This post comes to you from flood-bound Brisbane. I am writing from my high and dry third floor apartment, but the river is only a couple of hundred metres away, and serious flooding is expected in the next 48 hours. I have moved my car to higher ground, and retrieved thirty-year’s worth of family photographs from the garage, which may well flood in the next 48 hours. I could live for weeks on the contents of my pantry, so I don’t intend to go anywhere, and unlike thousands of my fellow-Queenslanders, I am safe and snug.
The thought did cross my mind however that we could lose power in the wake of this disaster, so I may have to eat cold food – which is not really a problem as this is summertime (wait! No cuppa?!). Naturally, I wondered what lessons there are in history for this situation.
An article from the 1960’s in The Times caught my eye with the title ‘Cooking when the power is off’. As it turns out, a child in the Boy Scouts or Girl Guides is a great advantage in this situation, for their camping kit might contain a solid fuel cooker, which can be used to cook an emergency meal. I am sadly short of children or grandchildren of the right age for this, so still have not decided how I might have to cook if the power goes out, but I give you the information anyway, in case you should be better equipped.
The article is from 1966, and shows that gender stereotypes were still alive and well at that time. The article begins:
“When the gas jets dwindle and electric hot plates stay as cold as charity, one is bound to reach the conclusion that there has been another power cut. With a wage earner on his way home, and several small mouths held open around your skirts, the only thing to do is to fall back on a few night lights to help you produce and emergency meal.”
‘Night lights’ appear to be similar, or the same as the solid fuel blocks for the boy scout soldi fuel stove, and as well as being cheap ‘are a useful thing to have in store anyway.’
Here is what you do:
"To cook by night-light heat, put three or four of them together in a group on the bottom of the grill pan, or a baking tin. Place a wire rack across the pan and there before you is an emergency stove. … Any tinned foods can be emptied directly into the pan. Soup, for example, takes about half an hour to heat up over night lights…. Using kitchen foil one can even prepare a complete meal. For example: bring a pint of water to the boil; meanwhile, peel two potatoes and cut them in small pieces. Place inside a square of foil, add salt, pepper and half an ounce of butter. When the water has boiled place the parcel of potatoes in the water and boil on – about 45 minutes using the solid fuel cooker, an hour over the night lights. You can also heat up slices of meat or fresh white fish, wrapped first in foil, and placed alongside the potatoes about 15 minutes later. Add frozen beans or some other vegetable later still,also parcelled up in foil with a knob of butter and seasoning. Cooked this way the vegetables taste very good indeed. … should the power be restored during the cooking time, simply transfer the saucepan to the cooker and carry on cooking."