How to Cope with Worsening Food Shortages
FORECASTS are alarming. The Milwaukee Journal reported: “As the northern hemisphere enters the growing season of 1974, millions of the world’s people are on the brink of starvation. . . . The food situation is now the focus of international attention. Some see calamitous times ahead, not only for the world’s abjectly poor, but for the rest of the world.”—April 7, 1974.
Already the effects of shortages are being felt, even in wealthier nations. Food prices have skyrocketed. This means that millions of families cannot afford to buy regularly the foods that they once ate.
Have you as yet been forced to change your diet? What will you do when you are no longer able to afford foods you presently eat, or when these foods simply are not available? There are alternatives to consider, and these may even improve your health.
Blessing to Many
Nutritionists feel that the curtailing of regular food supplies may actually be a blessing, at least in certain prosperous countries where most people eat too much. In the United States, for example, up to 45 percent of the population are 20 percent or more overweight. Food shortages may force some of these people to eat less, as well as less of the kinds of food that are damaging to their health.
Dr. Jean Mayer, professor of nutrition at Harvard University, commented on this, saying: “The simple fact is that we Americans have—for quite a time—been eating too much of the wrong things. The price pinch might just force people to do what all our efforts at nutrition education have not quite succeeded in getting them to do. Most of all, that means eating less meat, and less fat on the meat we do eat.”
The amount of meat Americans eat is considered a dietary disaster by certain nutritionists. In 1973 Americans averaged 119 pounds per person in consumption of beef alone, not to mention other meats! However, too much of this nutrition-rich food is evidently dangerous. “That big marbled steak should be left for hard-working guys who are not a risk for heart disease—a danger faced by half the American population,” warns Dr. George Briggs, professor of nutritional science at the University of California.
Eating less meat would evidently benefit healthwise, not only Americans but millions of persons elsewhere by making more grain available to them. The reason for this is that many pounds of grain are fed to an animal to produce a pound of meat. And so in China, where comparatively little meat is eaten but grains are consumed in some direct form, less food is required per person.
One way, then, to cope with worsening food shortages is to eat less meat. To give an idea of how this could stretch the food supply, Dr. Mayer estimated: “The same amount of food that is feeding 210 million Americans would feed 1.5 billion Chinese on an average Chinese diet.”
To a limited extent, rising prices are beginning to force some people to obtain food alternatives. Britons, for example, reportedly eat less meat now than they did twenty years ago when meat was rationed. Such an alteration in eating habits is apparently beneficial for many persons.
On the other hand, adequate nutrition is needed for good health. What foods can be obtained to assure that one’s nutrition needs are filled?
Less Expensive but Nutritious
Actually, many less expensive foods have greater nutrition than more expensive ones. And eating smaller amounts of nutritious foods is better for us than eating a lot of modern-day “junk” foods, which are often more expensive as well.
It would be worth your while to study the nutritional value of various foods. This information is given in some cookbooks. If you have no such literature, it can usually be obtained from a library. Knowledge of the nutritional value of particular foods not only will help you to prepare healthful, low-cost meals, but will make cooking more interesting.
One quickly learns that proteins are vital to health. Meat and other animal products such as eggs and milk are an important source of protein. But legumes, including peas and beans, are also an excellent source, and are usually less expensive. “An adult could live very well on these proteins alone,” says Dr. Mayer. However, he advises that children should also have some animal protein. And some nutritionists say that adults should too.
From a cookbook one may learn many appetizing ways to prepare legumes. Loaves, patties, soups, stews and salads can all be prepared from them. Soybean, for instance, is produced in so many forms—soybean curd, dried soybean, green soybean, soy milk, soybean oils, soybean flour, and so forth. And there are numerous recipes for using these to best advantage. Also, brown rice is rich in important vitamin B, and it can be used as a replacement for macaroni and spaghetti.
Many families may still desire to have high-protein meat. Organ meats, such as liver, kidney, brains, heart, tongue, and so forth, are often less expensive, and yet are every bit as nutritious. And there are appetizing ways in which these meats can be prepared. Heart, for example, is sometimes an excellent beef buy. Its firmness and mild beef flavor make it ideal for use in casseroles or it can be sliced for sandwiches. Also, fish may well be less expensive than other meats, and it is an excellent source of complete protein.
The popular iceberg head lettuce, commonly used in green salads, may similarly be replaced by less expensive yet even more nutritive substitutes. For example, chopped white or red cabbage may serve this purpose. And, prepared with the right dressing, it can be just as tasty.
Butter is often very expensive. But there are nutritive alternative bread spreads, including margarine, cashew butter, coconut butter, peanut butter, soya butter, orange honey, mint honey, and so on. Recipes for these spreads for bread can be found in cookbooks. Perhaps one will find it economical to make them.
Bread is another food staple, and especially are the whole-grain, heavier breads nourishing. Many families stock up on it at outlet stores, and thus save 25 to 50 percent by buying in this way. The bread can then be kept in a freezer to preserve its freshness.
Getting More Out of Food
A wise food preparer will endeavor to preserve the most nutrition possible in the food. Fruit or vegetables should not be soaked in water for more than a minute or so. This avoids loss of vitamins and minerals.
