Wednesday, February 3, 2010

History Channel's Last Supper

History Channel's Last Supper

I watched the Last Supper episode of the History Channel's Life After People series last night. Keeping in mind that food in residential pantries is virtually the same as food in supermarkets and is normally stored similarly, here's a short list of my takeaways from the show:

Non-survivalists who plan to live off the food and bottled water in grocery stores after Armageddon may want to buy a gas mask or at least a clothespin to help with the smell. Seems all that rotting meat, fruit and veggies will keep all but the most insensitive noses out after a few days without refrigeration.

The show interviewed a guy who'd been involved in the cleanup of an abandoned supermarket where, after weeks without electricity to run refrigeration units, the cleanup crew had to wear Hazmat suits and breathe bottled air. Of course all the rats, mice, flies and other vermin attracted by the smell won't add to the ambience of post apocalyptic supermarket dining either.

My favorite pull quote from the interview was: "The flies were so thick you couldn't see your own hand at arms length."

Canned goods will likely last longer than stuff in cardboard boxes or cellophane packaging, but will eventually rust from the outside due to moisture or rupture from the inside due to pressure from multiplying organisms when the cans are exposed to hot weather.

But the good news is that Twinkies sealed in their packages will, according to experts, last up to 25 years. That estimation is at variance with the manufacture's assurance that Twinkies are good for 25 days on store shelves.

The experts also opined that sealed freeze dried food would likely last up to 100 years. And that freeze dried food had been tested after 30 years and found by the testers to be "almost" as tasty as similar "fresh" freeze dried food.

Unfortunately the experts didn't say how the freeze dried food had been stored. The US military stores its MRE's in temperature and humidity controlled warehouses and expects them to last three years. But freeze dried foods are just part of an MRE package.

Pointing out that edible bee honey had been found in the pyramids of Egyptian Pharaohs the experts claimed that bee honey stored in glass jars would last between 4000 and one million years.

Now I'm all in favor of honey. It's nature's perfect food. You can supposedly live for years eating nothing but honey. And it will store longer than human life expectancy. And it gets better, honey fights infection on wounds.

Ayup! If you're out of povidone iodine, rubbing alcohol and hydrogen peroxide honey will do the job.

But my question is: The glass may last for a million years, but how do they seal the jar for a million years? Steel, even stainless steel, will rust eventually.

Lessons Learned
Don't expect to be able to eat refrigerated or frozen foods from pantries and grocery stores for more that a day or so after the power goes out.

Don't expect to be able to eat perishable foods (fresh fruits and vegetables) from pantries and grocery stores for more than a few days.

Don't expect to be able to eat canned goods, unless they've been stored in a cool dry place, for more than a few months if they've been exposed to moisture. If a can is bulging it's poisonous.

Glass jars and bottles will likely hold edible food longer than cans so (after waiting for the smell to die down) when foraging at the local Food Emporium eschew the cans and embrace the bottles and jars.

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