God forbid we should ever have to use a doomsday shelter. But if we did, we’d like it to be stocked to the brim with all of the tasty foods we’ve grown accustomed to in our everyday, non-doomsday lives.
But alas, there’s only going to be so much room in our backyard bunkers, and a finite amount of space for our Twinkies, grilled cheese sandwiches and Nutella. Also, many of our favorite foods are probably prone to spoilage or bacteria when stored for long periods of time, so we’ll have to make smart decisions as to what we can and can’t store in our pantries.
For expert suggestions on what to stock, we contacted Dr. Carl Batt at Cornell University’s Department of Food Science. As an expert in food microbiology, Batt listed his top five picks for bunker-friendly foods based on factors, such as moisture content, nutritional value and general crave-ability.
Here’s what he recommends:
The first food Batt suggests you stock are saltines. “Saltines will last a long time depending upon moisture,” he says. “Typically, they ‘spoil’ because the oil in them goes rancid. Rancidity is yucky, but not really dangerous,” he explains.
“Canned foods last a long time because most of the bacteria in the can are killed by high-temperature treatment,” Batt says. (“That’s also why most canned foods are low in nutrients, low in texture and taste like canned food,” he adds.) But as the expert warns, canned food won’t last forever. “[They] do go bad, but it’s usually because the can is compromised by rusting. Sometimes they rust from the outside in because of moisture; other times the acids in the food cause the can to corrode,” Batt says, which is especially the case with high acid/low pH choices like tomatoes. However, “once [any] can is open, all bets are off,” he says.
“Spam is a mixture of pork, spices and sodium nitrate,” with the latter ingredient acting as a preservative, says Batt. He also notes that Spam’s gelatinous coating is a byproduct of being cooked in its can, which, as noted above, can kill bacteria. And although it’s not the most nutritious choice, Spam provides 13 grams of protein and 27 of fat per 100-gram serving. “Which is probably not a problem, since avoiding fat is the least of your post-Armageddon worries,” says Batt.
“Most foods last a long time because they are either dried and have little water to support the growth of bacteria or molds,” explains Batt — and dried chickpeas, by definition, are dry. They also have a high protein content and store easily until ready to be rehydrated. Plus, as Batt notes, the consumption of hummus is on the rise in the U.S., and keeping its main ingredient handy is a great way to please everybody in the bunker.
“Next to Spam, Jell-O will be the food that most everyone will make fun of you for storing in your bunker,” says Batt. “Therefore, it belongs there.” Made from the gelatin and fruit flavorings, powdered Jell-O mixes are very low in moisture, and last a long time so long as they stay dry. (“I have a few that date back to before I can remember,” jokes Batt.) “Once it is rehydrated and heated, it has a limited shelf-life, which can be extended with a bit of vodka or rum,” he adds.