Dining in the Dark

Preparing for the blackout that hopefully doesn’t come

| 10 Jun 2024 | 12:21

It won’t be official until the Summer Solstice on June 20, but as the poet and the thermometer say, “Sumer is icumen in.”

That means lots of sun, lots of fun and maybe not much light of the electric kind. Today, the news warns that our increasing use of the Internet and other power-hungry sources, puts us at risk for grid failure, that is, the possibility that the people who supply the power we live on will fail.

How to cope? As the Boy Scouts (now named Scouting America to include boys and girls)) say, be prepared. You probably already have some candles and flashlights. For emergencies, up that to one hand flashlight per person and one large search light per room, plus batteries. Lots of batteries.

Equally important is a supply of food and drink to get you through any blackout.

To quench your inevitable thirst, the Red Cross rule is one gallon per person per day. Add an extra two or so to flush the toilet in a building where the water that usually does the job is delivered by electricity

Now on to dinner and maybe tomorrow’s breakfast, lunch, and dinner, too. The food specialists at the University of Georgia say the smart move is to make room for three days’ worth of food. If that sounds longer than necessary, remember that when Hurricane Sandy barreled through back in 2012, she left two million New Yorkers in the dark, 600,000 of them until November 3, and a seriously unlucky 8,200 more until January.

Your obvious first choices are already hand: The foods from your freezer or fridge. The stash you need to build stats with canned fruits, vegetables, beans, meats, fish, and soups all of which are cooked and can be eaten right out of the can. Ditto for “boxes” of juices and milk. Jerkies provide protein, as do some bars. Plain crackers and Melba toast (no added cheeses which need refrigeration, please) can make substitute nut butter and jelly “sandwiches.” Ready-to eat dry cereals, fruit, nuts, trail mixes, provide tasty carbs. And hard candy adds a sweet touch at the end.

A more sophisticated alternative is a MRE a.k.a, a Meals-Ready-to-Eat. These dehydrated or freeze-dried foods are most commonly served to Armed Forces in the field. They are lightweight and take up little room but that may require water to return to life. You can find them art camping supply stores, Sam’s Club, COSTCO, and good old reliable Amazon.

Once you’ve assembled this collection of goodies, keep them safe. Check the cans from time to time to make sure none are rusty, leaking, bulging, or badly dented with broken seals that would allow bacteria to enter and spoil the food. Dry foods belong in airtight, moisture-proof containers away from direct light in cool places which the Georgia experts say means zipper-close or food freezer bags in your emergency supplies along with a can opener, scissors, or knife for cutting open foil and plastic pouches, and disposable plates, cups, and utensils.

For both dry and canned foods, check the expiration dates. “Best if Used By” or “Best if Used Before” means that’s when the foods are safe and at their most delectable. “Use By” is the serious one, the date on which to toss the food. It’s not a bad idea to write down your own list of dates reminding you when to rotate out the old stuff and replace it with the new.

Last but definitely not least, tuck an envelope with $100 in small bills into the larder because while stores may re-open early, ATMs and credit card machines won’t work without electricity.