When produce is obtained, it is good to wash it as soon as possible in very cold water. What will be used for the next meal can be kept in covered dishes, and what will not be used for even a longer time may be quickly dried and stored in plastic bags, tightly shut to exclude air. Salads should be prepared just before serving, and kept covered until eaten. Prepare only enough for one meal.
Peeling fruit and vegetables robs them of much nutrition. But, unfortunately, because pesticides have become so widespread, you may have to peel some commercially produced food as a health precaution, even though it means throwing good nutrition into the garbage. However, some persons use a brush with stiff bristles to remove dirt and poisons.
It is wise to use as little water as possible in cooking and to save every drop of the juices for use in soups and gravies, storing it in a tightly covered glass jar. Dr. Endel Karmas, professor of food science at Rutgers University, explains what often happens:
“Families usually eat their peas or frozen vegetables without the juice the vegetables are cooked in. They are throwing away all the minerals and some vitamins in the food. The minerals and water soluble vitamins in processed food leach out into the water—that is, they drain out the food in the liquid.”
Also, a good cook is careful not to over-cook vegetables, thus destroying their nutrition. Some persons avoid recooking leftovers, but, to preserve their nutrition, serve them cold. There are many appetizing ways that this can be done. Burning or charring meat should also be avoided, since this destroys valuable vitamins and minerals.
Gathering Food for the Table
At times a variety of fine foods can be gathered from the countryside. Literature on the subject can be very helpful in identifying various weeds that are nutritious eating. The dandelion is such a “weed.” Its young leaves can be used as salad. It beats all other common salad greens as regards vitamin A content, and it is rich in calcium, phosphorus, iron, sodium and potassium. The flowers are sometimes used for wine making. The root may be sliced and used in salad, or it can be dried, roasted and ground and used as a coffee substitute.
The nettle is another very nutritious “weed.” Its tender sprouts contain large amounts of vitamins A and C, and some vitamin B. They are also rich in potassium, calcium, phosphorus and iron, and contain protein and glucose as well. The young shoots, which appear in the spring, may be used as spinach, mixed with salad greens, or boiled to make soup. They may also be frozen raw for later use, or dried and milled into flour.
Pigweed, or lamb’s-quarters, as it is also called, is said to be a perfect spinach substitute. The young leaves may be prepared in the same way as spinach, or it can be used in salad. Besides the many edible wild green plants, there are different kinds of edible mushrooms, nuts and berries that can often be gathered in the countryside.
Should predicted famines strike, it may be important to know the things around us that can be safely and beneficially eaten.
Some persons stranded in a wilderness have been known to starve to death while all around them was a pantry full of life-sustaining food. The big question, though, is, What can be eaten?
What can help a person is to watch what the birds and animals eat. As a rule, what they eat you can eat. But not in every instance. So if you are in doubt as to whether something is poisonous or not, chew a little bit and hold it in your mouth. When there is a burning, nauseating or bitter taste, spit it out, A poisonous plant tasted in this manner is not likely to be deadly to you.
Eskimos have plundered mouse nests of their winter supply of roots, nuts and greens to add some vegetables to their diet. They knew they could rely on the mice to gather edible food. They carefully replaced with fish what they took, so that the mice could survive and gather vegetables for the next winter.
Almost all sorts of grass and clover are edible, although the stomach will have to get used to it gradually. Trees and bushes can also provide good food. Their fresh buds and shoots may be edible. The inner bark or sapwood of various trees, too, can be valuable for food. People have dried and cut it into pieces and ground it for use in porridge and bread. Lichen and moss are also edible. Western explorers of the Arctic regions are said to have survived by eating these. The common cattail can serve as food in a variety of ways.
Almost all animals, if they are healthy, can serve as food for humans. Many people are hesitant about eating certain animals, such as bears, wolverines, dogs, foxes, cats, snakes and squirrels, voles, marmots and other rodents. However, some of these are considered delicacies in certain places.
Practically all birds are also edible, including crows, magpies, gulls and swans. Their eggs also may be gathered as emergency food. In addition, there are insects. Grasshoppers, ants and termites have long served as food for some peoples.
Many birds and other animals live on larvae, caterpillars and worms, and humans are able to do so if necessary. There is actually a rich assortment of life-sustaining food among these tiny but numerous creeping things around us. It might sound repulsive to eat them, but they are not only nutritious, they are sometimes delicious as well. Snails, for instance, are considered a real delicacy on a gourmet’s table.
There is really much we can do to cope with the worsening food shortages. We can cut down on meat consumption if it is a major part of our diet. We can gain a knowledge of nutritional values of foods, and eat those best for us. We can also learn how to preserve the food’s nutrition while preparing and cooking it. And we can become acquainted with plants and animals around us that we may eat if present food shortages become full-scale famines.
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THE AMOUNT OF FOOD USED TO FEED ONE AMERICAN WOULD FEED MORE THAN SEVEN CHINESE
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After cooking vegetables, a wise food preparer saves the juices for use in soups and gravies
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Dandelions can be used to make salad, wine and a coffee substitute
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The cattail has been called the “supermarket of the swamps and marshes.” A cooked vegetable can be made from its bloomed spikes, pancake flour from its pollen, a potato substitute from its starchy rootstock and a food somewhat like a cucumber from its peeled stalk