RAMP UP YOUR RATIONS
TURN SURVIVAL STORES INTO FOUR-STAR MEALS.
A“survival situation” can mean different things to different people. For some, it might mean dealing with some kind of apocalyptic or natural disaster. For others, it means just struggling to keep a roof over their families’ heads and food on the table on a daily basis. However you define “survival situation,” there are two common factors everyone shares: the need to eat and the desire to eat good food.
MOTHER KNOWS BEST
When I was growing up, money was tight. There were five of us kids, and my parents worked very hard to make sure we had everything we needed.
Notice I said, “everything we needed,” not “everything we wanted.” We had a roof over our heads, food in our stomachs
HOWEVER YOU DEFINE “SURVIVAL SITUATION,” THERE ARE TWO COMMON FACTORS EVERYONE SHARES: THE NEED TO EAT AND THE DESIRE TO EAT GOOD FOOD.
and clothes on our backs. My mother was an expert at making every red cent count.
But what she really excelled at was cooking. She was an expert at making something out of nothing. Nothing went to waste, and some less-thandesirable things were made not only edible, but also tasty.
Broths for soups and stews were made by rendering the bones, necks and heads of everything from fowl to fish. Leftover meat, if there was any, and vegetables were made into hash. You didn’t know what was in what she made half the time; perhaps we really didn’t want to know. What we did know was that it filled our stomachs, kept us going and tasted good.
How did she do it? She learned tricks from other people, and she was willing to try new things.
That is what I do today. In this article, I hope to give you some ideas on how to do this for yourself.
Just because you find yourself in a “survival situation” doesn’t mean you have to eat things that taste like cardboard. Survival food is much more than freeze-dried meals in a pouch. While these meals are great in a pinch (and I, myself, have my share of them stocked up), they are not what I would call “getting the most” out of your meal.
BE ADVENTUROUS AND OPEN-MINDED
My mother taught me how to cook; I often find myself using her recipes for anything from wild fowl and fish to deer and upland game. She also taught me to be open to new ideas. As a result, I take advantage of every chance to learn something new. No matter where I am, I try to get new information on how to prepare different foods. Sometimes these recipes work; sometimes they don’t.
But what I have learned over the years is that there is no reason to eat poorly. Just because it happens to be wild game or fish doesn’t mean the only way to prepare the meal is by poking a stick through it and hanging it over a fire.
While in New Orleans, I took a cooking class at the New Orleans School of Cooking. I learned how to use the different spices and styles of cooking that make New Orleans’ cuisine famous and are not normally found in New England, where I live. I now regularly put a Cajun touch on everything from wild game to corned beef. Even leftovers can be made to taste better with just a little spice.
KEEP IT SIMPLE
While in Key West, Florida, I learned some valuable lessons from two excellent chefs: José at Hogfish Bar & Grill, located on Stock Island, and Ricardo of Smokin’ Tuna Saloon, located in Old Town Key West. Each chef taught me lessons I can carry into any situation.
Any food, no matter how plain, can be turned up a notch with just a few simple ingredients. For instance, just adding a little citrus (lemon, lime, orange or grapefruit) can add an entire new dimension to the flavor of your food. (And we all know citrus helps fight off certain illnesses, which is very important in any survival situation. Just adding an orange slice or lemon wedge to your water will give it a pleasant flavor, as well as provide the vitamin C you need. Just imagine the benefit of adding it to your cooking.)
SPICE IT UP
The following list is a compilation of the items I try to keep on hand in what I call my “survival kitchen.” These are just basic items, nothing really special, but they can make your meals really pop. You might not be able to get them all, and that is fine. Doing what you can with what you have is what survival is all about.
Black pepper: This is a must for almost every recipe. You can do without salt most of the time—as long as you have black pepper. The good thing is that you can find this spice just about everywhere. It is cheap, and a little of it goes a long way. There are also many health benefits associated with black pepper.
Salt: Be very careful when using salt. If you are cooking seafood, you really don’t need to add salt, because it already has plenty of salt in it naturally. If you are using canned or prepared foods, they, too, already have salt in them. In addition to common salt, there are many flavored salts you can choose from.
Garlic: Fresh garlic is always best, but it can be expensive and hard to obtain in some situations. Feel free to
substitute dried garlic or garlic powder.
Parsley: As with garlic, fresh is always best, but dried parsley will work and is easier to obtain and store.
Onions: Of course, fresh is best, but dried, minced or powdered onion will work if you can’t get ahold of fresh onions.
Citrus: Nothing beats fresh citrus fruit, but, in a “survival situation,” and depending on your location, fresh citrus fruit might not be an option. Good-quality juice from concentrate or bottled juices work fine, too.
Chipotle Adobo: This is the secret to many Mexican and Caribbean dishes. This mixture of dried, smoked jalapeño peppers in a tangy red sauce is hot stuff, so make sure you start off with small amounts. This is what gives food a smoky flavor and its bite.
Joe’s Stuff: The trick to New Orleans cooking is the proper mixture of spices. Joe’s Stuff is a seasoning blend put together at the New Orleans School of Cooking. It takes all the guesswork out of the equation and is a blend of all the spices that make New Orleans cooking special. I use it a great deal.
JUST A HANDFUL OF INGREDIENTS
When you think about it, people have been doing a lot with very little for quite a long time. We often make soups and stews from leftovers by adding some seasonings that bring new flavor to the ingredients. The surprising thing is that it doesn’t take that much effort or expense to make really great-tasting food, even in a survival situation.
Bottom left: Using a Lodge cast-iron Dutch oven, author Benner can cook, even when the power goes out (as it did in this case).
Middle left: The ingredients for spiced-up tuna
Left: This is the original Smokin’ Tuna Dip from the Smokin’ Tuna Saloon in Key West, Florida. The author based his own “spiced-up tuna” recipe on this one.
Bottom right: Chives and lemon will make this fish something special.
Below right: Cooking cod cakes
Below right: Lake trout with fresh chives—quick and simple. Wrap everything in foil and cook on a grill or over an open fire. Below left: Pheasant breasts wrapped in bacon and apples. Apples can be foraged, and the bacon could be bartered for in a...
Left: This fowl stew is made from pheasant, grouse and woodcock. The broth is made from stock that is the result of rendering the bones. The meat was left over from previous meals, along with the meat from the legs. Bottom left: Cod cakes made from...
Above: Stews are a great way to use up leftover meat such as beef, venison and bear, as well as leftover vegetables. Nothing goes to waste in a survival situation.