Rediscovering Sardines

I think I went from age 12 through 26 without touching seafood (other than calamari once at Red Lobster).  From age 8-12 about all I’d eat in the way of seafood was canned clam chowder.    Then for some reason I absolutely couldn’t get myself to eat it.

In 2008 I went to London and walked past a popular fish & chips joint near Boylen Ground, home of West Ham United after a match.   I didn’t have anywhere to be and it smelled really good so I figured I’d give fish another shot because I really wanted to like it.   I ended up liking it and working it back into my diet since then, although I prefer terrestrial vittles.

With the exception of all the more obscure ways of preparing seafood like lutefisk and whatever that fermented shark from Iceland is called (tried that, it was the absolute worst thing I’ve ever tasted), I would have pegged sardines as the fish I would be the least enthused to eat.   I heard someone singing their praises for the health benefits a while back ago and ended up finding a good sale on the Wild Planet brand of sardines and buying a few tins.

I tried them today.   I pretty much flinched as I took the first bite and found that they really weren’t that bad.   In fact, they were pretty good – I could see myself eating them every now and then.

Why do I think this is significant enough to actually type something about it?

– They’re a very healthy food.    They’re good sources of omega 3’s, selenium, calcium, vitamin D, coQ10, potassium and iron.   There’s beneficial fats and they’re dense in protein.

– They’re convenient.  Just open and eat.   No cooking required.

–  They’re good for storage, just like other canned foods.

–  A tin of sardines is about the size of a bar of soap, so it’s easy to carry around a bit of nutritionally dense food.   It’s also easy to store a lot of nutritionally dense food in a small space with sardines, especially considering the rectangular shape of the box/tin.

–   There are a lot of concerns about eating fish because they accumulate toxins easily and virtually anywhere you’ll get fish will likely come from waters with contaminants.   As I understand it, smaller fish like sardines and anchovies tend to accumulate a lot less toxins than larger fish that are higher on the food chain (bioaccumulation) and tend to have longer lifespans.    Interestingly enough, they also contain selenium which is good for fighting things in your body that shouldn’t be there.

So yeah, I’ll probably start working these in to my diet and food storage.


There’s Nothing I Love More Than Some Good Siege Literature

I’ve been off work for a couple weeks and have had a lot of time for reading.    Among the things I read was Anna Reid’s Leningrad: The Epic Siege of World War II, 1941-44.  I briefly mentioned the siege of Leningrad in Wolverines: Reflections on Red Dawn and had it in my mind, so I figured it would make some great Christmas-time reading.   I’m not going to review the book, but I think it’s a good idea for those of us into the world of preparedness to read and study accounts of times in human history where the shit really hit the fan for people instead of just fictional accounts.  I can’t think of much else more horrific in modern history than the sieges of Leningrad and Stalingrad besides Nanking.  I’m sure there are a ton of other smaller and equally brutal events that have been forgotten amongst the widespread destruction of the past century.  

After reading it I increased my food storage and was thankful that I have the option to do that, being born in this place during these times.  Let me list a few things off hand that the citizens of Leningrad ate to survive during the siege:

– Humans.  They ate corpses and there were even some cases of people killed for a bit of “long pig”.

–  Dogs.   There was one story of a family with a much-loved pet dog who had to kill it and eat it.  They gave the intestines to a friend for his help slaughtering it.

– Cats.  

– Horses. 

– Rats.

– Pidgeons.

–  Joiner’s glue.  It’s made from animal parts.

– The paste from book bindings.  It’s flour and water.

–  Sawdust bread.   Certain types of sawdust was added to bread to stretch it.

–  Crumbs scraped from cracks in kitchen tables.

–  Cattle feed, like cakes of flax seed.

–  Wheatberries recovered from a sunken ship that were moldy.

–  The paste from behind wallpaper.   Flour and water.

–   Leather

–   The dirt from underneath a confectionary that burned down.   Apparently there was charred sugar in the dirt.   People actually paid for it too.

–  Flour scraped off the walls of a bakery and from underneath the floorboards. 

