Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Emergency Cooking.

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."


SharleneT said...

I sincerely hope that doesn't happen and, yes, foodie people have a tendency to be able to eat through a lot of disasters... But, (taking a moment to blowing my own mission horn) this is a perfect reason for having a solar oven, too! I'm assuming you either have a porch (sunny side?) or access to the roof, a perfect place for a solar oven. You can set it up, go back to the apartment, and then head back up for your meal a couple of hours, later. It will even purify your water, if the worst of all possible things should happen... Here's praying the water recedes and life gets back to normal, quickly. We're up to our elbows in icy roads and people who have no idea how to drive on them... Thanks for sharing the info about the Scouts.

Anonymous said...

You might try cooking some rice or potatoes, perhaps late tomorrow, if you have a way to keep them cool (extra ice in a cooler or other insulated box of some sort). While not as good cold as hot, they are quite edible, and you can even pour tinned soups or other foods over them for a filling emergency meal.

Best of luck to you and your neighbors!


Les said...

I was wondering how you were doing after reading about the flooding and deaths. Some of my friends in Galveston, TX lost everything when Hurricane Ike hit in 2008. Since I used to live on Galveston I had a lousy hurricane plan that went something like this: Water pressure is often lost in Texas when there is flooding since the water sources become contaminated. You may want to fill your tub and all of your pots with fresh water just in case you loose water pressure. Try not to open your fridge or freezer if you loose power. Also, charge your cell phone then turn it off to conserve the battery. Consolidate candles and flashlights in case you lose power at night. Check for the odor of natural gas before lighting candles. Procure sterno or other cooking fuel. Always pack bags in case of an emergency evacuation. Take your valuables but remember to pack work clothes for mucking through mud on the way back in.

I hope this isn't rude for me to suggest this stuff. I hope the best for you.

Judy said...

'Night lights' sound like tea lights. One would think votive candles would also work.

Go to to look at all kinds of emergency stoves(backpacker stoves)to build. The pop can stoves for alcohol are fun to build and use. If all you have is rubbing alcohol (70% isopropyl) build one with a wick, otherwise it won't burn. Just be sure to dump the water out after each use and dry the wick.

Chuckling, probably more than you wanted to know. I enjoy your blog!

The Old Foodie said...

Thanks for your thoughts and hints everyone: we are well prepared and my family are all OK.
Thanks also for the info on night lights - is obvious, really, but I am in flood-mode !

Keith said...

Good to hear you are safe and high and dry!
May I suggest you get one of those small camping gas stoves.
We supply our own power, and all the cooking, heating and hot water is supplied via our wood burning stove. We can get flooded in, but can't get flooded. Our houses are built high on a mountain range.
You take care and stay inside if the floods come.
Keep us posted!

Regards, Le Loup. New England NSW.

Unknown said...

My sister (also in Brisbane) is dealing with electricity cutting out... I think her response is just to eat from the massive supply of item in her pantry, heh. Our mother seems to have taught us to hoarde long-life goods... and tinned peaches. ;) Yum!

As for cooking, I recommend the single-burner propane grills usually sold but BigW or Kmart for about $15. They're brilliant for camping and the gas canisters are dirt cheap. I know you might not have access to one now, but I recommend keeping one handy in future.

In the meantime, stay dry and stay safe.