Stocking up wisely -- eating where you are


Some industrious women who kept their progeny healthy.

Planning for disruptions in the food supply chain is something earlier generations were all too familiar with.  Our modern day shipment system has lulled us into a false and dangerous sense of complacency since we're not actually more insulated from shortages than earlier generations -- we're less.  This is due to two major factors.  First and foremost, food stores and stores in general operate on a "Just In Time" delivery system.  This means there's not some secret warehouse out back with supplies when the shelves run out.  When a product is sold out, more must be on its way already.  This system breaks down catastrophically during periods of unexpected turmoil -- when healthy supplies are needed most.  The second reason why we're not better of is due to the fact that most people do not have a real pantry to speak of.  Here at Potlicker HQ, we wrote about this early on.  But that entry was not inclusive, and since that time, I have organized my thoughts on how best to organize your efforts.

A WWII leaflet that helped people make do and thrive on less.

Before starting into what we should stock up on, it's important to know why we should stock up on it in the first place.  A pantry filled with bottles of jam may be tasty, but if you had to live our of your pantry for say, 2 months, you'd literally starve.   So, what DO we need to have to be healthy?   Well, we need to mind two different factors: energy balance and nutrient balance:

  • Proteins - essential to growth and repair of muscle and other body tissues
  • Fats - one source of energy and important in relation to fat soluble vitamins
  • Carbohydrates - our main source of energy
  • Minerals - those inorganic elements occurring in the body and which are critical to its normal functions
  • Vitamins - water and fat soluble vitamins play important roles in many chemical processes in the body
  • Water - essential to normal body function - as a vehicle for carrying other nutrients and because 60% of the human body is water
  • Roughage - the fibrous indigestible portion of our diet essential to health of the digestive system

And then the energy part, which is different for every person depending on things like age, size, activity levels and so on.  We all have a base metabolic rate, which is our baseline for minimum energy.  If we fall below intake of this, our body has to take it from our reserves or slow metabolism down, and that is not a good thing.

To do it right, we need a reliable balance or blend of energy forms in our diet that "burn" the right way -- just like any machine the fuel has to be right for the engine to function optimally.

Ideally that blend looks something like this:
  • 57% Carbohydrates (sugar, sweets, bread, cakes)
  • 30% Fats (dairy products, oil)
  • 13% Protein (eggs, milk, meat, poultry, fish)
So, this handy chart helps you know what to stock up and in what ratios.  But let's not stop there.  Fat is something that has a very bad rap in our society -- and undeservedly so.  Our brains require it to function, and it helps us store energy reserves for leaner times.  When we don't get enough of it, we lose our minds and starve to death.  No kidding.   In nature it can be one of the hardest things to obtain because it is such a complex structure.  And, to make matters more difficult, there are different kinds of fat as well.

All fats contain both saturated and unsaturated fatty acids but are usually described as 'saturated' or 'unsaturated' according to the proportion of fatty acids present. Saturated fats are generally solid at room temperature and tend to be animal fats. Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and are usually vegetable fats - there are exceptions e.g. palm oil, a vegetable oil that contains a high percentage of saturated fatty acids.

And, carbohydrates have different forms as well;  starchy (aka complex) carbohydrates and simple sugars.    Honey is a great example of a simple sugar source, where potatoes are a classic starchy carb.  Both of these provide essential energy to muscles in the form of glycogen.  The starchy carbohydrates are the ones that have all the vitamins and minerals in them as well as protein. They are also low in fat.  The downside of them is their bulkiness may inhibit your ability to get enough energy from them.   Simple sugars on the other hand are fast-burning, high energy fuel.

Your digestive system converts the carbohydrates in food into glucose, a form of sugar carried in the blood and transported to cells for energy. The glucose, in turn, is broken down into carbon dioxide and water. Any glucose not used by the cells is converted into glycogen - another form of carbohydrate that is stored in the muscles and liver. However, the body's glycogen capacity is limited to about 350 grams; once this maximum has been reached, any excess glucose is quickly converted into fat. Ok, so this is all pretty technical, but here's where it translates into your pantry.

First, there are a few different what I call "vectors" to keep track of:
  • cost
  • locality (i.e. distance from your home base)
  • availability & seasonality
  • substitutes (your first choice should be natural/healthy, affordable, storable, and ideally local with a long shelf life)
  • importance and composition of the ratio above
 These variables will make up your own personal equation for stocking up.