The book also mentioned the citizens foraging for dandelions and nettles in any available space.  

Cash became worthless, but gold and silver still had value.   It’s kind of funny how when you get into precious metals you really notice these things when you read historical accounts.    Unfortunately for the folks who had gold and silver in Leningrad, the price of food and some crucial bribes skyrocketed beyond the cost of the metals and luxury items.  I’m a big fan of precious metals but from a preparedness standpoint I think you’re a lot better off trying to acquire the things you think you’ll exchange them for in a barter economy now than counting on having all kinds of doors open for you because you’ve got a pocketful of silver dimes.   I also think it’s a good idea to try to be able to be the guy (or gal) with some kind of valuble skill/product/service on the receiving end of the silver than just a consumer with silver to exchange.   Money, even silver, runs out if you don’t have a flow of it coming in.    I think the best way to think of precious metals from a preparedness standpoint is for all of those little things you’re forgetting.  

At any rate, I think it’s worth digging into the past to find out how people coped with times of scarcity and calamity.   I’m pretty sure that the contemporary writers of dystopian fiction get a lot of their ideas from these kinds of historical events.   


Food Storage: Thinking About The Immediate Term

When people make food storage plans, they often think in a matter of weeks, months or even years.   Modern survival stresses focusing on the most probable events such as weather-related power outages, temporary economic setbacks and so-on over more catastrophic events like nuclear war, zombie attacks or whatever they talk about on “Doomsday Preppers”.

Why not take principles of preparedness and food storage to the absolute lowest level and keep yourself prepared for life’s minor inconveniences that happen all the time?   What I mean by that is having a plan to keep certain foods prepared ahead of time that make life a little easier and less stressful.   Have to work late?   Forget to pack your lunch the night before and wake up late?   Or maybe you’re just too tired to cook for whatever reason – it’s nice to be able to know that you’ll have some sort of go-to food around.

In my house some of these staples include pita bread, boiled eggs, bean sprouts, hummus, pasta salad and usually some sort of homemade soup or stew.   If I need to I can usually throw together a satisfying meal in a matter of minutes or use these things to supplement something else.   Some other ideas might be chicken breasts, cooked ground meat, roasted vegetables or fruit salad.   Preparing these sort of things at your convenience really helps a few days down the road when things might get a little hectic.   Maybe making a point on Sunday to take a little bit of time to make a few things you’d like to keep around for the upcoming week would make sense.

From a more conventional preparedness standpoint, if the power went out, zombies attacked, Red Dawn happened, etc.  it would be nice to be able to have a few things around already prepared to access immediately instead of cracking into your MRE’s or trying to cook beans and rice from the 5-gallon buckets over a Coleman stove or something like that.

One of the benefits of thinking ahead with immediate term food preparedness is that it helps you eat a little more disciplined (if you pick the right foods to prepare ahead!) and there’s less of a chance of being tempted to go out to TGIFriday’s because “there’s nothing to eat here” or you “just don’t feel like cooking tonight”.    If you’re able to pull something out of the fridge and start eating it right away, there’s less of a chance you’ll end up going out.    That saves you money and time as well as probably being healthier.

Many of us probably already do this, but I think it should be openly thought of as being part of a food storage plan.   Thinking about the next few days in addition to planning for weeks, months and years allows us to be prepared for all of life’s challenges, from the major ones all the way down to the completely mundane ones like just not feeling like cooking.

When Life Hands You Lemons…

Dehydrate them.

Citrus is in season right now and high quality produce is going cheap right now.   I picked up about a dozen organic lemons the other day, cut them into 1/4 inch slices and threw them in the dehydrator overnight.     Lemons are something I don’t use often and it usually doesn’t make sense to keep them around.   We keep lemon juice for hummus and some Latin dishes, but just buying a lemon and cutting a wedge here and there usually ends up in wasting a lemon.    By dehydrating them, if I want lemon in tea or water, I just grab one and throw it in.   A dozen lemons sliced will probably keep us going for the year.   It’s always good to take advantage of surpluses and put some away for later.