Friday, December 25, 2009

Research is exciting but sometimes disturbing!

I bought 100 grams of organic egg white powder yesterday. As promised, I'm going to tackle getting stiff peaks with powdered egg white. This will be a good challenge to do over the xmas break when I'm not distracted. I'm going to do it without electricity using my Swift Whip. If it works I'll make macaroons.
There are two main areas of research for this blog; online and in the kitchen. I'm excited about the kitchen challenges and plan to take some good photos and fine tune some recipes. But I'm doing some thinking about some of the disturbing areas I'll have to delve into to get important background and instructional information.
I was prompted by my research in to the Siege of Malta to find instructions for identifying a cat carcass from a rabbit carcass. My first searches were disturbing! Really disturbing! My first image search threw up some confronting images which caused me to call time out. But I feel that this is an important area to explore as it is these sort of confronting ideas the age of warlords has in store. So I vow to find a good guide to carcass identification. I expect this will give me some angles to approach bush meat and road kill.
I was excited to find out about some of the British ministry for Food publications. Good Fare and Good Eating are credited with helping Britain to keep the life and culture in food during rationing. Both books played a part in the story of London and The Blitz. Britain is said to have been at it's healthiest point in it's history toward the end of WW2.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Seige of Malta

I was talking recently with a Maltese-Australian chef about his 7 month stint back in his motherland. He was telling me about the importance of fresh bread (Hobz) in Maltese culture. He said that in Malta if bread isn't still warm from the oven it is regarded as not worth eating. I asked him if they ever used bread in left-overs recipes and he said they may have stuffed the small Hobz loaves with tomato, fish, olive oil, and herbs. He said recipes like this would have been used during the early days of the Siege of Malta during WW2. I mentioned that I read of cat carcasses being offered as rabbit, he said that even to this day in Malta you always have to check your rabbit carcasses as cat is still offered as a substitute.
Malta was vital to the Allied war effort and came under the sort of sustained attack experienced during the Blitz in London. Malta was highly valued in the Allied war efforts in North Africa as a point of supply and as a strategic base for Allied forces in the Mediterranean. During roughly 2 1/2 years of constant siege the people of Malta suffered terribly as very few supply convoys made it to the island intact. It's probably the case that very little bread was baked after the start of the siege. Locals often lived in caves surviving on minimal rations and many fell victim to a polio epidemic.
Malta has a long history of siege being strategically placed between Italy and North Africa. The local cuisine is constituted of fish, vegetables, herbs, pasta, and bread. Hobz loaves are small with a delicate crust, contain a little shortening, and have a short baking and leavening time.

Good siege of Malta site

Monday, November 30, 2009

Powdered egg

When I think of The Age of Warlords Cook Book my meandering thoughts often end with powdered egg. Why? Because the egg is at the heart of so many western delicacies and when eggs are scarce there is very little to use as an alternative. As an amateur baker of 22 years I've found that nothing quite matches up to egg for fluffiness in a sponge, meringue, or macaroon.
But it's also because when we run out of eggs and chickens, and corn flour just isn't cutting it, and we've tried all the alternatives, and just want a delicate cake, powdered egg will be the only substitute.

I am one of many who have scorned powdered egg. I have in my ignorance, disregarded it because it imitates something that is in abundance. But not any more. I vow to learn to cook with powdered egg! I will report back and share with you some of the challenges and limitations. The first and greatest challenge will be creating stiff peaks with powdered egg white and water.

Check out this link to WW2 recipes with dried egg "they are just as good as fresh eggs", from the British Ministry for Food.
Also check out this faux-blog trying to steer gym junkies away from powdered egg with their liquid egg supplement "It’s an excellent product, whether you’re slamming a protein shake between meals or making a breakfast omelet — it’s a much better alternative to egg white powder".
And lastly have a look at these powdered egg recipes from this rapture inspired site that also features Ark Prep 101. Ark Prep 101 is a preparedness program that uses a fun family game with coloured lists of monthly preparedness tasks that sit in a colourful wall mounted ark. "Thanks for sharing Alisa!"

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Contingencies are important in planning!

Which future are we making contingencies for? Hey Western World.....What's the plan?

