. I wouldn't buy bread because I've always made my own (or biscuits and the like) in those circumstances if I have a working oven or stove (only about a quarter of the yeast specified is really needed and there's always keeping a starter on hand). I agree about onions for flavor and rice just because. Rice is so much better and more versatile than, say, posta. Oatmeal is a great suggestion and I've always kept that. Powdered milk is a great nutritional enrichment and doesn't require refrigeration. I've always liked to keep a lemon, if possible, for when green vegetables are cheap. I do think that chicken broth is good to have on hand, better canned than boullion cubes; it makes other things seem to go farther. I got so I couldn't stand beans, although now I love them again. A sack of potatoes if you're where they're not going to sprout is good. Chiles for seasoning are good, too, and often they don't have to be bought, growing wild as they do. I can't believe, though, how even onions and rice and beans and potatoes are so costly compared to what they used to be. Sometimes canned fruit is really cheap. Some small stores will sell just a stick of butter, not the whole package--what a treat when it's possible. I've always thought that the very worst things about not having enough food money are (a) the blandness (black papper, onions, chile help), and (b) the way you get to longing for something to chew (and that's why people buy chicken backs and things like that).


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