Friday, February 10, 2012

Frogs or Oatmeal?

In tropical Queensland, where floods, bushfires, and cyclones are part of life, we are urged by the authorities to keep 3 days of food on hand at all times, plus supplies of bottled water, batteries, and first-aid materials etc. I know that many of you in other parts of the world where the weather and geography are wild are similarly advised, and are probably similarly unco-operative.

What about local disasters lasting more than three days? We don’t get official advice about that, do we?  Well, the British did, in 1980, in the form of a flurry of activity on the part of an agency called Civil Aid. I give you almost all of an article in The Times, of February 14, 1980, which gives away some of Civil Aid’s survival tips.

Frogs on the Emergency Menu.
Down-to-Earth advice on nuclear survival.
Advice to people on how to protect themselves and survive a nuclear attack was published yesterday by Civil Aid. Some of the information is remarkably similar to that printed in Protect and Survive, the government booklet which the Home Office is refusing to issue until a short while before the bomb drops.
The difference is in Civil Aid’s approach, which is much more practical and down to earth. Whereas Protect and Survive concentrates on the survival of the individual family, Civil Aid places the emphasis on neighbours helping each other. Most of the ideas work better that way the pamphlet says.
“Preparations should be made for communal cooking, using one kitchen for several houses or by building a field kitchen”, Civil Aid says. It is speaking from hard experience, having cooked at “pop” festivals, sometimes using oven built in the field, and serving meals at a rate of up to 10,000 every 24 hours.
The ideas hark back to those primitive days before the deep freezer or refrigerator. Ways of preserving food from such appliances are being investigated, the pamphlet says.
“Meat and chickens taken out, thawed and cooked will keep longer than if left raw. Pickling, salting or smoking will ensure longer life, plain boiled bacon keeps well, and eggs can be kept after painting with or dipping in sealing mixture.
Civil Aid is keeping an open mind on how to improve dishes. Since biscuits and tinned foods are expensive, housewives should know how to make bread and scones without yeast.
Rice [cooking?] is dependent upon heat, but oatmeal needs less cooking, is almost a complete diet, and can be sweetened or salted. Dried fruit and vegetables, particularly protein-rich beans, store well.
Mr Robin Meads, vice-chairman of Civil Aid said at a press conference yesterday that after a nuclear attack people would have to take what they could get. “If you saw a frog running about, you would have to wash it down to get rid of active dust, cook it and eat it.”
The pamphlet departs from government policy in saying that food for 14 days, batteries, candles, and other essentials are not available in sufficient quantities for a last minute rush by the whole population. Some reasonable steps must be taken in advance, Civil Aid says.
The 14 days to which it refers is the period that must be spent in a shelter to avoid fall-out.
[The article then goes on to discuss various types of fuel which might be used, and suggests filtering water through sand or charcoal.]

Is this for real? Food advice in case of a nuclear incident: - thaw out and cook the chooks in your freezer - salt and smoke them too, for added longevity, if you happen to have the ingredients and equipment in your shelter. Alternatively – catch frogs (you will need to leave your shelter to do this), wash the radioactive dust off them, cook and eat them. Filter your water through sand. I am no physicist, but I am pretty sure that a sand-filtering would have no effect whatsoever on the level of radioactivity of the water, would it? 

This advice seems to me to be so spectacularly silly that surely not a single member of the generally gullible general public would have been reassured – which was surely the of its perpetrators?

Sadly, I have been unable to find any 1980’s thoroughly English recipes for frogs’ legs, so am unable to suggest what spices or condiments should be stored in case a frog hunt is needed. As we all know, when times are hard or circumstances disastrous, we often need to fall back on the wisdom of our grandparents. I give you a very economical, nutritious recipe for porridge. Cook some for breakfast and save the leftovers for lunchtime fritters.

Oatmeal Fritters.
Make a very stiff porridge, adding to it half a teaspoonful finely-chopped onion and parsley. Spread it on a plate to cool. Then cut into pieces, dip in frying batter, and fry. To add to the food value of this, a beaten egg may be stirred in when the mixture is almost cooked.
The Times, Saturday, February 10, 1917.

Quotation for the Day.

I went into a French restaraunt and asked the waiter, 'Have you got frog's legs?' He said, 'Yes,' so I said, 'Well hop into the kitchen and get me a cheese sandwich.'
Tommy Cooper


Unknown said...

That sort of lovely advice just made me think of this:

I think by the 1980s they'd have been a little more clued in as to the effects of nuclear radiation on both people's bodies and food sources!

Deb said...

I was a politico student at the time of the original 'Protect and Survive' nonsense. Public interest was intense, so the pamphlets were issued anyway. The advice was risible- we summarised it as 'Hide under the table with a brown paper bag over your head. Sing 'LA LA LA loudly.'
It probably worked in terms of over-all 'population calming', though.
Our general schools system does not educate for joined-up thinking, or individual research. Also, people wanted to believe it would all be fine. Powerful stuff.

The Old Foodie said...

Thanks Meg and and Deb. I do apologise for the late reply - I dont know where my day goes. I am sure you are both right - the authorities know full well what would happen in a nuclear event, but the ridiculous advice was given to keep people believing they had a solution, so they would not protest.