Lately, the astounding number of movies, T.V. series, books, articles, and console games focusing on some kind of world catastrophe or other have reached tremendous heights. Again and again, we’re entertained by scenarios where some cataclysmic war, natural disaster, epidemic or pest infestation has, somehow or other, destroyed everything, and the remaining people are left to pick up the pieces and try to restore civilisation with very restricted and uneasy means. I don’t know why so many seem to find the idea of this happening so entertaining, but anyways, they apparently do.
The thing is, we don’t really need a global epidemic or an enormous natural disaster for our day-to-day living routine to crumble. It can be destroyed with much less. How about surviving without electricity forever? Let’s narrow that down even more. How about living without the comfort of home appliances? Or even just without one particular home appliance?
What would you do if refrigerators didn’t exist? The thought is laughable, isn’t it? Of course they exist. Refrigerators, cooling units and ice boxes have in fact existed for hundreds of years. Food is energy, and the need to store and preserve our life-energy has always been prevalent in the mind of humanity. It can be said to be a part of our instinct of self-preservation. But what did people do before cheap electricity and the onset of a refrigerator inside each and every household, office, and store became the norm? What would we do, if a real emergency arose, and we had to find some other means of preserving our food?
Canning – If we think about it, this method is already much in use. We can tomato sauce, we can beans, we can jams, fruit, and different kinds of vegetables. Canning basically denotes partially cooking the food to kill bacteria and then sealing it up until you’re ready to eat it. Jars might be a tad expensive, but they last quite long and can be used and re-used. It’s important that these are stored in a dry place, and that the lid is closed very tightly.
Drying – Drying is considered to be the easiest way to preserve food. Since mold, bacteria, and mildew thrive in a moist environment, drying is effective for food storage because it removes all water and can be stored safely for a long period of time. This can be accomplished in a number of ways, ranging from the use of food dehydrators or low-temperature ovens, to the ultimate low-tech solution of preparing your food and placing it to dry in the sun. Dried food – especially fruit – can be eaten as is, or you can rehydrate it by soaking in water until it becomes tender.
Pickling and Fermentation – Pickling is similar to canning, but it goes an extra step to preserve your fruits or vegetables by introducing an acidic solution to the mix. This allows for the controlled fermentation of food by killing off potentially harmful molds or bacteria whilst preserving the food. The time needed for the fermentation depends on the kind of food or ingredients being prepared. Some require days, others weeks, months or more.
Salt Curing and Brining – Sailors used to preserve meat with salt when they went on long voyages. This is in fact a very old method of preserving food, as salt creates an inhospitable environment for bacteria, and most microorganisms cannot tolerate a high salt concentration. Curing involves rubbing a mixture of salt and sugar into the meat, packing it tightly, and then storing it in a stable, cool temperature. Brining starts out the same as salt curing, but uses an additional salty brine solution. Salt-cured meat often needs to be soaked in water to remove the excess salt before it’s cooked or eaten.
Smoking – This is a process which acts as a continuation of salt curing or drying, as it’s not sufficient to preserve food for a length of time on its own. The food is exposed to the smoke from charcoal or wood in order for it to be further dried and preserved, while also holding a particular rich taste. Although meat and fish are the most commonly smoked foods, cheese, vegetables, as well as certain types of alcohol like whiskey, are sometimes smoked as well.