In early March, when the U.S. was in the first days of the pandemic and people started panic-buying, I decided it was finally time to refresh myself with the contents of my “emergency preparedness kit.” It most certainly wasn’t anything fancy, just a wooden crate that I had filled with a few “necessities” roughly ten years ago. Over the past few years, it had been sitting idle in the corner of our barn gathering dust.
Upon opening the lid, I felt as if I had opened up an embarrassing time capsule. The crate was filled with what I had misguidedly thought sufficed as a survival kit a decade ago. Nearly all of the contents inside were covered with film of salt crystals and oxidation. The four cans of green beans I had packed inside (yes, I had only stockpiled four cans) had spent many winters freezing and re-thawing and were now pocked with pinholes and the residue of long rotted bean matter. Why were there salt crystals everywhere? Well, I supposed those had formulated because of the roughly ten pounds of boxed Kosher salt I had stashed inside and neglected to protect from the humidity of Minnesota summers.
Beyond the sad single-day supply of expired green beans, and an unnaturally large hoard of salt, the remainder of the crate’s contents included two large boxes of .22 rounds and two freeze-dried MREs that a friend had given me, leftover from his stint in Desert Storm almost thirty years ago.
Thankfully, I had had the foresight to pack the small caliber bullets in ziplock bags, so they were spared a salty death. But the canned beans and MREs were DOA.
Needless to say, my emergency preparedness inclinations back in 2010 were inadequate by a long shot.
Reflecting on the crate’s contents, I had to ask my former self if I had planned on subsisting during “the apocalypse” by shooting squirrels and seasoning them with large amounts of salt, and then garnishing my plate with singular green bean slivers at each meal.
But meager green bean supply aside, I think I was on to something when I stowed away the .22 rounds and rock salt, as I’ll attempt to explain.
What would happen if a real catastrophe were to strike? Not some 16-hour inconvenient power outage or tumultuous 3-day snowstorm preventing any trips to town, but a genuine power-grid-down, no-end-in-sight, scary-like-the-dickens true emergency scenario?
What good is a month’s supply of canned tuna and freeze-dried astronaut spaghetti when the catastrophe enters its second month? What good is a freezer full of a year’s supply of meat once the week’s supply of gasoline to run the generator is long gone?
In a true catastrophic scenario (God forbid), we’d be faced with the extraordinary feat of trying to find things to eat that didn’t come from a grocery store.
In central Minnesota, we’re very fortunate to have abundant deer, squirrel, rabbit and other game available, and a cache of .22 ammunition would be a very cost effective way to ensure a reliable protein supply for years to come.
And even if one didn’t have a way to harvest animals, our wilderness still has a copious supply of protein-rich acorns, vitamin-rich berries and even some sweetness in the form of maple sap and tanginess in the form of wild ramps.
But does a roasted leg of raccoon with a side of acorn porridge and steamed ramps really sound that appetizing? Or, put another way, wouldn’t it sound a lot more appetizing if it was seasoned with some trusty emergency preparedness kit salt? I’d sure argue the latter.
My belief is that salt is magical. It awakens food, and transforms it from being not simply nutritious, but also quite delicious. And I didn’t even mention all of its food preservation benefits.
If all it takes for me to ensure a more palatable forage-based food future is stockpiling some salt, then you’d better believe I’ve already re-stocked my supply. But this time it’s I’ve stowed it away in airtight containers.
Andre LaSalle is a Messenger contributer.