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May 8, 2008 10:12 AM


In the comedy “Private Benjamin,” there is an Army basic training scene depicting a very distressed Goldie Hawn saying, "I want to be normal again. I want to go out to lunch." ... These words can also be used in a drama.

On April 15 the front page of the Times had an article stating that “The Big One” will hit Calif. anytime within the next 28 years. As a Chowhound I was shaken by the thought that I would not have access to fresh milk, butter, donuts, tacos, burgers, fried chicken, pie and more because the bridges and roadways of our city might not survive the rocking and rolling. That article has come to mind again and again with each news story over the last few weeks reporting recent tornadoes, earthquakes to the north and south of us, and that cyclone. Some people in those areas have no emergency food and even among those who have some food their pains are still compounded by the absence of their normal diet. Among those victims who “Live to Eat” there must be serious withdrawal symptoms.

What can we do to prepare for the Big One? What more is there besides canned soups and beans that can be stored for at least 3 to 6 months without refrigeration and replaced as we eat them before they are out of date? I am not talking about what we can find by walking the aisles of chain Supermarkets. I want to know about all the special packaged, canned and preserved items made available at the small Mom and Pop places in the LA Area.

I want a LA shopping list of those foods that once opened during emergency times will comfort the hunger, feed the soul and make a Chowhound feel normal again.

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  1. many indian dishes are packaged in foil packets and have a good shelf life.
    for those, i would go to samosa house first and trader joe's second.
    also trader joe's has preprepared rice available in the same sort of packets.

    1. You've obviously never been in a major disaster. During the 89 SF earthquake, food wasn't at the top of my thoughts. Keep in mind the power will be out, so unless you have a bbq, whatever you eat will be cold.

      It depends on your own tastes and what comforts you. After a few days, finding an open restaurant making a hot breakfast was like a present ... but you still feel sick and scared so even then the food is not all that enjoyable.

      After all these years, I don't keep an earthquake stock. It is too difficult to rotate. I just have normal canned food like tuna, salmon, sardines etc I always have some sort of box of energy bars that I eat regularily.

      My only concession to earthquake planning and slow news days with the "you are going to die from an earthquake in 30 years" reports is to keep lots of bottled water and canned unsalted nuts. They are comforting to me and I can rotate them during the holidays ... great for guests dropping over.

      Don't buy lots of salty stuff. You might not have much water.

      5 Replies
      1. re: rworange
        This cookbook might interest you. We gave it to my mother-in-law and step-father-in-law as they live where there are frequent power outages and she collects cookbooks.

        1. re: rworange

          I don't know a single native Californian (I'm third generation) who has an earthquake stock -- it's too much trouble to try to maintain when you realize you might need it sometime between two minutes from now and 28 years from now (and of course, potentially never), especially since the most critical thing is water, which is both a pain to store enough of and the fastest to become unpalatable. I figure I have enough food on hand for weeks. If the power is out I fire up the BBQ and start in the order of perishability (the fridge, the freezer above the fridge, the deep freeze, and then the pantry). Actually, the thing I worry most about is dogfood, since I buy it in fairly small quantities for variety and freshness. I guess the dog will just have to eat what I eat, which will make her happy.

          I work in a downtown highrise and they do tell us that we should be prepared to be marooned for three days -- I have more than enough food in my desk for three days. I'm going to be very popular with my co-workers if that ever comes to pass.

          The best preparation is to have a vegetable garden and a rainwater collection system, which are nice things to have even if the Big One doesn't come in your lifetime.

          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            I'm 4 generation Berkeley-ite (and rather proud of it) and I know what you mean. It is hard to maintain a stash of supplies year after year after year. I've been known to raid the suplies for my son's lunch until nothing is left but cat food. However, I do try to always have water. Do you happen to know how long water lasts before it becomes unpalatable? I've been replacing it every 6 months, but maybe that's not often enough.

            1. re: Glencora

              If I bought bottled water on a regular basis I think what I'd do is use an older bottle and replace it with the new one every time I bought some -- that way it would always be fairly fresh. But since I mostly drink tap water, I personally don't have a plan. Bad California girl!

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                I don't know how good or bad it is, but I change the water with each changing season. I fingure I can always throw a little bleach in there should it be necessary ... if nothing else, I'll have water to flush occasionally.

                Since I am into making jello from fruit juices, I always have a lot of juice in the house so I figure that will do as well.

                Food-wise, I figure my body fat will do for a while should the stuff in the kitchen cabinets run out.

            1. See 'The Black Swan' by Nassim Taleb - preaching, like the Boy Scouts, "Be prepared." Have some water put up in your empty scotch magnums, maybe a few candles to use as fuel/light - camp stores sell those '44 hour' candles. I've settled on "instant" couscous, just a boil is all it takes, and sun-dried tomatoes, no oil, jarred olives, piquant stuff like that to liven things up. Your butter will keep well enough even without refrigeration, throw in a big dollop for satisfaction; tuna, instant noodle soups, vienna sausages, hot sauces, soy sauce etc, and did I mention, scotch?