Abandoned Writing #3 More Food Thoughts
Posted On July 20, 2011
I stuck part two of this over on my long abandoned blogspot blog http://roughliving.blogspot.com
Cooking and Storing Food
I spend a lot of time talking about food and cooking. The reason for that is that I think food is one of the great pleasures in life. You don’t have to have a gourmet kitchen to make a meal that satisfies your soul. Hell, you don’t even have to have a kitchen. In this chapter, I’m going to talk about some of the options available to people that don’t have stoves, ovens, refrigerators, or cooking pots.
I haven’t had one in a few years. There are people all over the world that have never had one. There are folks that have lived on sailboats for years on end without having a reefer. It seems almost impossible to most people in the US that have never been without one.
I believe that the refrigerator is part of a massive conspiracy by General Electric to enslave us all by making us need electricity. Take a look at the labels of just about everything “Refrigerate after Opening”. Is it really necessary?
People existed on this planet without refrigerators until about 100 years ago. At that point some whiz kid came up with a pretty cool way to extend the shelf life of perishables without having a cool well, root cellar, or ice room. Pretty cool. I’m not knocking refrigeration as a concept. I think it’s good.
The thing that bothers me is when the big production companies didn’t have anything to produce following the second world war, they decided that everyone in America should have a refrigerator. They took a page form the car companies and began making new models, having showrooms, and lobbying the government to require ‘safe food handling’. They lobbied the food companies to put those ‘refrigerate after opening’ tags on the food.
Most fruits and vegetables don’t need to be refrigerated. This extends the shelf life of them, but it’s not necessary.
Eggs can be cracked open and put in a plastic container. If you use one with a spout the eggs will generally pour out one at a time. This is usually good for about four days barring too much heat. Eggs in the shell can last anywhere from a week to six months without spoiling. To test them, drop the egg in a cup of water. If it floats, it is no good. To extend the life of eggs in the shell coat them with Vaseline or shortening. This seals the pourous shells and prevents air from getting inside. Store them in a box on soft material.
Meat lasts a while. When I was a kid and lived on a farm, anytime we butchered something we hung the carcass up in the barn for several days to ‘season’ with bag over it to keep the flys out. If I buy a steak, I feel fine waiting twenty four hours to cook it.
Cheese has a long life. Wrap hard cheeses in vinegar soaked cheesecloth or rags to keep them from molding. Soft cheese should be thrown out once it begins to mold.
Dairy products like butter are just fine left out of refrigeration. Milk has a shorter shelf life. I’m not sure why this is. On the farms we would put milk in those big canisters and let it sit for a day or two and it would be just fine. I’m told that it’s the fat that keeps milk good longer. That’s why half and half or whole cream lasts longer than skim milk. Sometimes I’ll buy a quart of half and half and it’s good for a day or two. I just thin it with water when I use it on my cereal.
I’m not recommending that anyone test the limits of how far you can let something go before it spoils. For goodness sake, don’t poison yourself. What I do is buy perishables as I need them. I visit the grocery store every day or two. I enjoy it.
Now, if you want to have refrigeration or an icebox, there are options. There are12 volt DC ice chest / reefers available fairly cheap. You can also get a standard ice chest and put block ice in the bottom, with perishables on top. In Africa, they will put a small clay pot inside a large clay pot and pack sand between the two. Pour water on the sand and put a wet cloth over the top and it creates a natural refrigerator in the smaller pot. Pretty cool, huh?
There are a lot of options available if you want to use a stove. You can find coleman two burner camp stoves that run on propane or white gas at any outdoor stores, most box stores, some thrift stores, and garage sales. You can get them for anywhere from $5 to $100 and they work every bit as good as a kitchen stove. They are legal in most parks and easy to use.
I prefer the single burner propane stove. One canister of propane is usually about $3 and the burner itself usually runs anywhere from $5 to $20. The canister lasts me one to two months cooking twice a day.
A simple stove can be made by putting corrugated cardboard in a roll inside a tuna can and melting wax over it. This is the same as sterno which will cost you about $1 a can. Not a very efficient way to cook, but it works.
For backpackers there are a variety of lightweight stoves that burn anything. They burn kerosene, propane, gasoline, or white gas. They cost from $60 and up and they aren’t very practical for car or boat living. I have one, but only use it for backpacking.
As far as rough living goes. Convenience foods aren’t’ very convenient. Microwavable foods are a pain in the ass and usually don’t’ taste very good. Of course, things like chips, crackers, and easy cheese can make a nice treat.
There are a number of people out there that cook most of their meals in a thermos. What they do is bring water to a boil and pour it in a thermos with their noodles, rice, cereal, or what have you . Seal it up and let the boiling water cook whatever you have.
This is one of my favorite ways to cook. It’s easy, it’s fast, and the cleanup is minimal. Basicly, you wrap what you want to cook in foil, toss it on the grill or coals, and wait for it to be done.
You can make a frying pan by twisting a loop into a wire coat hanger and then filling the loop with foil and wrapping it around the edges.
Car Cooking- using the manifold
I had a step dad that used to use this method. Mom would cook up a mess of fried chicken and he would put it in a metal bucket, cover it with foil, and wire it to the manifold of his Bronco. Then we would go drive out in the woods to some remote lake, and have hot fried chicken waiting for us under the hood.
You can actually cook steak, potatos, or just about anything else by wrapping it up and wiring it to the manifold. You can put a can of Campbell’s soup on the engine and drive to the next rest area to have hot soup.
Because engines will vary, cooking time will vary.
Baking with a Tin Can
Some hobo friends taught me a simple way to bake using tin cans. First they took a large coffee can and cut a hole in one side. Placing it with the opening down on the coals, they continued to feed twigs and brush through the hole.
Next they took a cleaned out tuna can and filled it about half way with cake batter and placed it on top of three rocks on the tin can stove (this keeps the bottom from burning by allowing air to circulate under the can.) Then they covered the ‘cake’ with another can and fifteen minutes later they had a little cake.
I saw them use the same coffee can bottom to fry up bacon and eggs.