First, let's talk about locality (distance).  In a short term crisis, this is not as essential because you're expecting the supply chain to be restored after some expected period.  In a long-term crisis, however, this variable is king.   I'll get into that more in a moment.  This will help you gauge your radius.

Availability and seasonality has to do with time of year and your particular location.  In some places you can't grow certain things.  This seems pretty obvious to some, but you'd be amazed how many people think a tomato in Winter is perfectly natural.  Thankfully, there are lot of different charts available about what is in season and when.

Substitutes are a way of determining first, second and third choice for your stock up goods.  For example, in the fats area it might go:  olive oil, pork fat, sunflower oil  in starchy carbs it might be: sweet potato, sunchoke, russet potato

Selecting your primary choices for stocking up is it's own entry, but use the vectors to help you decide.  So, healthy, natural, low cost, local, easily storable, long shelf life is best.

Victorian larder full of pickled sauces, preserves and spices.

Victorian cold storage with potted meats.
So, we need to create a chart that allows us to examine the various vectors in order of importance:


Then columns for each vector:

In the availability column, we want to have a Y/N answer, meaning:  "could I or someone with land within 100 miles grow this here?"   Distance is simply how far away the thing is, regardless if you can grow it locally or not.  Cost is your own scheme, but I use High, Medium, and Low.  Also, be mindful of what would cost significantly more during a time of disruption.  Water is a great example of this.  It's cheap and plentiful until it's not, and then it is impossible to get and super expensive.

Next we plug in our favored sources of nutrition and energy into the fields like so:


 sweet potato

And so on...

Next, you look at the storage space you have and stock up in order that it appears in your list!  And, don't forget the all important salt, water and spices.  It's virtually impossible to have too much of that.  And, having a few luxury items around like coffee and chocolate might not be a bad thing either.

Lastly, you need to determine what type of disruption you are planning for.  Is it 2 weeks?  2 months?  a year?  forever?  In the last case, your pantry could tide you over until you can get food crops growing and animals raised.  And, when planning for self sufficiency, all of these ratios still apply!  Plan your own operations so you have multiple sources of each staple with the highest number of the most important thing.  It's how people have survived on potatoes and lard for generations.

We will keep you posted on what we choose to stock, why and how.
Things that I have on hand in a fairly large number at any time is :
  • Organic flours
  • Olive Oil
  • Home Canned Tomatoes
  • Sea Salt
  • Vinegar (easy to make after you acquire the mother)
  • Honey
  • Spices
  • Herbs
  • Dry beans (lentils of a variety as well)
  • Rice
  • Dried meat (yes, I'm serious)
  • Preserves (a variety)

Freezers are a luxury that should not be relied upon.  When the power goes out, so does your food.
If you want to really save freezer food I recommend the chest freezers as they keep colder longer by not letting all the cold air escape when you open them.  This is a big plus when the power is out and you need to get something out.


Treadle Machine

A Ram's head drawer pull.

Like a lot of folks that are probably my age or older than me, I grew up in a home with a treadle machine.  I don't know the history of it; like how my mother came to own one, or if it was just picked up on a whim or if it was passed to her through a family member.  She used it consistently throughout my childhood.  Never making a fuss with it, but relying on it solely to repair anything or make something we otherwise could not afford.  It simply was a fixture, a tool that prettied up an otherwise unsightly space (our homes were a bit dismal).

Hers was a Singer 27/127 Memphis with the Sphinx decal.  I don't know the year but it is likely it was between 1906-1930.

I had some impatient lessons on it and never could get the damn thing to go in the same direction for any length of time.  The treadle rocks gently back and forth while the wheel (ideally) cranks in one direction (some odd ones roll towards you, most roll away).   Goodnight! My sister and I couldn't keep our mitts off the thing.  We were always screwing with it and got beat hard a couple times for doing who knows what to it.  I'm sure a thousand tangles had to be cut out of the threads and the tension was probably always a bit off because of our playing.  If was the most alluring of all the forbidden things in the house.

So since I've been thinking through a life and could be a world (You don't have to be right or left to see the system is botched) without electricity is completely likely.  Likely, at first by my own design.  So I went on the list making of all the things I would either miss or need should I not have electricity to make my life simpler.

