Letter Re: Survival Biscuits

The history of biscuits started off in Rome around the 3rd Century BC. The word biscuit comes from the Latin bis coctum which means “twice-baked”. Back then, a biscuit was a thin unleavened wafer, quite hard, and with a very low water content – hence the name “twice-baked”. The advantage of the low water content was that the biscuit would have a long shelf-life, because it wouldn’t get moldy. Adding eggs or meat to the biscuit mix increases protein content but it will not last as long. Mixing a complementary proteins (grains with dairy, grains with beans and beans with seeds) will provide a more complete protein and have a longer shelf life. When properly made, they travel well and are satisfying and nutrient dense. – SF in Hawaii

JWR Replies: “Hard tack” biscuits, “ship’s biscuits”, or “pilot bread” have long been a staple for trappers, explorers, sled team mushers, seamen, and mining prospectors. They are a compact food with decent shelf life, and easy to digest. Modern plastic zip lock bag packaging can keep them dry and fresh–eliminating the “soggy, moldy biscuits” problem cited by 19th Century explorers. I like your idea of mixing in beans to form a more complete protein. Pound for pound, there are few foods–aside for some freeze dried marvels–that can compare with a combination of hardtack, jerky, peanut butter, honey, and dried fruit. Just be sure that your digestive system can cope with this diet before trying to subsist on it for more than a couple of days. You might need to add some natural roughage such as bran flakes, or perhaps even a commercial bulk laxative such as Metamucil. Compact backpacking foods make the best foods to store in your “Get Out of Dodge (G.O.O.D.) backpack. Here is a link to a traditional hardtack recipe, but with modern cooking. – SF in Hawaii