Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Food Prepping and the Special Diet

Perhaps I just paid no attention to it, but it seems like the American diet has gone from meat and potatoes, bread and veggies on a plate (usually with gravy) to more restricted methods of eating.  No carbs, no sugar, no gluten, no salt, lots of fat, no fat, vegan, veganism, etc.  Granted there are many people with genuine auto immune disorders that make eating some foods (such as gluten) dangerous, and folks with certain cardiovascular or other issues issues that need to watch saturated fat and salt like a commandment to ensure long life.  But some of that is just no more than what's trendy right now (and seeing as I've had a  a pair of  go go boots in my closet I will say nothing further).

I had friends in college that were vegetarians, they wanted to eat healthier, they loved animals.  They would never even consider joining an organization to promote their personal habit, or vandalizing a cow made out of butter like some sort of dairy terrorist. It was simply how they ate, and when they visited I made a number of different recipes they (and I loved), most from my favorite vegetarian cookbook. "Moosewood Kitchen".   Being a good host/hostess involves making sure your guests have a meal they will truly enjoy.
Outside of my once or twice a month pancake/waffle fix, and a serious love of cornbread, I don't eat a lot of processed carbs.  Being of Northern European and North American Indian descent, my digestion (and waistline) does better on game, brown and wild rice, lots of fruit and veggies (and the occasional wild Bacon and my ancestors sacred ceremonial beverage, the single malt Scotch)   But it's my choice, I don't wear it on a button or splash red paint on a french pastry by way of political statement.

Eating is a personal choice.  Your health and how you maintain it is your business, not mine, and certainly not the governments.  If you want to have tofu and greens for dinner, go ahead.  If you want to dine on a greasy big mac daily, that's your choice. Breakfast for dinner, leftover pizza for breakfast, it's up to you.  But I do try and vary my diet.  Certainly, even in nature, the capability of being able to eat one and only one particular article of food type makes for a finely tuned metabolism and digestive track. But what do you do, when that specialized food source becomes scarce.
Irish Soda Bread

Think of the cute little koala bear, that eats only the leaves of the eucalyptus tree.  As long as they are around he is one happy, furry little beast.  But where such trees do not live (except tweaking with mother nature as in a zoo), neither do the koalas.

Man has flourished because,  through history he was omnivorous, able to eat about anything (though I do NOT want to know what was in the mind of the person that ate the first raw oyster).  One can maintain good health with a more food specific diet, with careful nutritional planning, and an abundance of produce.

But what about those situations when your eucalyptus tree dies?
What do you mean there's no bacon tree?

In planning for emergency food supplies (emergency constituting of everything from big natural disaster to unemployment) make sure you have a variety of food for nutrition (peanut butter is going to get tiresome real quickly), and have adequate protein for anyone with a restricted diet.  Whether you are omnivore or herbivore you need to have adequate stores and a variety of food to get proper protein, minerals and amino acids.

Vegetarian is an old Indian word for bad hunter.  That old joke aside, having a strong supply of vegetarian protein isn't just for the hippies, it can provide long term nutrition that's easy to store.  If you are prepping with a vegetarian mindset, in addition to beans and TVP (if you like), store a variety of grains like amaranth and quinoa (a good rule is 3 parts gain to 1 part beans/pulses for maximum protein). Those two grains are also nice in that  in growing them, they don't look like wheat, looking more ornamental, so they're not likely to be stolen from your flowerbeds or gardens by the less prepared.  If you have a heat source to bake during your emergency, there are gluten free bread mixes that can be made from scratch, or purchased and stored in bulk, no different than your typical bread/muffin mix.

Sea veggies like dried kelp and dulse are not only flavorful additions to even this carnivores soups and stews, but provide a healthy shot of micro nutrients you can't get from a limited selection of garden product. Learn to dry fruit, and have protein powders  such as hemp, whey, soy, brown rice (I like Sun Warrior brand) to add to your drinking stores as well.   Learn to can those garden veggies. 
Dont' forget some spices. With the right blends you can make a sassy plate of beans and rice that would please anyone. And if you are thinking "beans smeans! I'm going to eat GAME!" remember, depending on the outside environment and how many other people may be seeking those few deer in the nearby woods, you may not have the means to secure meat, depending on where you live, even if you have the skill.  I can make a great venison jerky, but not so much on the years I don't harvest a deer.

