Thursday, December 14, 2017

The First Day of Christmas: A Stove You Can Carry

Looking for some gifts for that special someone you really want to survive the apocalypse with? How about an Alcohol Burning Stove?

These tiny, pocket-sized devices can use a variety of fuel: denatured alcohol, Rubbing alcohol, HEET fuel additive, Grain alcohol... just about any flammable fluid. (for indoors use, stick to the denatured or wood alcohol, which burn a lot more cleanly). 

This little stove will not only boil water, it'll heat a skillet sufficiently to dry meat. Add in a small pot r skillet, a flask of fuel, and a disposable lighter, and you have everything you need to cook meals in a pinch--from a simple can of chili or pasta to a complicated mix of powdered eggs, canned cheese, and fried spam for a tasty post-apocalyptic omelette.

Unlike a lot of survival gear, alcohol stoves can be found on Amazon for less than $15.00, and they'll fit in that special survivalist's Christmas stocking. And don't worry about whether or not they already have one--you can never have too many of these, particularly if you're cooking for more than one person, or trying to make multiple dishes at once--traditional stoves come with multiple burners for a reason. 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Beware the Bunker Steps!

There was once this plan to launch a series of videos showing people how to cook in their bunker/fallout shelters, with a launch date of September 1, 2017. That got bumped a couple of weeks due to some technical problems. Then I fell in my bunker. 

Well, it's a basement, really. But it's below ground, and would be a suitable shelter for most disasters my family might make. That fall completely sidelined me for the past couple of months, as I ruptured a tendon in my left ankle and was forced to wear first an immobilizer boot, then a brace, and spent very little time on my feet. That kind of ground video production to a halt. 

Now, as I'm well down the path to recovery and can once again stand for an hour or more, we're ready to get back into our bunker cooking videos we'll soon be launching. But before we do, I wanted to point out the importance of safety in your own home shelter. 

In a disaster, you may not be able to run down to the urgent care center to figure out if anything's broken. Nor can you expect an ambulance to come--assuming you can even get through to 9-1-1. So the best thing for a disaster situation is to avoid injury altogether. 

Illumination is the first step in your bunker injury avoidance plan. I couldn't see where I was walking back on September 17th. I had reading glasses on, in a dimly-lit stairwell, and was trying to read my smartphone as I walked down--something I'd done countless times before. But I miss-gauged where I was, thinking I was at the bottom, when I was still several steps up. Better illumination might have prevented this fall. 

Hand Banisters are the next step in your bunker entrance safety plan. These simple rods give you something to hold onto if you do lose your step--unless you're an idiot like me and happen to be holding something in your hand while you descend. Banisters can be metal or wood, and generally bolt to the wall. Even concrete walls, provided you have the right drill, bits and concrete anchors. 

Somewhere soft to land would have been nice for me, back in September. Concrete is great--it's sturdy and cheap, and has a nice utilitarian look about it. But when I fell onto my unfinished concrete floor at the bottom of my stairs, I was sure I'd broken something. As it turns  out, the loud pop/crack I heard was an ankle tendon rupturing (partially tearing) when my foot hyperextended and caught on the carpeted stairs as I fell. While I lay on my chest, in extreme pain, I wished my basement floor was padded with nice, soft carpet. 

You may not want to put carpet in your basement/bunker. Flooding may be a concern, or tracking in dangerous foreign particles. Then invest in carpet squares, or maybe have an entranceway at the bottom of the stairs. A soft landing isn't just for you, it could be for precious supplies you're carrying down into your survival nest. Meaning you need either some cushioning, or a drain. 

Nearby seating is your next important entrance safety requirement. I had to belly-crawl to my recliner, around an entranceway into our "movie room". Getting up into my recliner was no easy feat, particularly without the use of one of my feet. Also, if I'd had a simple folding chair near the bottom of the stairs, and I had tracked something into the ole bunker, it'd give me a place to sit and remove my footweat comfortably. No one wants to stand during the entirety of the apocalypse. 

First Aid is an obvious choice for any underground shelter, but what exactly is first aid? Bandaids and antiseptic were of no use for me--no bone was sticking out or anything. Instead, cold packs that use an endothermic reaction to produce instant chilling were by far more useful. If this had been the apocalypse, there'd have been no power to run the icemaker in our upstairs refrigerator, but I was able to send my daughter to the box of cold packs we had only recently added to our disaster stores. 

