S.A.’s Book Review: Apocalypse Chow

Apocalypse Chow: How to Eat Well When the Power Goes Out, by Jon Robertson
Publisher: Simon Spotlight Entertainment, Copyright: 2005
ISBN-13:  978-1-4169-0824-1
ISBN-10:  1-4169-0824-2
Available on Amazon or eBay for under $10

We often say that “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” and that holds true for this little gem.  Measuring about half the dimensions, length and width, of a regular book, you can see Apocalypse Chow doesn’t follow the rules and isn’t the usual heavy tome full of hundreds of recipes.  The recipes begin on page 112 and there are less than 70 of them.  Apocalypse Chow can be viewed as a jumping off place for what to do with all those beans, all those cans, and all that rice and pasta that you have purchased if you are not much of an inventive home cook.

Apocalypse Chow inspires a love it or hate it reaction. Again, if you are looking for an ordinary cookbook, move along, there are many out there that are more comprehensive and complete. That being said, Jon Robertson wrote this book after he and his wife decided to ride out Hurricane Bonnie and found it to be somewhat of a personal catastrophe. Power went out, they ate peanut butter crackers, and became surly with each other in the hot, humid, and dark aftermath. They learned that true preparations mean more than “stashing a few extra gallons of water and finding your manual can opener.”  They determined that in the future, they wanted to, in those well-worn words, thrive not simply survive, and they figured it out.

I enjoy the subtle cleverness of this book. The title, of course, is a play on the Vietnam epic war movie “Apocalypse Now.”  “The Well-Tempered Pantry” chapter is coyly named after Johann Sebastian Bach’s “The Well-Tempered Clavier” (or harpsichord). Other chapter names referencing idioms or modern culture are Power to the People, The Calm Before the Storm, Recipes for Disaster, Cooking up a Storm, Just Rewards, and Are We Having Fun Yet?

Some people have groused about the fact this is a vegetarian cookbook. The author and his wife live a vegetarian lifestyle.  That is one of the strengths of this book. In grid down, eat your fresh and frozen foods first or whip up some of these recipes and add a little meat to them. Add some of that canned chicken, Vienna sausage, canned ham or your choice that you’ve squirreled away. (SurvivalBlog readers hopefully have a healthy herb garden growing to cut the monotony and add freshness, vitamins, and taste dimensions to canned and dried foods. Herbs are among the easiest, low-maintenance plants you can grow.)
If your family doesn’t regularly home cook or use your preparation foods, this book can help you get started. It somewhat assumes a pantry with non-electric cooking utensils and seasonings. However, there are handy lists of tools and food items. Someone in your family will have to be in charge of food preparation and this book would make a nice gift to that person.

There are pantry lists and resource lists. One interesting aspect is how the author lists various interesting food products you can find in different ethnic stores. And last, one of my favorite recipes is a black bean patty on page 120 that ends up looking like a sausage patty. Adding BBQ sauce, catsup, teriyaki sauce, or even pancake syrup for a sauce finishes the dish. It’s that versatile. I added a bit of salt to improve the taste because I prefer salty. The patty resembles a pan-fried breakfast potato patty. Some grated onion and even olive oil for frying make this a very appealing little dish.

I’ve prepared several of the dishes and some recipes seem to be simply variations of other recipes in the cookbook, such as a couple of the pasta recipes. However, all in all, I enjoy rereading this little book over and over which Includes main dishes, salads, and dessert recipes. New ideas for combining pantry food, vegetarianism, and the author’s sense of humor are pleasant and entertaining.  Apocalypse Chow is a different  kind of cookbook,  and I cheerfully recommend it.