Food Skills Even More Important During Crisis

| 6/1/2011 3:55:13 PM


Storm Over Big Rideau by Sue Van Slooten  

Storm Over Big Rideau by Sue Van Slooten

It’s tornado and thunderstorm season. The only storms more destructive are hurricanes. However, at least the hurricane has the decency to give you a few days notice of its arrival, not so with tornadoes and T-storms. They can arise within minutes. In light of the horrible devastation throughout a good part of the U.S., I decided, living near the northern end of Tornado Alley, that it would be a good idea to revisit my emergency supplies, and collect them together into the respective backpack and carryall. In addition to first aid kits, non-perishable food items and the like, I decided to see if the web had any advice on what else should go in. Imagine my surprise when I found a website,, (click on “Food”), not only giving a list of items needed, but also the idea that a hand operated grain grinder would be a useful item. What? This person’s logic is, that if you’re without power for an extended time, say days or weeks, you still need bread. During a crisis, food stores either run out very quickly, or are destroyed. As you can see from my previous blog, you can forget the bread machine. The recent storms in the deep South also touched Canada, with 110 km winds.  We lost our power for seven hours, not a great problem. But our neighbours just down the road were out for twenty-six. During the Great Ice Storm of ‘98, many were out for weeks and months. Stuff happens.   

This person also felt it would be a good idea to know how to make the bread, once you were through grinding the grain. (Personally, I’d prefer to skip the grinding  step.)This is a skill that could become quite valuable, that, providing you have the raw ingredients, a camp stove or oven and fuel, you can make bread.  A hot skillet bread would be easy and very satisfying. A cast iron pan would be nice, if you had it available. In reality, any pan will do. No pan? Try aluminum foil, and barring that, a stick. Dough can be wrapped around the stick and cooked over an open fire. Or, if enough of your neighbours are able to help, you might just form a primitive version of a communal oven, whereby everyone would benefit.   

This brings me to another topic:  cooking over open fires. Now there’s a lost art form. I am the resident fire builder, having taught my husband the best way to get one started. He, of course, now denies he needed teaching. My skills were further developed after an outdoor two day camping skills course through Scouts Canada, where one learns, not just fire building and cooking, but even the occasionally required three, five, or nine hour ceremonial fires. I digress, but the point is, excellent meals can be cooked over an open fire. With dry matches, some kindling and (I shouldn’t admit it) paper, you can have a roaring fire in five minutes. You may not be so lucky during most disasters like hurricanes and T-storms and their ilk, as everything is sodden. Things get a bit tougher in that case. Firestarters can be a big help here, found in most camping sections. The supposed waterproof matches can be difficult to get going, and I suspect despite their name, they are susceptible to moisture. Don’t attempt a fire, whether open (even in a fire bowl) or on a camp stove of any kind, inside anything: tent, garage, etc. Don’t use gasoline or other flammable liquid, as it can explode on you. One final warning:  Do NOT Attempt open fires if there is the least suspicion of a gas leak. That’s a fire you really don’t want.    

5/20/2013 3:09:45 PM

I, too, was a Girl Scout and later a leader and there was a point in my marriage at which I had cooked more meals outside than inside.  I am amazed at how well prepared we are to improvise in a crisis!  In our camping days, one of our favorite ways to bake was in a cardboard box oven. (Google it.)  We also found one large clay flowerpot inverted onto another one filled with sand made a great oven.  Both of these ovens use charcoal, but one could improvise by moving hot coals from a wood fire where wash water was heating or soup was cooking.  Great firestarters to keep on hand are cardboard egg cartons filled with dryer lint over which melted wax has been poured.  Also chunks of old candles wrapped like toffees in waxed paper works well.  It doesn't take long to dip your own strike anywhere matches in melted wax, and they keep in a glass jar virtually forever.  A piece of steel wool touched to the ends of two flashlight batteries gets a hot spark quickly.  Wow!  I suddenly want to go camping!

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