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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beans that can be stored for at least 3 to 6 months without refrigeration and replaced as we eat them before they are out of date?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?

              1. I live on the west coast, and earthquakes (also volcanoes) are a fact of life for us. I agree with rworange that if you've just survived a big quake (our most recent was the Nisqually quake in Feb 01), the only think you'll care about is whether your family and friends are safe, and whether your house is damaged.

                Water is the most important thing to keep on hand, at least 2 qt per day per person for a minimum of three days. Also, dried fruit, nuts, various granola or energy bars. They're calorie-dense, often include protein, and have a long shelf life. If you want non-mainstream stuff, stock up on wasabi peas, rice crackers, boiled peanuts, and the like, but bear in mind that although they may make you feel psychologically well cared-for, they may not provide a lot of calories or nutrition, if the disaster lasts for more than a few days. Don't assume that you'll have electricity or water.

                Also bear in mind that you may no longer have a home and will have to carry what few belongings you value with you during an evacuation, or you may not be at home when the earthquake hits and may not be able to get there. Also bear in mind that you may be sharing food and water with others (remember the story of the Little Red Hen?); I always keep more "disaster food" than I would need for just myself.

                4 Replies
                1. re: Erika L

                  Thanks Erika, rworange and all. What I am really looking for is some local LA things that I might offer to the kids now and if they like it I will pack some away for later. If the Big One hits I want to be able to offer it to the kids as something special to bring back a smile and tell them, "Everything will be OK." I posted this on the LA Board but it was moved here.

                  My sons and I have 20 five gal bottles of Arrowhead water, a gas powered saw, cans of gas, crowbars and a chain hoist to lift the house off the family if necessary. If times get real bad, for our protection we also have a four shotguns.

                  Edit, Earthquake Food Storage. I mentioned the chain hoist. We also bought six towers of heavy duty ladder scaffolding which works as temporary shelving in the outside storage shed located away from our house. The earthquake foods and other items are stored in boxes on plank shelves suspended on the scaffolding ladder bars which can be cleared off quickly. The scaffolding can be assembled in minutes to create a 3’x 8’x 21’ tall overhead for the hoist. The scaffolding can also be assembled to serve as a single-story 7’ high frame to drape a giant tarp over thus making a tent with shelving and plank bunk beds inside The kids love camping out.

                  1. re: JeetJet

                    I was thinking it was probably moved because of your LA store specific request. Put a pointer to this thread on the LA board .

                    It still goes back to what the kids like normally. For years I kept a tin of those butter cookies from Walgreens in the house and the car because that would make me happy, it keeps forever and a can is less likely to squish.

                    On a non-food note ... have LOTS of batteries and a portable DVD player with lots of movies the kids like.

                    After a few days of NOTHING but news 24/7 on EVERY station, I was SO sick of the doom and gloom I wanted a break and some entertainment to take my mind off stuff. I supposed if I had cable there would have been something else ... but that assumes having power.

                    OK ... to make that last food-oriented ... have some DVDs of cooking shows for yourself to watch ... Ratatoulle for the kids

                    1. re: rworange

                      Finally I see a great reason for a portable DVD player. Comfort food and comfort movies go well together, right? I will pick that up and add it to the shed. My thanks. What the kids like normally is so true. We have lots of Kraft EsayMac because the kids love it. I also have a case of original mac & cheese but admit that I have not been able to make it with canned milk to my liking.

                    2. re: JeetJet

                      Not local to LA, but If your kids like those packaged "fruit snacks" and "fruit by the foot," that sort of thing keeps well and even has vitamin C. Also fruit juice boxes or boxed chocolate milk. I store them in a large water proof box outside the house and after a few months I use them in bag lunches and replace them.

                      (Don't forget cat/dog food!)

                  2. I'm not trying to be morbid or anything, but heavy plastic bags are also an important thing to stock if you're going to stay put. The theoretical big one is supposed to have an epicenter east of LA in the IE, but it will be large enough to cause much carnage in the greater LA area.

                    1. When we sorted through things in the house after my father died (in mid-2003) we found their Y2K stash of canned foods in the hall closet. They were about to burst. So whatever you stock, remember where you put it and trade it out every once in a while.

                      I lived in CA for a while. The two earthquakes I experienced were the New Madrid in MO (where I was raised because my grandmother was a young child in SF for the Quake of 1906 and they moved back to MO) and the Nisqually in WA.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: lgss

                        LOL! One of my grandfathers was a child in the Bay Area in '06 and they moved to Texas. Nothing to worry about there, only tornadoes, ice storms, hurricanes, etc. Not to mention that I'd much rather live in California, where the buildings are designed with earthquakes in mind, than in, say, St. Louis, which is going to be rubble the next time there's a big one on the New Madrid fault.