What about chickens, someone asked (especially after having the egg on top of the beans and rice).  They are more work than just wandering around and picking up the eggs until they fling themselves into a French Enamel Casserole.  But if you understand the commitment, the reward is worth it.   Do your homework before making the investment.  Good information can be had at Pam's at the blog Community Chickens.  (I had a chicken once, named Sunny, origin of my "sunny noodle soup" recipe, but we'll not go there).

If you're prepping with a Type 1 Diabetic in the family.  Insulin needs notwithstanding, ask for an extra McDonald's hot cake syrup when you're getting coffee and save a few (or the little sugar and jelly packets also work, and if you ask nicely, most places will give  out a couple extra when you order your food.)  Half of one of those has about equals one of those 15 gram glucose tubes.  If someone's sugar is dropping and they're still responsible and swallowing, those might work if your prepping stores don't provide enough Glucogon.
As for foods, brown rice is obviously lower in the GI index than white but it does not keep near as long and will need to be rotated more often. Meats and cheese can be purchased canned and nuts are great as long as someone else in the group doesn't have allergies. Many low GI veggies and some fruits (apples, winter squash, etc) store well this way.  Dehydrated veggies are also another good way to store, squash does particularly well and will spike the sugar half as much as a sweet potato.  Try making some dehydrated soups with lower carb veggies. Learning to can with a pressure canner is a great way to set aside meat and veggies.

On any food storage plan, fat IS important.  I was part of a squirrel survival exercise wherein we had to sort out what supplies in our "downed chopper" we'd keep, and I was surprised several people didn't pick the can of Crisco (it's FAT AND you can use the can to melt the snow all around us in this exercise for water).  Fats fill you up and will will provide more stable energy than meals high in non complex carbohydrates.  But choose a good fat, preferably one not made in a laboratory. Coconut oil is one of the few fats that will last a few years in storage, though it's not cheap. It's also great in moisturising and protecting the skin from the elements (Barkley NO, I'm NOT a human Mounds bar!)

Ditch the junk food.  Make plans to have an occasional treat, non microwave popcorn, dried fruit, trail bars, dark chocolate, but leave the bulk junk food out of the storage provisions  Have some  crystallized lemon like TrueLemon packets or sugar free drink mix to to add to water (for flavor)  that you might have to treat with bleach to make it safe to drink in an disaster type emergency.  A rule of thumb, unless it's been broadcast that the water is absolutely undrinkable, (i.e. contaminated with hazardous chemicals or Tang, you can make it safe to drink by the following.

If tap water is clear:
1. Use bleach that does not have an added scent (floral/lemon, etc.).
2. Add 1/8 teaspoon (8 drops or about 0.75 milliliters) of household liquid bleach to 1 gallon (16 cups) of water.
3. Mix well  (in clean and sanitized container) and wait 30 minutes or more before drinking.
If tap water is cloudy:
1. Use bleach that does not have an added scent
2. Add 1/4 teaspoon (16 drops or 1.5 milliliters) of household liquid bleach to 1 gallon (16 cups) of water.
3. Mix well (in clean and sanitized container) and wait 30 minutes or more before drinking.

These are just some basic pointers.  For those of you looking for a great first primer for preparing your home and family for emergencies that both man and mother nature can throw at you (including a great section on caring for animals in your care in an emergency) my good friend Jane Alexandra has written  the book Rational Preparedness .  I'd certainly recommend it as a worthy and inexpensive guide for getting started.

Learning the basics is important.  Understanding your loved ones preferences and special needs is also essential.  For having a good selection selection of  nutrient dense stored foods, may keep everyone in your family, whatever their dietary need or preference, happier and healthier in hard times.


  1. Brigid,

    Take a look at this. If it really works, it looks like a good solution to obtaining clean water.

  2. My favorite Tofu and Greens I learned in Japan. Simply cube a block of good quality tofu. Pile in a bowl. Sprinkle with chopped scallions and shredded crab meat. Drizzle lightly with rice wine vinegar and soy sauce. Great hot weather dish.

    My favorite fat to store for emergencies is good old lard. Unopened it stores well has lots of uses and is somewhat healthier than stuff tortured out of vegetables.

