Ever wonder who would survive a zombie apocalypse? I have the answer. Romanians. Or maybe anyone else with the skill set they possess. Allow me to explain.
On my trips to Romania to visit my girlfriend’s family, I’ve realised quite a lot. Mainly, that I am, for all intents and purposes, mostly superfluous. Or as my Dad liked to say, as useless as teets on a bull. Or I suppose nipples on a man. Choose your metaphor.
Let me explain a little about where my girlfriend is from. She hails from the land of Dracula. A little village in the north of the country named after a centuries old monastery hence the moniker Manastirea Humorului. And no, don’t ask me to tell you how to pronounce that.
I can’t say it to even get a bus there. I’d end up somewhere in Ukraine. But this unpronounceable village in Romania is where my girlfriend is from, and it’s a place where homes are heated by wood, horse carriages run goods from town to town, and where everyone still makes the majority of their own food.
And it’s this food preparation stuff that got me thinking how the majority of us wouldn’t survive the zombie apoc. But the Romanians would.
And now you’re thinking, big deal. Who cares if your girl is from a town where people can make their own food, I make my own pasta and even heat that stuff up in the oven and everything; I even make my own cereal, pour my own milk, what does this have to do with surviving the zombie hordes?
What I mean is that they prepare the majority of their food from scratch.
We buy pickles. They actually pickle stuff. We buy smoked sausage. They carve it up, stuff it into intestines and hang it in a smoke house.
We uncork a bottle of wine. They check to see if the liquor they’ve been fermenting in their barn is ready yet. They bottle and jar things, they smoke meats, because they still prepare lots of their own food to keep for the long winters.
Which meant I was in bad form when in two sittings I finished off my girlfriend’s mother’s seasonal supply of horseradish beet sauce, and when I said “just pick some up at the supermarket”, my girlfriend explained that her mother had made the two jars I gorged on painstakingly by hand.
But you see what I mean? They can make food from the land, not from a bunch of stuff at the supermarket, which is a skill most of us have lost. When I say most of us, I mostly mean me. But it’s not my fault, it’s the fault of convenience foods.
Convenience foods – which is the name of most of the stuff in the supermarkets – are mostly ready to eat foods that need a bare minimum of preparation.
Basically all those canned goods, most of the stuff in the freezer section, anything that has been prepared and packaged is convenience food because we’re all too busy – or lazy – to cook our own food anymore.
These kinds of foods originated in the United States – the kings of convenience – after the second world war.
Convenience foods were created for military use, having their origins in army rations, because it can be quite hectic to cook in a war zone. These foods soon spread to civilian use not because most people’s lives are that hectic but mostly because we’re lazy.
The first convenience foods were canned peaches and frozen fish sticks, which are still staples today. Though there were early failures like ham-sticks and cheeseburgers in a can – which really makes me wish I had a whole carton of cheeseburgers in cans because I’m sure they were good in a horribly awful way, like all canned meat tends to be.
But all these convenience foods have killed our ability to cook things on our own. I started cooking more recently and found that making simple things like vinaigrette dressing, and chimichurri sauce, takes only slightly longer than unscrewing a premade bottle of the stuff, and tastes so much better.
Homemade bechamel is tough but so much tastier; mayonnaise from a jar doesn’t compare to making your own – though your wrist hurts from all that whisking.
Do I think that I will survive some awful disaster scenario because I can make my own bechamel? That wasn’t exactly my meaning but making your own food is a lost art and valuable skill.
To be able to make foods that will keep may not ensure one’s survival in the event of a zombie apocalypse, but it does mean that those who can will definitely eat better than those of us relying on an expiring supply of canned cheeseburgers.