Chefs choice: Emergency Preparedness Week 

click to enlarge BEAN THERE Being prepared for an emergency means having cooking ingredients on hand to eat healthy.
  • BEAN THERE Being prepared for an emergency means having cooking ingredients on hand to eat healthy.

Disaster food.

When those two words are put together it usually means burnt meals, flattened soufflés or really, really bad pairings.

This week, however, it is about using food as a lifesaver.

It's Emergency Preparedness Week until Saturday, May 9, and the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) has embraced saving lives by having us think with our bellies.

Disaster dining came to the attention of the RMOW's Emergency Program Coordinator Erin Marriner as a way to focus people's attention on the bigger issue of survival. The idea is to learn how to prepare food following an earthquake, flood or some other disaster.

"One of the biggest barriers to getting people to prepare for emergencies is complacency and apathy, with people thinking something bad is not going to happen. A recipe is a creative idea to get our message across," says Marriner.

"Everyone thinks they are prepared, but when you look the details you start to realize you could do a lot more. Council doesn't want to see hardship for any of Whistler's citizens, like we saw with the flood in December."

Marriner came across a recipe for hemp seed bean salad (see next page) by vegan chef Doug McNish, who prepared it for the Canadian Red Cross. His idea was to move beyond spam sandwiches and tinned spaghetti.

According to the Red Cross blog, Food Friday, McNish's became interested in preparedness after his own personal emergency, when his home burned down. He was surprised to be met at the hotel afterwards by Red Cross members, who made sure his family had everything they needed.

This week, Marriner made the recipe and has good news for non-vegan types.

"It was delicious, I'd eat it anytime," she said. "I think this is something we will take forward in the future.

"The reason we picked this specific recipe is that it puts a healthy and innovative spin on a typical disaster meal. We don't expect everyone's meal choices to be this gourmet, it doesn't need to be."

RMOW councillor Jen Ford, who is on the municipality's Emergency Planning Commitee, says residents and business owners need to be prepared for self-reliance for a minimum of 72 hours, and likely for longer in the event of a major emergency.

"Emergencies happen and there is no way to catch up," says Ford.

"Council is looking for any opportunity to promote being prepared, given the importance of it. It is a national awareness week and with the recent the fire and rock fall in Squamish, with the earthquake in Nepal, safety is important to all of us."

She noted that in terms of Nepal, it was easier to get help to those in need in Katmandu than to those in outlying areas. If an earthquake struck this part of the world, Whistler would be an outlying area and it could be considerable time before outside help could arrive.

"Over the years we've had situations where we've been cut off from the Lower Mainland for a few days. We've seen how this can affect the community. We're well equipped in town, but if the highway closes for a few days, things get interesting," Ford says.

A quick Google search for "recipes for emergency preparedness," brings up many options.

Suggestions include having a stock of non-perishable foods and a supply of water.

"The recipe we found is fun and we're thinking about expanding this idea in future years for emergency preparedness week, we've passed around the idea of doing a few and comparing them," says Ford.

As well, the RMOW is also offering emergency preparedness cards to help people get ready at home and at work — as well as providing information on how they can prepare if they have pets. The cards have been made available around the resort and provide information about preparing safety kits, saving important documents, and other useful considerations.

"A lot of people don't think of things like, 'what if I have to take my dog away for a few days.' Or medications," says Ford. "At my house, I've got all of my camping equipment in one box that I can throw in the car and go with. It has cooking equipment and we can survive with it for a few days."

The cards are also available online at

Hemp Seed Bean Salad


1/4 cup (60 mL) olive oil

2 tbsp (30 mL) lemon juice

2 tbsp (30 mL) dried parsley flakes

1 tsp (5 mL) ground cumin

1/2 tsp (2 mL) each: chili powder, garlic powder

1/4 tsp (1 mL) paprika

Salt + pepper to taste

14-oz (398-mL) can beans, preferably organic (such as butter beans, cannellini beans, small red beans), drained, rinsed

1/2 cup (125 mL) shelled hemp seeds


In mixing bowl, whisk oil, lemon, parsley, cumin, chili, garlic and paprika. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add beans and hemp seeds. Toss well. Adjust seasoning if desired. (If desired, refrigerate until ready to serve to let flavours blend.)

Makes two main or four side servings.

Source: Canadian Red Cross

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