  3. Good stuff for Type II diabetics, too!


  4. Lot of good info here. From my backpacking days, I have a water filter that will filter out just about anything except carcinogens. In the winter here in upstate New York, I tend to have more food on hand in case we lose electricity. I keep thinking I will get a house generator - the kind that if you lose power, it cuts on immediately and you can be "almost" full power. That's a big investment, though.

  5. Thanks for the humor and good advice. There is a difference between being a meat eater and being a hunter. There are a lot of animals that are meat eaters but a hunter has to possess a higher level of thinking. Possums are meat eaters but not good at hunting.

  6. Where we live, there is a lot of overlap between the homeschooling community and the hippie-dippy community, and so my wife has a foot in both of them...and I am overwhelmed by the amount of 'gluten free' folks out there.

    The fact is, I think I was 'paleo' before paleo was cool. Meat, vegetables and salad...kind of basic. The only real processed carbs we do regularly is pasta.

    And beer.

    100% agree on laying in are going to want some Montreal Steak Seasoning and brown gravy mix to lighten the flavor of the excess neighborhood cats.

  7. The wife and I use Coconut oil almost exclusively and you are correct it is expensive, which offends the very Scottish sensibilities bequeathed to me by my grandmother. I however discovered that the premium "Popcorn Oil" sold at about $20 a gallon (from Amazon) is coconut oil colored with a little beta carotene. It is fine for frying oil although the first few loads in the deep fryer come out orange the flavor is the same. I also just found the 'Snappy' brand popcorn oil can be had in white for about $1 more a gallon, which means you can use it for moisturizing without the spray-on tan effect.

  8. Timely article for me Brigid, thanks. I've started making plans for prepping since I realized that I now live on an island and everything we consume must get here by ferry. That's a supply chain that is easily interrupted. Our power can be shut off for days from accidental damage to the undersea cable (this has already happened). My wife and I live next to our daughter, son in law, and 6 week old grandson. Babies have special needs that have to be added to the prep list and I have special dietary needs. A lot of standard food prep items like grains, starches, beans, and dairy are not good for me. I adhere to a strict SCD (Specific Carbohydrate Diet) to keep my Ulcerative Colitis under control. I'll have to stock those items for the other family members; and I will have to go heavy on the veggies, fruit, fish, fowl, and meat for me. Items must be sugar free to (required by the SCD diet and my Type 2 diabetes). I will be reading your friend's book; I just downloaded it to my Kindle. Thanks again.

  9. Excellent, excellent, post, my dear!

    Preparing is like having insurance. We may not need it, but when the eventuality arises, it is really nice to have.

    Shelter, bullets, beans, band aides, are all very important. But we must keep things in balance, Not get focused on one area and forgetting the others.

    Thank you for all that you do.


  10. Brigid, can you recommend a cookbook or two that includes tips on food dehydration and follows along the lines you've covered in this post?

    Maybe it's time to collect your cooking tips 'n' tricks into a recipe book. I'll buy the first one when you publish it.

  11. I've got a couple of water filters myself, with an activated charcoal filter at the end to pick up those carcinogens. I take them up into Canada with me when I go up with the Scouts or my family. "Drinking water" lakes are great, but when I go up there they usually have a layer of spruce and fir pollen on them (which the waves pound down into the top foot or two).

    My son and I were following a small creek into the woods on one such trip. He was commenting on how clean the water looked - and then we made a turn and saw a big pile of moose crap right in the middle of it. Sooooo ... we use the filters on all the water up there, no matter how clean it looks.

  12. For water safety one must remember that filters won't remove all the pathogens. Boiling, UV exposure, or chlorination (or equivalent) may be needed. Sunlight for a UV source is free if you are already set up to take advantage of it.

    What struck me reading this article was that some of my previous life experiences have kind of prepared me for prepping:
    In wilderness backpacking, we didn't want to carry water or high-water content food ingredients, because of weight. We didn't carry fresh food, because of spoilage. So I put a lot of thought into using the water from springs, streams, lakes, and rain safely with minimal fuss, equipment, fuel use, and raw materials. I put a lot of thought into high-energy food that packed well and was non-perishable.
    And as a poor bachelor student I went vegetarian not for any ethical or health reason but because it was cheaper and more convenient -- If you buy or thaw meat, you have to use it within days or throw it out. If you buy in-season raw fruits and vegetables and don't use them before they spoil, you still discard them (to the compost pile), but your loss is pennies instead of dollars. I found that a well-stocked vegetarian larder allowed me to cook what I wanted when I wanted, but also change my plans at a whim and not eat at my own home for days at a time if better offers came up. I just had to learn to be chill about the inevitable spoilage, and then the nutritional value, variety and appeal of my cooking skyrocketed.

