Archive for November 6th, 2009

Friday Food Storage Quickie: Breakfast of Champions

Sharon November 6th, 2009

I know I missed last week, but I plead Amtrak ;-) .  Now we’re back to adding just a little bit to our pantries and preps each week.  So what’s on the agenda for this week?

Oatmeal, some kind of sweetener and some dried fruit are on this week’s agenda.  This week we’re going to pick up two breakfast staples.  First rolled or steel cut oats, or whole groats. You can get them from any supermarket, although as always they will be cheaper in bulk. They are nutritious, tasty and almost everyone will eat oatmeal.  Even invalids and babies old enough to eat solid food can digest it, and it is makes a good ingredient in breads and baked goods, as well, of course, as being the solution to your breakfast questions.  Oats keep for some years as long as they are protected from moisture and rodents, so there’s no rush to use them, although of course, you’ll want to practice eating them - always eat what you store.  How much?  I’d get as much as you can reasonably afford, since they are cheap,  assuming you like and eat oats - because then you always have a good breakfast.  I like them raw and mixed with fruit sauces, as oatmeal, in scones and bread and made into granola, so they aren’t going to go to waste at my house - oats are versatile. 

If you are making oatmeal, you’ll probably want something to sweeten it a little - honey, agave nectar, brown sugar or maple syrup. This will improve the palatability of most of the other foods as well. Me, I particularly like honey, and it stores nigh-on forever, but any shelf-stable sweetener is fine. You don’t need a lot of it - a 5lb bag or jar to supplement what you’ve got already is good and should last a while unless you are sweet fiends

And I would add some dried fruit as well - whether raisins or apples, peaches or prunes.  This will help with three things. First, dried fruits make children and sweet-dependent adults feel like they’ve had a sweet without you having to stock up on twinkies ;-) .  Second, if you shift to a storage diet all of a sudden at some point,  dried fruits will, umm, regularize things if you get stopped up.  Finally, they offer nutritional value that you can’t get elsewhere.  Dried fruit can be pricey, and you don’t need that much - if it is too expensive, consider looking for sources of fruit that can be dried for free - fruit trees that go unharvested or wild berries. You can dehydrate almost any fruit, and they are almost all delicious. 

If you have a little extra space in your budget, all of these things will be welcomed by the food pantry, so pick up an extra package or two and donate them. They’ll also be grateful for pasta, canned soup and peanut butter.

Also, for a non-food preparation, time to check your stored water, or get some if you don’t have it.  Remember, it happens all the time - the water goes out, or gets contaminated and boy does that stink!  Having some stored water (at least 1 gallon per person per day for a week or two, 2 gallons per person per day is better) is a useful hedge against sitting in your apartment drinking all the vodka because there’s nothing else ;-) .  Storing water is easy - get some recycled soda bottles, or glass bottles or gallon jugs.  Fill with water.  Add four drops of bleach per gallon, half of that for a half gallon, or just empty them out and rotate them every 3 months.  Ta da!  You are water crisis ready!



Sharon November 6th, 2009

Two weeks ago, my husband called me in frantic muddle, on his way home from work, apologizing for being late, and he knew I was waiting the kids’ bedtime, but he had to go back to work because he’d forgotten something and he was so sorry, and he hadn’t meant to leave it… but …Ranjan died. 

I stopped him.  Ranjan died?  Our Ranjan?  Ranjan was Eric’s college roommate and best friend.  Eric gathered himself  and told me that that morning, Ranjan, on his way to work in Mumbai had collapsed and died of a heart attack.  He was young, in good shape and vital and he simply died, the way sometimes people do.

Ranjan was 40 years old, just a year older than Eric.  He had two young sons, 3 and 6, and a beloved wife.  The last time they’d visited, before they left to spend a few years working in India, Ranjan had told us that his favorite thing in life was simply to be in the kitchen when Roopa, his wife, was cooking.  The two were deeply in love, and looking forward to the day when Ranjan could give up his job and afford to try his hand at filmmaking - and have more time at home, more time in the kitchen.

It has been a long time since Eric and Ranjan lived close enough and had enough free time to watch art films together, and argue about capitalism and music, and tease their wives, but it had never, ever occurred to either of them that there wouldn’t be time, someday, eventually, when things slowed down.

Eric is heartbroken with the loss of his friend, and also, his sense that we are still in a place of security.  Until now, the hard times he teaches about, the difficult things that we all know are coming - both in the world at large and the difficult cycles that come with all lives, all of them seemed firmly in the future.  But if Ranjan, so alive, can die, anything can happen - or so it seems in the throes of grief.

I knew and liked Ranjan, and grieve his loss, but for me without the long, deep history with him, what strikes hardest is my identification with Roopa.  This is my nightmare - that someday my husband leaves, and does not come back, and I’m left alone, to go on, but I don’t know how.   I’ve always worried about it. Now I know more viscerally that it can happen, and I am not enjoying the knowledge.

On another discussion list that I was on, someone asked us how we will go on when the really tough stuff hits - when people you love die, or when there’s visible suffering all around you.  And of course, some people are already there, in my country and all around the world.  People die already because of climate change - 1 million a year or more.  People die already because of hunger and disease.  Beloved people die of tragic things and ordinary things all the time in all of our lives.  Among my readers are people who have already endured unendurable grief - the loss of children, of siblings of beloved people in their lives, suddenly and slowly and painfully. 

I don’t like to think about death, or about the darker implications of my own work.   I do, but I hate it.  Someone recently asked me what I thought the “endgame” looked like - and he did not ask from prurience or morbid curiosity. This was a deeply thoughtful and passionate person asking me honestly whether I could bear to think about unchecked climate change, and what I imagined.  And I told him - because I can think about it some, I can get part of the way there.  But there are things I decline to consider in advance of necessity, and I don’t think that’s bad.  When I asked my interlocutor the same question, he didn’t answer it - he told me what he hoped for instead - and that’s ok, fixating on ends is not always necessary. 

John Michael Greer observes that when we make a distinction between problem and predicament, the ultimate predicament is death.  Problems can be solved.  Predicaments, well, we can only choose (and choice only goes so far) how we respond, and imagine and address it.  We cannot solve the problem.  And in many ways, that’s a hard thing - because we are so accustomed to the world-as-problem.

We cannot solve the predicament of grief.  However we address our feelings, or however they play out without our intention, it does not go away.  I would hurry through this emotion because I don’t want to experience it. I would hurry Eric through his because I don’t like his being in pain.  But grief takes its own sweet time, and I do no one any favors by pretending that while we are dealing with sorrow and fear, they are not dealing with us. And we go forward, as best we can, when we can.

I usually don’t answer questions about how we should deal with things - because I’m not convinced that we *will* deal with things as we believe we should.  In the end, I think we’ll do what we do now - mostly keep putting one foot ahead of another, mostly keep doing what we need to, except when we can’t. 

For my husband, this is the first time he’s known the grief of the loss of someone who simply should not be dead.  Before this, loss came in good time, for grandparents and people who were ill for a long time.  He’s fortunate - he made it to 39 years old without this kind of sudden sorrow.  And this knowledge comes to all of us in the course of lifetime - all we can do is pray and hope that we don’t have to learn it too often, or too hard.  And remember that if we have been fortunate, if we haven’t had to face the deepest sorrows, we should bend down and thank whatever diety or good fortune has permitted that, and set to work redoubled at easing the sorrow of those who weren’t as lucky.