Some resources for the new treadler and other treadle-lovers:

Donna Kohler  Taught by her grandmother the simple act of a close family activity gave birth to a teacher of what is now thankfully once again a growing population of people that don't just collect treadles, but also use them.  She sells a book for maintaining and rehabilitating your treadle through her site.
Dick Wightman - http://www.treadleon.net/ 
Treadleon is a community of treadlers that share with each other experiences of using, acquiring, maintenance, and basic love for the foot powered machines.
On his site is an excellent guide to getting the treadle suited to you.
A LOT, about an easy to acquire sewing machine. The Singer 27/127 
A blogger who uses treadles to make her things.  Huge diversity,  I'm loving the Indian Orange Peel arcs.

There are not many resources available but these few are enough to get you going and on your way to becoming an expert. 

I love the provenance, it has pretty much zero significance for anyone other than the immediate family members who know specifically each person named.

What I have and why I have this particular one.

1906 Minnesota A or a Minnie A.  The cabinet has 7 drawers (6 with flippin' ram's heads for the knobs!) and it came with all the attachments and a million (just shy of...) needles.  Which for this machine is a particular find since the needles can be tricky in getting.  The Minnie A has a longer needle than most machines. Who wants to order and wait for the right needle? boo. The price was a little high for ME.  At 100 bucks.  But I am in the most ridiculously expensive part of the nation and it still was more than a few excellent options.  The average great deal was between 50 dollars to 100 dollars all smoothly operable machines just in need of people that will love and use them.  Antique stores almost always call things rare that aren't and have prices on them that reflect their statements and not often the machine's worth. Silly enough the more expensive I found, the less operable they were.  I have no clue what gives with that.  I suppose folks who are trying to pay the mortgage with outmoded objects?  I didn't need a boat anchor.

I got mine from Craigslist from a more than reasonable person!  Your treadle should not cost you more than 120 bucks.  The market from most reasonable folks' standpoint is plain and simple.  A trumped up ponzi-scheme.  The housing market which made credit and the credit life seem like everything would grow in value forever has imploded.  You can't have infinite growth in a finite space.  So collecting isn't of much use when people are losing their shirts.  Just get a good machine that requires only your sweat and maintenance and you'll at least be able to sew shirts for yourself.  Folks who say it is worth "blah blah blah" are usually blowing smoke for the most part because it shouldn't be a shelf for a big bowl of fobs.  It should be your sewing machine!  And worth to a person who is using rather than collecting has a much different perspective.  Everything is worth precisely to the penny what someone is willing to pay for it.

I CRINGE when I see sewing machine cabinet drawers for sale, or worse just the treadle iron with a slap of wood over the top. This obsession with shabby chic has made everyone into Fred Sandford.  DO NOT BUY A MACHINE WITHOUT A CABINET!!! It simply isn't worth the headache. Often these are folks who've come into the machine head have either obtained it without the cabinet or worse... sold the cabinet as a friggin' table.  Wagon wheels look best ON WAGONS sure they mark a lot of driveways but it would be best that the working wheels weren't tossed on the end of every driveway.  Like there aren't enough tables in the world?  Perhaps that is just me?  The sewing machines that are easier to get cabinets for are mainly Singers.  But it is better to start with a whole machine and go from there otherwise you have to make it fit the table and that is often near impossible.  And second would be to have a singer cabinet and then a singer head.  You can forgo all this mess by getting a handcrank machine!  Handcranks are awesome for teaching children to be people powered!

The handcrank machines are far fewer and the prices are even more wild... anywhere from 50 - 1000 bucks.  phew!  I know less about them other than their ease of use versus learning the finesse of the footwork required on the treadle machines.  I believe you can convert treadles to handcrank and to electric models (misses the point of sewing without power then). 

Make it happen!  Whatever IT is.


Cardamom Orange Coffee cake (Vegan)

Oh my, num num.

You know what I love?  A cake batter that I can lick the spoon and a little more without concern of the instilled phobias passed onto me via mom, health class and the FDA.  I know my chicken buddies don't have salmonella - that is rather a factory farm poor care issue.  But the phobia lingers... I still lick the spoon of other cakes because I'm a pig... but still.

No guilt, no fears.

I looked and looked for an orange cardamom cake that sounded nice.  Nothing.  I got excited when I found a link to David Leibovitz' version and then it ended in a broken link.  Cuter, because of his cursing in French error page.  Alas,  no recipe sounded good and Liebovitz couldn't throw me a bone.