  13. "though I do NOT want to know what was in the mind of the person that ate the first raw oyster"

    Haha! My question as well."Oh, looks like snot! Yummy!"

    Thanks for the info. I didn't know coconut oil stores longer. I use it for everything, too. And have the same problem of my cats thinking it makes me edible.

    I've been contemplating if the expense it would take to put in a garden and protect it from the herds of deer on my property is worth it. I suspect it would result in $20 tomatoes.

  14. Moosewood and its sequels are great cookbooks, but they kinda made my clothes shrink in the wash until I realized that they tell you how to cook restaurant, not diet, vegetarian dishes and I had to mind the portions....

    This I learned during desultory attempts to go vegi, not because of ethics so much as being taken to task on my family history and lab results. A habit of eating as they did in our ancestral home of Cheesburg would be... self limiting.

    Too bad. If they made bacon flavored insulation I'd gnaw my way through the attic in the course of a single winter.

  15. BobinTampa - thanks for the link!

    Matt - lard is always handy to have on hand. Good reminder.

    Old NFO - thank you!

    gfa - as opposed to my cinnamon roll recipe :-)

    Sherry - I'e considered a generator as well, but it's been 10years since I lost power more than a couple hours. We do get spoiled, then when we least expect it. .. surprise! And everyone else has snapped up the available generators.

    Sunnybrook Farm - excellent point. Hunting taught me alot about myself, which included my own shortcomings.

    greg - beer is a carb? Dang, I had it classified under fat free vegetable, so therefore it didn't count.

    warhawkeishere - I had no idea it was made out of coconut oil. Good to know (and I lauged out loud at your tan reference)

    Island Bob - sounds like you have things well under control.

    Idahobob - you are welcome!

    NosmoKing -thanks for the comment. I've barely enough extra hours just for this blog, so putting together a cookbook will be a post retirement project. My recipes are all on the sidebar which may not be handy, but they're free!

    RonF - yes, I really hate when a Moose craps in the middle of my day.

    Douglas2 - excellent advice on the water! I have eaten a number of vegetarian meals in my life and enjoy them. I loved a simple bean burrito with lots of cumin and caramalized onions when money was tight.

    Proud Hillbilly - gardens aren't necessarily cheaper but the produce is so good it would be tempting.

    Ad absurdum - bacon flavored insulation. mmmmm.

  16. Thanks so much for the mention, my friend. Of course, no one writes with the color, dimension and feeling that you do.

  17. I use to spend a lot of time at prep sites, then I had a disaster. So now I have to always mention that all the prepping and lists and plans are only as great as the attention to storing it.

    Attics are to hot for food products and tend to blow away in tornadoes, crumble in earthquakes. Underground storage is nice and cool and as long as you have it in waterproof whatever kind of containers, it might survive the flood. Maybe the earthquake.

    Never assume it won't happen in your area. Our flood was human caused. Nature disasters happen wherever they want to even if it's unheard of "around those parts".

    We were prepped for 5+ years. Just not storing it safely enough to survive contaminated water in a desert.

  18. Good tips. Gotta check out coconut oil.
    Thanks Doc.

  19. A woman I know, who was one of those college vegans, but no longer, said that unless there's a real medical reason, such restrictive diets are a form of eating disorder.

    Re: eating Oysters. One of my many bosses said once that the first time he had oysters was in a bar in Australia, on leave from Vietnam. The Aussie next to him said as he downed the oyster, "kind of like having a cold, eh?" He never had another, the sissy.

    Since your appetizer crack recipe has been such a hit, what do you have on the order of Cowboy Apple Pie? I know I can boil dried apples, and the spices likewise will keep without refrigeration, but apart from Bisquick, what no-refrigeration pie crusts are there?

  20. You are one of the best writers of a blog I have ever read. I so agree with oyster eating. Yuck!

    PARBOILED brown rice stores just as long as white rice with more nutrients. Parboiled brown rice retains 80% of the nutrients of brown rice.


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