Saturday, 23 February 2013

For Cormac McCarthy (1933 - ),

"He unrolled the mattress pads on the bunks for them to sit on and he opened the carton of pears and took out a can and set it on the table and clamped the lid with the can opener and began to turn the wheel. He looked at the boy. The boy was sitting quietly on the bunk, still wrapped in the blanket, watching. The man thought he had probably not fully committed himself to any of this. You could wake in the dark wet woods at any time. These will be the best pears you ever tasted, he said. The best. Just you wait."
 -- The Road

So it has come to this.*

I am a foodie, writing a food blog post, based on a post-apocalyptic novel. A novel in which the characters have no stable food source, and must forage for the dregs of others' pantries. A novel in which eating a 'sumptuous meal' means opening slightly more cans than you would normally have access to. A novel in which starvation is a part of daily life.

I have no desire to live that way, and fortunately, since the world hasn't ended yet,** I shouldn't have to.

But The Road offers legitimately relevant food inspiration right now. Why? My &$^% refrigerator broke down.

Yes, first world problems, I know. But as a renter, there's not much I can do about this situation except sit around, wringing my hands, waiting for the landlord to take action. Meanwhile, day by day, I have to throw away more and more delicious creations. Day 1: I froze the milk and butter, somewhat sensibly, and the cheese, less sensibly. Day 2: we lost half a teasecake. Day 3: a tropical fruit salad starting to smell like a tropical sewer. Day 4: even the carrots started to protest. All that's left now are a few half-full bottles of warm, flat soft drinks, and a wilted bunch of parsley, mocking me like the decayed remains of a fridge-garnish.

My situation is dire. I trudge, like the depressed yuppie I am, from downtown cafe to uptown restaurant, using up all my groupon vouchers and living on meagre feasts of fresh food that I didn't get to cook myself. Cue the violins.

But compared to the unnamed starving duo in McCarthy's modern classic, I'm doing OK. I don't have to celebrate every found tin of fruit. My pantry is full; my stomach has never not been. I have a roof over my head, and access to a shower, and a comfy bed, and no one will slaughter me for meat if I close my eyes for too long (not now, anyway... I once had a shifty-eyed cat...).

Like other arts, perhaps the best cooking is done under limitations. I would never, for instance, have come up with this post-apocalyptic pantry crumble if I'd had some fresh fruit to work with. And I think it will now become a staple, since it takes about 5 minutes to throw together, and would be a great way to get some scrummy dessert at the end of an exhausting day.

So hold your violins, put away your tear-stained handkerchiefs. I'll live without a fridge for a few days longer. Might have to put my next degustation dinner party on hold, though.

Yup, first world problems.


** I realised the other day that despite being still relatively young, I can recall living through at least three major doomsday predictions / ends of ancient calendars.

Post-apocalyptic Pantry Crumble

Serves 3 - 4


I can (410g) pear halves, drained
1 can (425g) cherries, drained
1/2C rolled oats
1/2C dried coconut flakes
2 tbsp olive oil^
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2C dark chocolate chips


Preheat the oven to 190C.

Tip the cans of fruit into an oven-safe dish. In a separate bowl, mix the rolled oats, coconut, olive oil, sugar, and vanilla. Tumble the crumble topping over the fruit. Sprinkle over the chocolate chips.

Bake for 40 minutes or until the topping is golden brown.

^You can substitute the more traditional melted butter if you have a working fridge, though as it turns out, olive oil works just as well to bind the crumble and help it get toasty.


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