I went and checked around and found a site called Life after the oil crash and checked out their Preparedness Store which featured Nitro-Pak freeze dried ration packs with a thirty year shelf life and battery powered and freeze dried everything including Organic Chili Beef. It was like a camping store for people who don't know if they'll be coming back.
The site has ad listings from online book sellers and search engine corps, you know the ones. There were a range of books with titles like Long term survival in the coming Dark Age which is released by Paladin Press who entered the publishing market with a book titled 150 Questions for a Guerrilla back in the seventies. There was even a cookbook, The San Francisco Chronicle Cookbook which makes me wonder what kind of market profiling went on. I get the feeling this particular cook book is rather reliable.

Our troubled future. GeoMon on food, and diesel dependency!

Well the future of which I speak may well be closer than you think. The sage of rage against the ecocidal machine has alleged that the peak oil estimates we have been given may be dodgy. The point of peak oil is a crucial one, after that point oil prices will only go up. It is extremely important that we know with as much certainty as possible when peak oil will happen. Knowing how diesel dependent modern agriculture is Geo Mon (George Monbiot) asserts that the knock-on effects of the early onset of peak oil without a prior shift to non diesel dependent agriculture would be catastrophic.
He counters the prevailing myth of modern farming productivity saying "The amazing productivity of modern farm labour has been purchased at the cost of a dependency on oil."

This makes food an even more urgent element in our troubled future. The questions are: How soon will peak oil arrive if it hasn't already? and How quickly can we dramatically reduce our dependency on diesel for farming.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

As we crumble

"Little that we have taken for granted is likely to come through this century intact."
The Dark Mountain Project has as it's goal "uncivilisation". This does not involve a fixed set of objectives but the process of recognising and responding to our dramatically changing future. A future without the abundance that we in the west have come to expect and manifestly co-opt from the world.
Literature, art, and other expressions of culture commonly characterise modern times as "a struggle to reach the mountain top" or "standing on the shoulders of giants", or we contemplate "Oh how far we have come!". Somehow while we all admit to human frailty but seem to blindly accept the idea that as time moves on we inevitably become less brutish and more enlightened. We lionise the present but do we think with favour about our future? Do we truly comprehend what our present is predicated upon?
Larry Elliot of The Guardian contends that the fall of the Berlin wall represents the beginning of the pre-eminence of capitalism, a mere twenty years! He paints a picture of a veritable steeple chase of obstacles set before the globalised economy without getting into the likely constraints supplied by depleting resources like oil, coal, silicone, and the rare metals on which our affluence has come to depend.
We battle and poison religious, social, and political relations over oil and many say we will do the same over water. We destroy lives for food. What else? How will we respond to true constraints? Where will we who have known only unconstrained growth for sixty years find the resourcefulness we need to endure?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Age of Warlords has begun!

Take the conditions in the suburban ghettos of Lagos, Nairobi, or Kinshasa and superimpose them on the place where you live now. Think of what would happen if suddenly militias ran the streets and you had to survive on the food in your pantry, and food smuggled in or the food growing on your window sill or in a neighbours back yard. Imagine how you would cope as time wore on. What food would you and your community value as you huddle in small communities under the shadow of a local warlord?
These ideas create dramatic images of a future that is scary but one I feel compelled to imagine. I try to give these scenarios some humanity to temper the sense of horror
But if these things are difficult to imagine then try recalling images and memories from Mad Max 3: Beyond Thunder Dome, Tank Girl, or one of the many movies set in a post apocalyptic nightmare. The makers of these films show images of suburbs being laid to waste and vast distances between encampments being controlled by brutally violent militia. Imagine how with all the pain and loss and with electronic communications infrastructure limited and little connection with the world, would not the feeling of isolation and the grind of each day push you to appreciate the simplicity and joy of a shared meal or a special food?
The Age of Warlords has begun! We in the privileged west (the shrinking minority) do not feel it yet but all over Africa as in many other countries the grinding, hustling, relentlessly violent age is well and truly in place!
The Age of Warlords Cook Book is about how we who have almost always known abundance and privilege might respond to the coming of wide spread war and disorder brought on by resource scarcity, climate change, and growth obsessed capitalism. It is an exercise in speculative empathy and an exploration of food, culture, community, and resilience in a violent future that is the present for so many humans!