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Apocalypse chow: food for the end of the world

Dave Drummond, guardian.co.uk, Modified: April 19, 2013 13:35 IST

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Apocalypse chow: food for the end of the world If the world ends on Friday, what food and drink would you want in your survival kit?

A shop in the Siberian town of Tomsk has recently started selling what they call "apocalypse kits" - a package stocked with the items they suggest you might need for the impending Mayan-predicted armageddon on the 21st of this month. Including vodka, sardines and buckwheat however, the Siberian kit reads more like a hermit's shopping list than a collection of the provisions necessary to survive the end of the world.

The obvious choice of rations when preparing for such an event are those with long shelf lives: canned goods, staples such as wheat, rice and corn, and preservative-laden pseudo food like Twinkies (who despite their supposed ability to survive a nuclear attack are struggling for their own survival). Spam, whose success and legacy is built upon its perfect positioning as a food of any rationing era, is often top of people's lists. But despite countless attempts to jazz up the gelatinous, hammy slab (such as the spam fritters in Joanna Fuertes-Knight of the Girl Eats Food web series' apocalyptic dinner for one), there's little that can mask the flavour and texture of food which has been sat in a tin for weeks, months or years.

That said, a 4lb can of roasted veal (an interesting choice of meat to tin) taken by Sir William Edward Parry on his 1820s voyage to the Northwest Passage was opened and analysed over 100 years later and was supposedly cleared for consumption, so tinned goods certainly appear to be most suited to the job. That the scientists who opened the tin decided to feed the contents to a cat rather than tuck in themselves however, suggests that their conviction wasn't as strong as it could have been. But the main problem is that canned foods in general - despite the whiff of nostalgia lurking between cat fart and death that you might find in Heinz tinned ravioli - just aren't very good. But this is the apocalypse: beggars can't be choosers.

There is a food storage calculator on the P2S Network website, the "UK's most progressive preparedness and survivalist community" which again recommends a shopping list heavy with canned goods. With quantities such as 720 tea bags and 36 tins of "All Day Breakfast" recommended for a single male for three months though, their requirements seem to imply that you have a plenty of storage space and an insatiable thirst for tea.

Middle Eastern chef and food writer Bethany Kehdy takes a more resourceful approach, informed by her days spent living in the Lebanese mountains having fled Beirut during the country's civil war. Asked what she'd stock up on she tells me awarma (preserved meat), and kishk, "burghul [bulgar] fermented with yoghurt, sundried in autumn and ground to a fine powder," the latter of which is part of the Middle Eastern "mouneh" or winter provisions. "The two can be paired to create a very soul-soothing soup that is super-quick to prepare as the kishk only needs to be reconstituted with water. We had it often, especially when we'd get snowed in."

But other than the essentials she notes that she'd also take plenty of wine and luxury chocolates, because if there's anything good to come from the apocalypse (apart from finally getting rid of [insert name of pop-culture figure here]), it's an excuse to eat as selfishly as possible. The Times' restaurant critic Giles Coren espouses this mentality. "Endangered stuff," he says, "caviar, bluefin tuna, ortolans, cod, shark fin ... all the stuff I don't eat because it is unsustainable.

"If I survived the apocalypse I'd carry on eating them because the main reason certain foods are extinct or nearing extinction is [because] there are too many people on the planet, but if there was only me then I [could] hardly make a dent." It's not the most politically correct answer, but the logic of making the most of what you have is certainly sound.

Like California chain Slaters 50/50, who have added a gluttonous "Armageddon Burger" made with a slab of meatloaf wrapped in bacon to their menu, or The Last Supperclub, a party running in London until the 21st aiming to see the end of days out in a haze of hedonism, perhaps the best way to prepare for the apocalypse is to eat what we want, when we want, rather than fear for what might happen afterwards. If end of days arrives then I'd certainly prefer a day or two of gorging than three months of canned all-day breakfasts. What would you stock up on?

'Protect and survive' kit as recommended by HM Government. Photograph: Roger Tooth for the Guardian

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