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Food and drink: Rock, stock ’n’ barrel

How to keep rockin’ when the food stops rollin’

Long gone are the rocks — and the intrepid rockers who partied on at the barbecue championships, the Logger Sports Show in Squamish and at the clubs and party houses that wouldn’t, couldn’t let a good pun down.

The boulders themselves that crashed from the flanks of Highway 99 last week have been blasted to smithereens and pushed into Howe Sound (how sound was that?). Now all that remains are the memories of inconvenience and panic in the face of shortages real and imagined. Yes, there were issues with missed flights and meetings and a lack of fuel supplies, but when it came to real food supplies, reaction outweighed reality.

“It was a real mental case — people thought they weren’t going to have food for five days,” commented one local grocery store cashier. But in fact, the food distributors’ trucks rolled on and on, with suppliers even bucking up loads of milk and bread and meat together to make sense of the 7- or 8-hour trip from Vancouver through Hope and Lillooet and up over the Duffey Lake Road.

Whistlerites are nothing if not intrepid — and ingenious — so now, in the calm of the aftermath, is the perfect time to consider what the heck you would do if the food stopped rollin’ in.

Given the long distance from our collective hunter/gatherer or even relatively recent pioneering past, we can barely imagine food that doesn’t come from a store shelf. Maybe James MacKinnon and Alisa Smith, the originators of the 100-mile diet, come closest in recent memory when they ground 100-mile grain for their own flour to bake bread. But that’s a rarified exception. Most of us wouldn’t even know where to buy a hand-operated flour mill, let alone which is the business end.

So not to encourage stock-piling — lord knows we have enough of that in our shopaholic world — but to plant a seed or two in the brain-chambers of eaters everywhere, here are a few tips on food that might get you through an unexpected shortage:

 

All hail the biscotti

“Biscotti” means “baked twice,” originally from the French “biscuit,” also meaning “twice cooked.” Along the same dried lines, there are rusks from the Dutch, mandelbrot from Jews, zwieback from Germans, and biskota and paximadia from the Greeks — all made to last.

The idea of drying out biscuits so they’ll keep from getting stale or mouldy was a very good one in pre-IGA times when long journeys, war or simply an extended trip to fish on the Mediterranean without refrigeration or an Igloo cooler entailed using your imagination and some time-tested techniques to keep supplies edible and safe.

Food authority and chemist Harold McGee explains that French biscuits proper and English biskets were originally sweets that kept a long time: small bread-like loaves made from foamed egg whites, flour and sugar. Today, biscuits in England are what we North Americans would call cookies — little, sweet, dry cakes.

The hard cookies from Italy known as biscotti are made from lean dough leavened with baking powder, baked in flat loaves, then cut crosswise into thin pieces and re-baked in a low-temperature oven to dry them out. Lots of home-made biscotti recipes can be found on-line that will yield delicious results that last for ages, perfect for cross-country camping or waiting out the next road closure, dipping and sipping with espresso or tea, hot or over ice.

 

Fresh and frozen

Barring it’s not the end of the world and your electricity is still on, your freezer even the little one above your fridge, as we saw last week at Max and Marlene’s place, can be a great way to keep your own food supplies.

One of the smoothest tricks this time of year is to freeze fresh berries. Whether you pick wild blackberries, grow your own, or head up to North Arm Farm in Pemberton for some of their raspberries or blueberries, freezing your bounty for times when fresh berries aren’t so plentiful is easy and quick.

You can use ordinary plastic bags (doubled is better), buy freezer bags with thicker walls, or use plastic or glass containers, even jars with tight lids. Just pick out the larger bits of detritus like leaves or bugs beforehand, dump them in your container of choice and freeze.

The trick is NOT to wash them first. When you’re ready to use them, grab as many as you need and rinse them in cool water. The water will thaw the berries and wash them at the same time.

Strawberries do well if you freeze them singly on a pan before you bag them. Raspberries will mush up to some degree, but blueberries and blackberries hold their form and texture amazingly well. Any summer berries will perk up you and a batch of muffins or bowl of granola on a cold winter’s day, or during any emergency or inconvenience, real or imagined.

 

Don’t jerk around

Animal protein can be challenging during shortages, but such times also offer ideal excuses for keeping a nice stick of saucisson sec or a chunk of prosciutto hanging in a cool, dry place like your basement. You’ll be amazed how often you have to go check on it to see if it’s still okay.

There’s always the predictable supply of beef or bison jerky, but the other meat supply, well, fish, really, that again does well in a freezer is smoked salmon. It will keep much longer than fresh salmon and spare you and fellow diners from that dreaded, old fishy taste if you do what we sometimes do and inadvertently keep fresh fish in the freezer too long. (The joke around our house is we could never buy a chest freezer because it would turn into a post-modern midden — here’s that buffalo sausage we bought in Quesnel in 1996; hey, there’s the freezer jam Auntie Helen gave us in 1974.)

A neat trick during road closures or otherwise is to slice the smoked salmon when it’s still partially frozen to get those neat, thin slices that will impress your buddies rockin’ on through the hard and not-so-hard times.

 

SLOW DOWN AND EAT UP: Roll out for the hugely glorious Slow Food Cycle Sunday, Aug. 17, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. No pre-registration required — just show up with your bike and a good case of the munchies at the Community Centre on Pemberton Meadows Road. To learn more about local food systems and eating with a conscience, check out the Anything Grows session 7 p.m., Aug. 14 at Millennium Place, moderated by Pique’s own G.D. Maxwell.

 

Glenda Bartosh is an award-winning freelance writer with a weakness for storing food favourites.




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