I wanted to bring something into the office, yeah I'm on occasion in an office these days.  It is a borrowed space and I like to leave treats in mortal fear that everyone there hates me.  There are a few nut allergies and a few vegans so to please all I made a No nut, no animal product dish.  Here is to hoping they like coffee, oranges and cardamom.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

What you'll need:
All in one bowl, the following:
2 Giant/Large oranges - zest into bowl and then juice well  (To maximize the juice yield from your oranges roll them around on your counter or cutting board until they are squishy then halve and pulverize picking out seeds)
1/2 Cup Olive oil
1/2 -3/4 Cup applesauce
1 and 1/3 Cup vegan sugar
1 TBSP Orange liquor, liquer ( I used some young and not ready yet 44 which has cinnamon,orange and coffee in it )
Whip smooth and add to dry ingredients once they are mixed and complete.

If it isn't a smooth/gooey pourable mix, then add in a little extra applesauce, water, tea, or liquid coffee to get the consistency to pour.  Since Orange sizes vary so wildly and juicers also do, then the amount of juice yield could be low one time and high the next.

All Dry ingredients in another larger bowl:
3 Cups flour total (Organic if you have it)
    I did 2 Cups unbleached white and 1 Cup whole wheat
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 TBSP coffee ground finely and sieved into the flour
1 tsp cardamom seeds from their pods.  I think about 12 pods?  I forgot to count while cutting them open.  It is a kind of joy to open the cardamom.  I ground the seeds in my coffee grinder with some coffee so the cardamom doesn't dominate my grinder.  If you have a dedicated grinder for spices then go for it.  My spice grinder is used for hot peppers... that and cumin will flavor everything.  So beware.

Nice color with flecks of coffee, and zest. Mmmm

The batter should run off the spoon easily and not have many significant chunks, but no need to beat too much.  It also pulls together so nicely and quickly that it doesn't warrant getting a mixer dirty.

Pour this into an oiled and floured pan.  I used a bundt pan and it took 35 minutes at 375.

Serve warm or the next day with coffee or tea.  I like it warm with the perfume wafting through the room!


Chocolate Schwarzbrot (Blackbread)

This is truly a bread and not a cake.  It is a decadent and lovely bread, but make no mistake it is an adult's delight.  This recipe makes 2 loaves

You'll need:
3 Cups Organic kamut/khorasan flour  - Two names for the same flour.
2 1/2 Cups white unbleached flour
1/2 Cup whole wheat flour
1/2 Scant Cup Cocoa powder
2 TBSP finely ground dark roast coffee I used Italian Roast Stumptown (a local roaster here, chances are there is a good one near you)
1/3 Cup vegan sugar (or demerara or other raw sugar or other less refined) you wont want to skip this little bit as the darkness of the real chocolate needs a hint of lightening and this doesn't make the bread in anyway too sweet.
1 egg both yolk and whites (you can replace with butter or oil but a good sized egg is a perfect amount so it seems a bit more difficult to get right with anything else.  Go easy on oil as it can make your bread a little oily like a cake.)
1 heaping tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
A tiny handful -1/4 Cup of the darkest chocolate chips you can find.  At least 70 % cocoa solids chop and fold in while kneading.

Approx. 2 1/2 Cups Tepid water and 2 heaping tsp yeast
I dissolve the yeast into 2 cups and add water as I go so there isn't too much.  If there is too much just add more flour.

Run all dry ingredients through a sieve or flour sifter.  Do the coffee alone through the sieve so you can throw out any large chunks, you want just the dustiest pieces to go through.

Mix all ingredients.

Turn out dough onto floured surface, knead until nice and elastic.  Cut into two equal pieces. Knead and ball up then let rest on floured surface and sprinkle lightly with flour and cover with a clean towel to rise.  I like to let it rise twice for half an hour at a time.  Knead in a sprinkle more flour and lightly shape to your pan's shape, flour top and cover again for the second rise for another 30 minutes.  Your oven should be preheating at this point to 480-500 degrees. Grease your bread pan.  I used pork fat, but butter or olive oil should work as well.  Bake for 20 minutes (watch it closely and remember the top will look darker than normal bread like it is burned, but it is just the darkness of the ingredients).

Let sit for a couple minutes in the pan and remove by turning over.  Bread should slide out easily.  Knock lightly on the bottom and it should sound hollow.  Done.  Das ist alles!  Let rest for 5 minutes at least!  The center will do a lot of finishing in this time, it is vital.  If you cannot wait and rip into it, at least place cut side down against the board as this will let the rest finish and keeps moisture in. ;)

I served this bread alongside lavender raspberry pork tenderloin and sweet potatoes over rice and a big glass of mead.  This bread is substantial enough to have for breakfast with coffee or a strong tea.

Excellent for cheese sandwiches with some good beer! Not kidding!