Tuesday, January 18, 2011

keeping calm and carrying on: urban survival kit

Just quietly, between you and me, after a couple of weeks off I’ve found going back to work this year a bit of a shock. Instead of the usual gentle plunge into the working year, it’s felt like an inundation.

Perhaps it didn’t help that my first day back coincided with rising floodwaters in Brisbane, where the latest sms from my cousin informed me he was sandbagging his new business and reeling from his insurance broker laughing when he asked if he was covered for flood damage. With an eye on the news and the excellent social media update via #qldfloods on Twitter during my lunch break, my heart felt like it was a thousand kilometres away.

But thanks to the twitter stream it soon became apparent that I live in a totally different world to some of the Brisbane tweeters. I was struck by some updates mentioning they’d rocked up to find empty food shelves at the supermarket and their cupboard at home was perennially bare as they “eat out most of the time and buy on the day if I cook”.

My mum was raised through hard times being a depression era child. Perhaps if she’d been a baby boomer I wouldn’t have done a sneaky audit of the bathroom one day in my teens and counted 24 rolls of toilet paper, 9 cakes of soap and 4 tubes of toothpaste, stockpiled away in the cupboards. Everytime the local stores discounted her favourite brands she’d buy a few extra, just in case.

I miss her old pantry, stupidly sacrificed in a really bad 80’s kitchen renovation, which always seemed packed to capacity. In autumn she’d bottle peaches, apricots and tomato sauce (the later flavoured with dried pimento seeds, unless my mind is playing trick on me). Throughout the year there’d be canned versions of the same, bought on sale, for when her own bottles had run out. There was always many kilos of flours and sugar in the deep drawers where the baking supplies were kept.

In the garage sat the ginormous chest freezer purchased in the 70’s when buying “a whole beast” with a neighbour came into vogue. For years half a pig's head greeted you on opening the freezer, until one day she quietly threw it out. Our family of five chomped through meat at least twice a day but our conventional tastes tended to stop far south of a snout.

The clay soil and challenging weather limited the vegetable garden but in summer there’d be a crop of runner beans and strawberries. Sometimes she'd try something new but our favourite would be the joys of running through rows of corn that would tower over me before the cobs were ready to pick. Throughout the year the rhubarb remained constant, along with curly leaf parsley and a small but proficient lemon tree.

I am convinced we could have eaten well for weeks on the pantry stores and garden, let alone remained clean, if disaster struck. During the odd storm that took the power out, the neighbours would pull their camp stove out and boil a billy for tea. There was no doubt that in the case of a major emergency the locals would pool resources and help each other out.

Here in Melbourne in the 21st century I’m not feeding a family of five but between kitchen, garden and neighbourhood connections I think I could make a fair stab of not going hungry for a month. While the barbecue gas remains on good supply – there’s kilos of dried beans, lentils and whole grains to feed the entire street plus a sizeable pile of canned legumes, tomatoes, packets of pasta and baking supplies. Arepas on the grill with refried beans and fresh salsa anyone?

So what do you stockpile? I’m guessing if you are a food blog reader/writer your own supplies aren’t too shabby.

And while we're at it, what do you have in your urban survival kit?

Urban survival kit

Enough food and water to last a week (for each member of the house)
Canned beans, fruit, fish and vegetables
Dried grains (rice, oats, quinoa etc) and legumes
Raw nuts and seeds, dried fruit (great high energy snacks)

Crackers, mountain bread and other floury goods.
Flours, sugar, oil, sauces
UHT milk/tetra packs of alternative milks

Wind up or battery powered radio (cos the batteries in your smart phone won’t last for long if you’re streaming audio)
Wind up or battery powered torch
Spare batteries
Barbecue or camp stove
Old fashioned landline phone (not requiring electricity)
Basic first aid kit – especially bandages, dressings, antiseptic
At least a fortnight’s supply of any essential medicines (and condoms for those who use them, it’s amazing the amount of babies conceived during the aftermath of disasters!)
Mosquito coils

What would you add?

PS: not a necessity but my friendly organic grocer suggested I stock up on ginger, anticipating a shortage in the near future as it's a Queensland crop.

Or instead you could donate the money to a plethora of flood funds - not just in Australia but around the world

No specific funds as yet for the Brazil and Sri Lanka floods but Oxfam suggests becoming a 365 Emergency donor

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Blogger Lisa (bakebikeblog) said...

I had exactly the same thought process. I keep a very well stocked pantry - and coudl probably last quite a while if the shops were bare - but I was thinking of all those people who normally do a small shop each day or eat out.

10:38 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sad to see Brazil and Sri lanka so far off the radar. I thought solidarity would have been stronger.

5:29 pm  
Blogger Marshall Stacks said...

1. that ginger is magnificent.
2. re laughing insurers: I know from just leaving the Campaspe that 'rising river' is not covered, so that's most of Brisbane then.
3. no home=no pantry, but no dependants either so it pans out.

there is a great torch at atomikgreen.com.au called the Tugga which works for 30 mins powered by a good shaking. $12.95 makes it an ideal gift.

9:07 pm  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

Lisa - great minds and all that :)
Anon - ditto. Glad I'm not alone. I too had hoped that 700plus deaths in Brazil would have registered more under the circumstances.
MS - am amazed that a very low res iphone pic in low light even turned out (nor where did I put my camera?). Speaking of homelessness StreetSmart have a special campaign for those who sleep rough in Brisbane http://www.streetsmartaustralia.org/getinvolved

10:02 pm  
Anonymous Lucy said...

Next time you're in Sydney, I can arrange for a little visit out to my mum's pantry for you - just to remind you of your own mum's supplies! They could both last YEARS on what's hidden in both freezer and pantry.

Dried yeast (for making bread if need be)and butter, kept in the coolest part of the house if the electricty's out, 'cos the blokes 'round here wouldn't last 2 minutes without butter.

Great post!

8:47 am  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

Lucy - good idea about the yeast. How did you go without power for days last (?) summer when your power failed for days? What got you through?

10:02 am  
Blogger Mairead said...

Great post. I was surprised to see people panic-buying milk and bread: two perishable items. I'd have been emptying the shelves of lentils myself.

www.redcross.org.au has a link to Emergency REDiPlan which gives lots of advice on what you can do ahead of time to prepare for any emergency, including what you might want to have in your pantry.

7:51 pm  
Anonymous Lucy said...

Ah, yes. Power was out for 2 1/2 days. What got me through was sitting very still on the loungeroom floor and crying about the 47C heat (ha! so brave...) and looking forward to a dinner in a cold restaurant. Thank gawd for Mr Wolf is all I can say.

BUT, batteries for the radio are essential, so I now keep a stash of those - non-rechargeable ones, too. Also found that if you can start the car, then you listen to the radio in an emergency!

9:00 am  
Blogger Marshall Stacks said...

Lucy - there are wind-up radios.
Victorians realised last Black Saturday that the electricity goes down in a bushfire but people have to hear warnings and assistance announcements.

I just came back to mention a new green veg of the cruciferous kind:
a kale/brussels sprout hybdrid called Flower Sprouts "looking like a frilly rosebud it turns vivid emerald when cooked and has high B6, C and E vitamins"
A Gloucestershire farmer developed it.

9:35 pm  

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