Gift Guide 2016 – Cooking, After the Collapse of Civilization

A few days ago, I blogged that I was roasting a pumpkin to make pies for Thanksgiving. MH, I believe, scoffed at the notion of making a pumpkin pie from a real pumpkin, when the supermarket sells perfectly adequate canned pumpkin guts. Others scoffed at the entire notion of a pumpkin pie.

First of all, let me defend the pumpkin pie. When it’s done right, it should float like a Spanish flan. It has one foot in the sweet world and one in the savory; it’s an amphibian food. And it’s the perfect post-Thanksgiving breakfast.

Now, let me also explain why I get a huge pumpkin from the farmer’s market or the CSA every year, divide it up, roast it, scrape out the guts, puree it, measure it, dole it into baggies, and freeze it. (This year, we used a Lakota variety.) Because it’s badass.

I like knowing that if there’s a zombie apocalypse or another Great Depression or the end of liberal world order thanks to the election of an insane demagogue, I will be able to turn my backyard into a subsistence farm and survive. Pumpkins are food weeds; easy to grow and yield tons of food. That one pumpkin that we roasted yielded about 8 cups of puree that was pre-measured into baggies and then frozen. Over the winter, it will get turned into soup, bread, and even a flavoring for risotto.

When you roast a pumpkin, it connects you to the past. To a woman with cloth cap in the 1600s in Virginia figuring out how to cook this strange gourd and to survive the winter. It’s harder to channel your inner settler woman, if you scan the bar code on your can of pumpkin guts at the self-serve line at Stop and Shop.

So, if you want to be a badass cook who survives the zombies AND connects to women from the past, then here are the essentials: an excellent set of pots and pans, a food processor, a KitchenAid mixer, a garlic press, cutting boards, an Alice Bloomfield cookbook, wine glasses (because you absolutely allowed to drink while cooking), and a soup mixer stick thingie.

I freeze food, while Steve cans it. I’m not sure why, but that’s how it works around here. He does his canning using the basic pots and supplies that we have in the kitchen, but I suppose that if you wanted to get fancy, you could use the gadgets for that. There’s also fancy equipment for freezing. I don’t know. A black sharpie and some ziplock baggies work just fine for me. We’ve also found lots of info about preserving food on the Internet, which we’ve printed out and saved in binders. I do like these pretty books though, too.

I need to cook more dried beans. They really do taste better than the canned variety. And I want to store them in very anal retentive jars in my pantry.

Alright. This post is getting long. We’ll come back to the kitchen in a couple of days with some more fun suggestions.



21 thoughts on “Gift Guide 2016 – Cooking, After the Collapse of Civilization

  1. Wow, we have saved pumpkin puree in the refrigerator some years–pumpkin soup!–but canning it? That’s impressive. I guess we know where to raid after (i) the zombie apocalypse and (ii) exhausting the puree in the fridge and the soup stock in the freezer.


  2. I hope Steve has a pressure canner. Botulism doesn’t make you sick; it makes you dead. Unless he sticks to acidic foods for canning (pumpkin is not, and yes I know you said you freeze that), botulism is a real risk.


      1. I just couldn’t allow the suggestion that pressure canners are “fancy” or not needed for proper home canning to go unchallenged. Only acidic foods (or high sugar foods like jelly or jam) can be water bath canned. For safety, the canning of non-acidic foods like green beans MUST be done in a pressure canner. The US government has a number of pamphlets on safe canning. The Ball Blue Book is the standard on processing times. If the Ball Blue book says pressure can; you need to PRESSURE CAN.


  3. I don’t think I’ve got what it takes to do the Mormon-store-up-grain-and-beans thing. I’ll probably buy a bunch of freeze-dried meals for emergencies. I think I backpack enough that I would slowly rotate the stock if I took those meals for when I hiked.


  4. Without a doubt I would not survive the actual collapse of civilization (as in a zombie apocalypse). My plan for short term survival is water (we have water) and not eating (well, we do have boxes of pasta); in the longer term, full tanks of gas in the car and stockpiles of cash with a plan to travel to the border.

    So pumpkin puree plays no role in my planning.

    But those boots Laura is eyeing are being eyed by me, too.


    1. I’ve spent significant time committing agriculture, but very little time gardening. I can assemble a grain bin, assuming grain bin technology has remained basically static since the 80s.


  5. Also, the pumpkin in a can does not have to be an actual pumpkin. It could be any form of squash. So, if you want real pumpkin, roast one.


    1. Hey, Melissa. (I’m going to edit out your last name.) Funny, I was thinking about you and Toni when I wrote this post, because one of our household essentials is the stainless steel colander that you and Toni gave us as part of our wedding present. I still use it everyday. xoxo


  6. Now, it’s not Colonial Woman Cloth Cap pumpkin pie, but I was the beneficiary of my wife looking through the McMegan gift list two years ago and getting me an Anova sous vide machine. I have loved it! Here is an offer on Anova, and also a temperature controller for $40 which should get you there coupled with a crock pot and an aquarium air bubbler to keep the water at a uniform temp:


    1. Man, I remember Megan was a maniac about that sous vide machine. Seemed awfully pricey. (I always look forward to her Christmas kitchen gift list, though.) What are the main dishes you make in it?


      1. They are coming down a lot. As well as the Anova my wife gave me (which is pretty swell, but takes a lot of counter space somehow when it is heating up our giant stock pot) I put one together from a temperature controller I found on Amazon and some Home Depot switch, outlet, and plug parts – which, together with the aquarium pump and a turkey roaster-oven from Goodwill, put me in business for $50. But the new product I mentioned above should get you into business with a lot less fuss.
        The main thing it does for me is to take a cheap beef potroast and, after 40-60 hours at 134 degrees, it is soft and has a taste very like prime rib. Fry it for couple-three minutes in butter or bacon grease after you take it out. Second is to take a piece of pork for 20-40 hours at 140, I can then pull it apart with a fork, add barbecue sauce, and be a hero to my kids. (note: trichinosis is a time-temp thing, and if you keep pork at that temp for over about ten hours, trichinosis is gone, where you need higher temp for shorter cooking. There is useful USDA stuff on this, if you want to look for it) I also do chicken thighs for 4-6 hours at 150 and then can take them to the barbecue to develop some crust and am not worried about whether I have gotten the interiors of the thighs done.
        There are lots of people doing very fancy stuff and posting lots of recipes – maybe most notable is Kenji Lopez-Alt. And I do like the Anova, and I think it does the within-a-half-degree cooking which true foodies swoon over, where my jury rig is probably within-four-degrees. Which works for what I do with it.
        I have also done soft boiled eggs, at about 160 for 50 minutes, and that does probably require the close temp tolerance which the Anova does, and the eggs are very nice and have good texture. But it is a lot of fussing for, fchrissake, soft boiled eggs.
        You hafta hafta hafta keep things above the temperature for pasteurization, which is about 130.


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