It's officially H-word season again, and you've probably heard over and over and over again now you're supposed to prepare for the not-so-blessed event until your ears start to bleed. Stock up on a whole bunch of canned food, they tell you. Canned tuna, canned chicken, canned soups, canned (gag!) spaghetti. Peanut butter and jelly. Dry cereal. Fruit juices. Lots and lots of water.
The folks who write this stuff are probably nice enough, and they mean well. But when the H-word strikes and you've got no power and it's a million degrees outside with two-million-percent humidity and cable TV is gone and you can't update your Facebook page and the line at the gas station stretches all the way to Jupiter, you really think spooning tuna out of a can or stuffing down a molten PB&J is going to make you feel any better?
As People of Food, we demand more. And, godammit!, we intend to have it.
So here are a five foods that will keep your taste buds from being
trashed along with your neighborhood. Until the power comes back on life
will still suck a Chevrolet through a straw, but at least you'll eat
• Individual packets of mayo, mustard, catsup and relish.
You can by these things by the gazillion on-line for cheap. Not only
will you never have to suffer through a dry, mouth-gumming sandwich
again, but you can mix them with other shelf-stable ingredients to
create something resembling real food. Mayo, mustard, lemon juice,
garlic and olive oil makes a reasonable Caesar salad dressing. Mayo,
catsup and relish makes a decent Thousand Island. And you can blend them
with lots of other ingredients too. (See below.)
• Fresh herbs.
One of the two easiest ways to add flavor to foods, a few pots of fresh
herbs (rosemary, basil, oregano, thyme, chives, etc.) require only a
little water and sharp knife for chopping. Stir the finely chopped
herb(s) of your choice into mayo for tasty sandwich spread or mix it
with canned or bagged chicken or tuna, some chopped onion and celery,
maybe some chopped nuts and/or raisins for better-than-decent
chicken-slash-tuna salad. Or skip the mayo and add minced garlic and
olive oil for a quickie pesto.
• Dry spices and spice blends.
The other easiest way to add flavor to foods. For variety, mix curry or
jerk or Cajun or Moroccan spice blends with mayo in place of herbs for
sandwich spreads, salad dressings or protein salads. If you've got a
charcoal or propane grill or one of those cheap little burners that runs
on butane canisters (and if you don't, see: doctor, head examined),
sprinkle them on grilled veggies to chop and toss with couscous and
garbanzo beans for a Moroccan-style dish or with rice and pigeon peas
for the vague approximation of something Jamaican.
• Spanish dry-cured chorizo. These
potent little thumb-sized sausages don't need refrigeration until
opened (which is fine because you probably don't have it anyway).
Despite their small, they pack an awesome flavor punch and can goose
bland starches such as Minute Rice and couscous like nobody's business.
Toss cubes with cooked rice, chopped tomatoes and veggies, a pinch of
saffron (if you have it) and maybe some chicken-in-a-bag for a semblance
of paella or skewer slices with veggies and grill.
• Rice noodles.
Unless you have a gas stove (and assuming gas hasn't been shut off to
your neighborhood), boiling pasta is way too energy-inefficient to make
sense. Rice noodles, however, need only a good soak in hot tap water to
make them edible, and they absorb any flavors you add to them like a
sponge. Toss them with soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and sesame oil, then
top with grilled veggies and whatever canned or bagged protein you can
handle. Or shred some raw veggies, add shelf-stable tofu and noodles,
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then wrap them all up in a lettuce leaf for an impromptu handroll.
And don't forget a glass or three of crisp, chilled white wine to accompany your meal. After all, we do have standards here.