                      2. I would recommend:

                        McCarthy, Cormac. 2006. The Road. New York: Vintage International.

                        Having experienced major hurricanes and their aftermath in SE Asia, I recommend getting ready for no power and water: tons of clean water, stove with gas tank, dried and canned foods, and a plan to convert everything you have in your ref and freezer into food that will last a while (the rest will have to be tossed).

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                          I have to add, CASH. We are so reliant on debit and credit cards. I never have cash on me and now try to keep a stash in the house. I have a friend who was in NYC when they had the blackout a couple of years ago. The small deli downstairs from her apt. where she had been living for 5+ years would not take a check from her. She just wanted some food stuffs and batteries for her flashlight that had run out. Cash is king. Most places might open for business but won't/can't take credit cards without electricity.

                          1. re: trishaluna

                            That is a good point ... ATM's won't work and credit card transactions won't be up.

                            That is really cold of that deli. Once things calmed down I would let someone know why I'd never shop there again.

                            I remember the kindness of so many businesses during the 89 quake. The little restaurant down the street gave away food free to neighbors. They said the food would go bad anyway and they might as well help out their customers who needed the eats.

                            1. re: trishaluna

                              Do any of you remember the '60's book "Alas Babylon"? It was a book about the aftermath of nuclear war. The 2 most precious commodities were cash and gasoline. Might be worth reread. We are in the New Madrid (Mad-rid) fault area. I've only had two quakes of note since moving here. We had one this spring. It was the noise that woke me, shaking I did not feel, nor the 2 after shocks. My dogs were not bothered either. A friend's dog woke her just prior, my 2 just slept through. I woke and said to myself, "oh an earthquake" and went back to sleep. I've lived in Japan, and on the west coast. I've also experienced a couple of earthquakes in the Adirondacks. I guess it is something we should all give a little more attention to. In my area a big one with the New Madrid fault would be devastating. I think the last big one from it was the one that made the Mississippi river flow backwards.

                              As a fromer Realtor, I have always though having a permanent generator installed would be a great selling point for a home, supposing you had the gas to run it. Even a small portable type could make a great difference in quality of living. I've not bitten the bullet on either, can't take my own advice and I have had occasion to rent one. Our power supply is not the best and frequent storms in spring and summer can knock us out. I do have a woodstove insert in my fire place and have resorted to that in a winter power outage.

                          2. "What can we do to prepare for the Big One?"
                            Keep plenty of alcohol on hand. I "Survived" the black out with a good dose of rye, beer and wine as I deemed them the most perishable.

                            In all seriousness, I cooked what I could on the grill for two days and we were fortunate to have water. That was a black out. In the event of a catastrophic emergency I would think that basic survival would be first and foremost on your mind.


                            1. Does anyone know of a good source of disaster prep food supplies in So. Cal.? I'm looking for stuff prepared for long term storage in appropriate containers. How about the equipment to store your own items - plastic buckets, oxygen absorbers, mylar bags, etc.

                              Any help appreciated.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: ferdlap

                                Military MRE (meals ready to eat), available on the web. I've tried a few out of curiosity. The ham was very good, all the rest were bland but of course will help you survive in a pinch. And they will last for years.

                              2. Not having been in an earthquake since the 70's (in LA), I now have to be hurricane ready on a yearly basis. Eating gourmet goodies is the last thing on your mind when the house is in shambles and it's 95 degrees outside and you have no electric, no phone (even the cell towers were demolished in Hurricane Andrew), and no.. well... anything.

                                But for those hurricanes where everything is intact except the water and the electric:

                                1) a grill with a fuel supply
                                2) plenty of water, drinking and general use (I fill a large rubbermaid type storage container -- you know the 40 - 60 gallon size and leave it in the bathroom to use for flushing the toilet and washing).
                                3) canned goods that I'd normally use (there aren't many I use, so I don't have many) or am willing to donate to a food drive after hurricane season.
                                4) boxed cereals (get the type with little sugar like rice chex -- can be eaten as a snack and not too salty).
                                5) cash
                                6) lots of batteries.. and a battery operated fan.
                                7) I have a generator (gasoline powered) -- but use it sparingly.
                                8) a small butane burner and fuel.
                                9) stove-top espresso maker.
                                10) a month's worth of pet food or more.
                                11) full tank of gas in the car.

