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.