The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have a guide for stockpiling food called All is Safely Gathered In. It is decorated artfully with wheat and recommends keeping three months food on hand, to "prepare for adversity in life". They clearly anticipate some pretty serious adversity, although an adversity you experience at home and with your cooker nearby.
Who prepares for this kind of disaster? Not me. Until a few years ago I'd never put any thought into it. Even my perfectly normal dad paranoia that makes me test the smoke alarms finds it difficult to imagine a more epic disaster than the car breaking down on the way to the airport. We live in the North of England where disasters happen slowly, over centuries.
Nevertheless I rationally concluded a few years ago that it is Not Insane to anticipate some kind of interruption of supply. I can imagine, if I try, volcanoes, or sunspots, or war or nuclear accident that might, somehow, mean that Tesco's no longer stock Crunchy Nut Cornflakes.
I even bought a book titled ominously HOW THE SURVIVE THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT. Look at it:
It has a putrid green cover. You can almost smell the zombies, coming to eat your brain.
I did actually read the book as well. It is preoccupied with identifying somewhere you can flee to that has a water table within reach (not a concern in Yorkshire, where the water table is frequently at around knee height). The book also anticipates large bands of marauding city folk who might come across your lair and steal your hard-stockpiled goods. Apparently choosing a bolthole that cannot be reached on foot from a city is also wise. This one is probably harder to manage for us. There is, predictably, a whole chapter on firearms. While I love the idea of addressing Brexit with rifle in hand I have to concede it is unrealistic.
Anyway, I read the book and imagined various dreadful futures and did precisely nothing. I thought about it, but couldn't bring myself to actually do it. Every time I thought about going around Tesco's, trolley piled high with 100kg of pasta I bottled it.
That probably is where this would have ended, and certainly not with a blog post, if it wasn't for the ongoing Tory psychodrama that is Brexit.
I won't pass too much comment on Brexit itself, since anything I say will be out of date within moments. However it is definitely a potential massive spanner in the general just-in-time workings of something-or-other. The possibility of a supply chain interruption just due to cock up, let alone some over-educated fool doing it on purpose now seems non-negligible.
What to stockpile? Here's my list of things from the How To Survive Etc book that I thoughtfully put in a Google Keep note a few years ago:
staples: rice 15kg, pasta 100kg, oats 10kg, pulses, olive oil, powdered milk 10kg, UHT milk. canned: fruit, veg, beans, corn, spuds, meat, corned beef, ham, tuna. other food: salt, hot sauce, multivitamins, peanut butter, honey, sugar, coffee. not food: dog food (we can then eat the dog later if we have to), stove gas, bin bags, washing up liquid, water, water purification tablets.
There you go. I found it hard to put quantities on tins. How much tinned tuna can one eat before you get totally sick of it? The NHS recommend no more than 4 cans of tuna a week to avoid mercury poisoning, so I guess that puts an upper limit on it.
Anyway, that list is supposed to provide 3 months food if the world ends as we know it. This includes providing water and cooking fuel. Using this list I could completely fill the garage, which would make me very unpopular with the kids, since they'd have nowhere to put their bikes.
But that isn't really what Brexit means is it? It isn't like everyone else disappears or turns into a zombie, they still watch X Factor and create traffic jams except now they are also moaning and presumably doing some light rioting. Preparing for Project Massive Fuckup is about things we use that are imported, rather than catching and eating rats for variety and protein.
Top of that list is therefore the single most important item in the supermarket: tinned tomatoes. These are a staple of virtually everything, ever, and even a dunce like me knows they come from Italy or somewhere like that.
But where the hell else does our food come from? I have no idea, apart from The Supermarket. Flour? Cornflakes? I guess olive oil comes from somewhere sunny, but do we make all our own Rape Seed Oil? If we do, is there enough to go around, or will it get claimed by people with sharper elbows than me in the initial panic, if and when it occurs?
Examining the entire supply chain for every item in our weekly shop seems silly, even though it is actually kind of appealing. I can imagine making spreadsheets, and becoming even more boring at dinner parties. And yet this surely is not my job. I do have a job after all, which isn't this.
The best I have so far (Googling has mostly lead to depressing news articles and not useful instructions for surviving disaster) is this short article from The Guardian, a no-deal Brexit survival guide:
While you can, for example, source British-produced flour, oats, sugar (from beets), salt (by Maldon, for example), vinegar (apple cider, say, as opposed to balsamic), mustard (although the Colman’s factory in Norwich is closing next year), Marmite (the Burton upon Trent factory isn’t going anywhere but, frankly, who can risk a run on their supplies?), lentils and more, you’ll want a stash of your high-quality EU goods, too. Start with olive oil, pepper, pasta and rice. For flavour, you’ll want spices, chilli and herbs, anchovies and tomato (paste, tinned and passata).
Then you need bulk and protein: canned and dried pulses (kidney beans, butter beans, black beans, chickpeas) and tinned fish (sardines and tuna). Add to that tinned olives, pickled capers and jarred peppers, and you’ve basically got a cheat’s Ottolenghi.
If you follow this guide then in the event of zombie invasion you will be well prepared to hold a vegan dinner party, but not much else. If it is actually just our political class throwing the country under a bus to make an obscure point though, then this is probably quite a sane list.
It is also mostly things we might eat eventually, so if someone solves Brexit (perhaps King Arthur will return in our moment of need) we just don't need to do quite so much shopping for a while.Cover photo by Calle Macarone