                                1. If you want calories, go to a Army surplus and get a case of MRE's ( meal ready to eat) not good food but lasts a long time.

                                    1. re: Scrapironchef

                                      EXACTLY what I was looking for - Thanks! Any other recommendations appreciated.

                                    2. As a Left Coaster most of my life, I've been through (count 'em) three major earthquakes. I never prepared (though I always have a routine supply of canned goods on hand) and have never gone wanting. But I don't live in tornado or hurricane country, so that's something different. In any case, I would not be concerned about gourmet meals.

                                      1. After the Loma Prieta quake I remember eating duck liver pate with wheat toast in the dark with the family and listening to the radio. There was nothing else to eat without cooking. Now I agree I would fire up the grill and start cooking.

                                        1. We get an occasional hurricane thru, and we've mostly relied upon our grill, and the contents of our freezer. We always have an extra propane tank or two. Since the power's out, we usually eat what's in the fridge first, then move onto the freezer. We didn't have power for 5 days a couple of years ago, and we were still eating well. We were able to get ice after the third day, and we just stuffed the freezer in the garage with ice, to keep everything cold.

                                          For earthquakes, you can't plan immediately before the event, since you don't know when that'll be. But for a hurricane, we always fill up all the cars with gas, lay in some extra water, make sure we have extra gas for the chain saw and hit the ATM for a couple hundred dollars.

                                          1. For Hurricane Hugo we utilized the grill quite a bit. Nighbors pitched in the most perishable items,We cleared debris by day and we turned an otherwise gloomy time into one of the best nightly block parties the neighborhood has ever had.

                                            We were n ohio during the big blackout, and one of the local shops refused to sell us ice." No electricity, no sale" Hee hee, she could have rounded up the price of the ice, made a tidy profit and had happy customers. I hope she enjoyed swimming in her losses.

                                            We have been in LA county for 7 years now. Outside of a couple of short and tiny rumblers,I have no idea what a big one feels like.We'll keep plenty of water on hand for sure.

                                            1. I edit a disaster preparedness blog, and try to focus a lot on what foods to store as a hedge against natural or man-made disasters.

                                              As long as you store mostly foods that you normally eat, it isn't hard to rotate -- just put in new stuff as you use the older stuff.

                                              I have a two-burner Coleman stove that's perfectly adequate for simple meals. I've used it extensively while traveling.

                                              This is my list that I put together for an entry on beginning preps:

                                              * canned beans (usually black beans, garbanzos, pintos and kidneys)
                                              * dried lentils, mung beans and peas (both split and whole)
                                              * canned tuna and salmon
                                              * shelf-stable tofu
                                              * tomatoes (diced, sauce, juice and prepared marinara)
                                              * canned vegetables (corn, peas, green beans)
                                              * dried vegetables (broccoli, soup greens, tomatoes)
                                              * peanutbutter
                                              * other grains (oatmeal, grits, cous cous, quinoa, millet, wheat berries)
                                              * pasta in ever shape that I can find
                                              * rice (brown, white, arborio and jasmine)
                                              * ramen and boxed macaroni and cheese

                                              If you are interested, you can read the entry in full here: http://preparednessblog.today.com/200...
                                              (Sorry, can't cut & paste the whole thing because of the site's copyright policy.)

                                              1. I think it is most important to have a plan, more than food. How are you going to re-connect with your family? Cell networks tend to get jammed up, so you may not be able to communicate. Also, if you are home, remember your water heater, it has lots of fresh water in it which you can use for drinking. I have an emergency kit in the car that includes a camping water filter in case I am stranded far from home when something bad happens. Unfortunately, like another poster, I can probably survive on my body fat way too long!

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: dkenworthy

                                                  Absolutely. People need to be thinking of all of these in advance: have a meeting spot, know where to look for news of one another, make sure that you have adequate food and clean water.

                                                2. I have over 400 bottles of wine in the cellar, should tide me over. Over 20K gallons of water in the pool (probably should get a filter, like those used for backpacking), a small Honda generator, over 500 lbs of lump charcoal, pantry is full of a variety of canned stuff that we normally use. Enough firearms and amunition to protect the homestead and hold off a small army. Should get a couple of new coleman laterns and a stove I guess. Might put in an assortment of back packing dried meals.

                                                  Have not had many shakers in Oregon but there is a huge fault off the coast, when it pops it will be a big one.