This month we feature a book that advises how to prepare for those emergencies when the power has failed and meals need to be prepared.
How to Eat Well
When the Power Goes Out
By Jon Robertson with Robin Robertson
Simon Spotlight Entertainment, 2005
Not only do they want you to be prepared with food to eat, but they also want you dine with "a touch of elegance to brighten an otherwise miserable day collecting rainwater, standing in lines, or arguing with the insurance company." In their case they are often the envy of their neighbors by being able to produce tasty and nutritious meals during a power outage.
One of their secrets is the Five-Day Wine Box that contains enough food to feed three or four people for five days. The title is derived from the fact that the food fits into an empty wine carton. The carton would hold almost three-dozen food items mostly in jars and cans. From this list one could prepare such delicacies as Red Rum Chili, Kitchen Sink Capellini, Curry in a Hurry, and even Orchiette with White Beans and Olivada. Few people would expect this kind of eating during a power outage.
Most useful are the authors' suggestions for The Well-Tempered Pantry that lists beverages, breakfast foods, snacks, grains, pastas, noodles, prepared foods, breads and crackers, cooking sauces and other liquids, flavor makers, and miscellaneous items. To enhance the dining experience they suggest a visit to a local ethnic market to search for non-perishable items. They make suggestions for possible purchases in Indian, Middle Eastern, Latin, Asian, and Italian markets and even list their favorites in these categories.
The Robertsons provide a handy checklist of equipment and kitchen tools. An emergency butane stove is high on their list of essentials as well as a gas grill fueled by a propane cylinder. They also caution against cooking with grills, wood fires, and barbecues inside the house. And don't forget to fill the bathtub with water for cooking, washing, or flushing the toilet. Kitchen tools include non-electric graters, can openers, vegetable peelers, potato mashers, and nut grinders. There's even a sudare for making sushi.
Robin Robertson has developed 68 recipes that not only possess clever titles, but also are easy to prepare. In Bean and Vegetable Main Dishes she offers Wish-I-Were-in Tuscany Chickpea Stew, High-Water Hoppin' John, and Thaiphoon Stir-Fry. Pasta and Grain Main Dishes feature Suddenly Sushi, Puttanesca in a Pinch, and "Duck and Cover" Tortilla Bake.
Salad offerings spotlight Tournedos of Tabbouleh and "We're Not in Provence Anymore" Salad Nicoise. Soothing Soups suggest Shiitake Happens Mushroom and Comforting Corn Chowder. Among the Savvy Snacking recipes are Gorp Redux and Texas Twister Caviar. Dessert Every Day focuses on nine dessert ideas that include Darling Clementines with Pistachios and Cranberries and A Mere Trifle.
The section on How to Relieve Stress details some calming suggestions--everything from deep breathing and massage to taking a nap or even procreating. The authors also present ideas for keeping the kids busy with book titles for different age levels. Adults can be kept occupied with various games of skill and chance.
The book concludes with a Resources Directory that is subdivided into sections:
Your Emergency Numbers Directory contains the FEMA phone number along with spaces for the numbers of everything from your gas, water, and power companies to you psychotherapist, ear candler, cuppist and past-life regressionist. The last page is for personal notes.
Reading a book about preparing for emergency situations could be a real downer, but this one takes a serious subject and presents the information with a light approach. Who would think planning for natural calamaties could be such a delightful reading experience? Survivors of hurricanes that could have blown them away and devastated their property, the Robertsons have managed to remain unscathed with their sense of humor intact. Readers can benefit by their experience and the numerous practical suggestions they present.
Apocalypse Chow is a necessary guidebook/checklist for people who want to be prepared for the next big one. Our wine carton will contain many of the foods they have suggested as well as a copy of the book placed in a plastic bag to protect it during the next emergency.
Reviewed October 2006