Your final, and probably least intuitive need for the shelter is a way to call for help. Yes, in a disaster, phones might not work, but you're just as likely to get injured stocking your shelter as you are using it after Armageddon. I was fortunate my kid was with me, and was able to go get my wife and older daughter--not that they could do much for me. Still, if I had needed an ambulance, they could have helped me summon one. Or I could have used the smartphone that led to my fall to call 9-1-1. Make sure you have a landline or other means to communicate with the surface in your subterranean shelter. 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Cheese and Crackers

It's an American classic: cheese and crackers. Growing up in the Midwest, for me, the crackers tended to be saltines, and the cheese pre-sliced American. In a disaster setting, with no electricity for a refrigerator, the sliced cheese is definitely out. And the saltines might last a week or two, or even longer, but what if you want to stock up on this classic American snack now for an emergency that might not happen for years?

The first answer is the Pilot Cracker:

This long-lasting cracker can be ordered in huge cans from Mountain House; 30.58 ounces for $18.75 on Amazon. The can comes with a plastic lid, so in case you don't eat the 62 crackers in the can all at one sitting, you can reseal them for later use in the Apocalypse. Unopened, they're supposed to last for thirty-five years!

Basically, a pilot cracker is a thicker, denser cracker, that reminds me of animal crackers, but not as sweet. They're not very salty either--which is a good thing, since salt makes you thirstier, and a prolonged stint in your shelter might mean water is scarce... Not a problem, though. There are a number of spreads that are long-lasting without refrigeration.

(Easy cheese on Pilot cracker, Plain Pilot cracker, and Peanut Butter on pilot cracker)

Now that you've got your apocalyptic pilot crackers, it's time to pick your cheese...

When it comes to long-lasting cheese, the first thing I think of is Cheez Whiz. This delicious, pasty, processed snack with a consistency similar to peanut butter is a delicious addition for any kitchen. During non-apocalyptic times, I like to spread it on toast for a quick-and-dirty "grilled cheese" sandwich. And it enhances a good Turkey sub when smeared on the bottom bun (leaving the top free for Miracle Whip). Of course, it's good for quick nachos, too. Or pouring on canned Ravioli for what I like to call "Bachelor's Lasagna". It has lots of uses. 

In the store, you'll notice that it's not kept in the refrigerated section. Unopened, room-temperature seems adequate for this American milk product. But just how long can an unopened jar of Cheez Whiz last?

Internet tall tales claim that jars as much as ten years old have survived intact, and edible. Once opened, Cheez Whiz can be sealed up again thanks to athe handy-dandy jar it comes in. Of course, it should really be refrigerated after this. 

Cheez Whiz has what I like to think of as a little cousin--Easy Cheese. Also made by Kraft, Easy Cheese is a cheese-paste in an aerosol can. Unlike Cheez Whiz, it seems to last pretty good outside of a refrigerator after first use. When I was in the USAF, I snuck several cans of Easy Cheese into the field on a training exercise, enhancing my MREs with cheesy awesomeness. There was no refrigerator for miles, and I flourished on my pasteurized diet. 

But is there another way to store cheese? I suppose you could get it in powdered form, like what comes with Mac n Cheese dinners. But then you need water, milk and butter. 

As it turns out, you can buy cheese in a can. And it's not that bad...

Enter Bega pasteurized cheese--a delicacy from Down Under. I was a little concerned when it arrived, the can marked in English and what I guess is Farsi. I mean, I've never heard of cheese being all that big in the Middle East (no doubt due to the heat). 

About the size of a tin of Tuna, the Bega cheese also looked a little worrisome when opened. Why wasn't it orange? Did those crazy Aussies forget to put in food coloring? Was this really made of milk?

There was only one way to find out... by tasting it. 

Turns out, Bega's tin of cheese, running about $8.95 a can as I write this, is pretty good. It's thicker than Cheez Whiz or Easy Cheese. But not quite as thick as pre-sliced American cheese. It can be cut in slices for bread (if you have any), or with a modest amount of heat, I imagine it would melt nicely. 

Taste-wise, it's not bad. It lacks the tangy Cheddar bite most cheeses I'm used to have, reminding me of the paste in those cracker sticks and cheese snack packs you can get. 

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Food for the Apocalypse

Whether you're prepping for TEOTWAWKI (The End of the World As We Know It) or planning for the next natural disaster, one thing is certain: if you survive, you're going to need to eat. And since things are depressing enough already, there's no sense making it worse by forcing yourself to eat unpalatable, overly-expensive foods meant to last forever and be served at room temperature. No, just because you're locked in your storm shelter/bunker doesn't mean you can't enjoy your food. Nor does it mean you have to spend an arm and a leg buying a lifetime supply of Space Age foods like MREs. 

Chowmageddon is all about enjoying your food when you can't go outside to restock. It's also about not spending a fortune or changing your diet all that much. 

For 2019, we'll be showing you how to adapt our Middle Class, Middle America favorites to any disaster situation. We'll also be reviewing foods and cookware you can stock your bunker with, and testing out some ways to make the best of a dire situation.