We use zombies as a metaphor because it’s fun, not because we think the walking dead are headed in our direction anytime soon. Zombie hordes work just fine as stumbling stand-ins for hurricanes, tornadoes, civil unrest, and whatever else you might conjure up in your darkest dreams. Even for pandemics, it turns out.
ZERT is all about being prepared. Whether you consider yourself a “prepper” and go the whole nine yards, or you just want to maintain a prepared mindset and lifestyle, we think looking around the next curve in the road and anticipating the kinds of challenges you might meet just makes good sense to protect yourself, family and friends.
As we write this, we’re nine months into COVID-19. Some people say they saw this coming. But to be honest, most of us had no idea that a microscopic organism would make a trans-species hop out of a bat and into most-every-human-on-the-planet’s everyday life.
We’re not here to debate who did what, argue about whose theories are right or wrong, or pretend that we have PhDs in epidemiology. There’s plenty of that going on elsewhere.
What we would like to do is reflect on some of the things we’ve learned so far so we can prepare for round two of this thing, the next big thing, and those hordes of zombies right behind your back. So, here are two inter-related lessons learned so far.
Lesson number 1: Rotate your food storage
Remember the early days of the pandemic, when it turned out that a lot of emergency stockpiles of PPE and respirators all over the world were “out of date”, i.e., rotten, rusty, rancid or rat-chewed?
That’s what a lot of us discovered when we dusted off our emergency pantries, too. As the old saying goes, infantry wins battles, but logistics wins wars. If you’re not rotating your food storage, you might not have the chow to win the war.
You know the drill if you’ve worked in a supermarket: You put the oldest stock at the front of the shelf, where it gets grabbed first, and the newest stock at the back of the shelf. And you keep rotating. At home, you need to remember that you’re the only customer in your private emergency supermarket. You’re the one who has to take the older stuff of the front of the shelf and use it before it goes bad. Might as well start practicing this before the zombies come knocking, because once the lockdown starts, your food storage might be the only supermarket that’s open.
Which brings us to the next lesson learned: it really pays to be able to cook at least half-way decently, so you not only rotate your food stash, but actually want to eat it.
Lesson number 2: While you’re rotating your food storage, learn how to cook with it
A lot of us have grown accustomed to eating out, ordering in, or grabbing some kind of ready-to-eat meal at the supermarket. This is convenient and tasty, but not a very good way to prepare for lockdown cooking (or get by on a tight budget).
Let’s say you were so forward-thinking that you stocked up on pasta, beans and rice before all the unprepared rushed to the shops and started hording them. It’s great that you’ve got 50 pounds of each and can stay alive on it for months. But wouldn’t it be even better if you could make something with it that tasted good enough to eat at least once – not to mention for days and weeks if that’s what it comes to?
That’s why, after a few days of fairly nutritious but utterly bland dinners, you’d trade 10 pounds of your precious larder for a spoonful of Taco Bell’s refried beans: theirs taste good, or at least taste of something. Yours don’t. Why the difference? It has to do with things like technique, spices, time, and practice. A.k.a. “salt, fat, acid, heat”. A.k.a. “cooking”.
Note to future self: Some fairly basic culinary skills can make the difference between quarantine crap and lockdown luxury. Learn how to cook meals that actually taste good with the same ingredients that are stored in your emergency stash. With even just a little effort, and, yes, some more preparation, you can learn how to make something that tastes at least as good as what you get at Taco Bell and probably much better.