Since I listen to Coast to Coast AM frequently on my way to work in the morning, plying my way through the mysterious wooded back roads of Indiana while listening to accounts of bigfoot sightings and conspiracy theories, I have heard the ads for efoodsdirect.com frequently. I take them about as seriously as anything else on the program. George Noory eats them at home, he says, and they’re great! but he also says he does the P90X Exercise program. I saw his picture wearing the T-shirt and he does not do the P90X, he just wore the shirt for a minute and pulled in his stomach. I’ve tried the P90X program and I’d rather do other exercise. (Yesterday I did quite a lot of shoveling, I’m planting hot weather crops now.) Advertisements do eventually make you curious, and efoodsdirect claims to cut food costs by half and be delicious, as well as providing a compact emergency food store that will last for years without refrigeration. So I thought I’d look into it. Efoodsdirect offers a free sample package which isn’t entirely free. Six meals (in three packets) consisting of two one-cup servings cost $9.95 for shipping and handling. Yikes, they’d better be good meals. Already I see signs that I won’t be saving any money at efoodsdirect.
I sprang for the deal anyway, because I want to know, and pried ten bucks out of my Scottish wallet with the iron case and complicated locks. Three days later an envelope arrived by priority mail that seemed much too small to contain six meals. In the envelope you get three food packets and a bunch of advertising material, reducing the food weight even more.
Meal number one, Tortilla Soup, tasted all right, like a watery sort of chili, but the packet contained only 4.9 ounces of dry mix and the recipe called for 4 1/4 cups of water. This is supposed to provide two meals, the ads imply, but if you stretch your imagination a lot it provides four one cup servings of disappointingly thin soup. After tasting it and deciding it at least was good enough to eat I added two cups of brown rice and a mackerel and ate the whole thing for supper. I’m accustomed to rice and mackerel, but the freeze-dried beans and possibly the blend of spices in the soup were new and strange to my internal organs. About six hours later, after much bubbling and dripping noise that at first I thought was a problem with the household plumbing but eventually traced to my own stomach, Elvis left the building quickly, by the back door. So I vote thumbs down on the Tortilla Soup.
The next day I conjured up some more digestive courage and tried the Cheesy Chicken Rice Casserole. The package was heavy enough to be believable in terms of meals, containing a little more than half a pound of dry mix. Reading the nutritional facts on the package I felt confident I’d get enough calories and salt to power my work day. If you eat the entire package you’ll get about 160 percent of your daily sodium requirement and 120 percent of your recommended intake of saturated fat. That bodes well for a tasty meal, although if you lived in your basement for six months and ate nothing but Cheesy Chicken Rice Casserole you might not make it up the stairs and through the door when nuclear winter shifted into nuclear spring.
Having no vitamin C in it in spite of the chunks of freeze-dried peas and carrots does not help matters. You’ll be fat with bleeding gums and no teeth, but yum! Cheesy Chicken Rice Casserole tastes pretty good! Mmm, fat and salt and carbs . . . . In terms of culinary quality, it does fall short of Hell’s Kitchen standards. This is what you get if you cook white rice, freeze dry it, add some cheese powder and a dozen freeze-dried green peas, and then boil it for 25 minutes. The dish resembles chunky mashed potatoes. But hey! it’s calories to keep you warm and fuzzy while the plutonium fog glows in the night sky, I vote thumbs up for this one.
The third entree in the sample array, Creamy Potato Soup, contained only 5.9 ounces of mix, which made me sad. I don’t know what other people consider a meal, but less than three ounces of food won’t ever satisfy me, even if I mix it with 2 1/4 cups of water (4 1/2 cups for the full recipe). That’s still better than the paltry serving of Tortilla Soup efoodsdirect thinks of as a satisfying meal. Since I like to take instant mashed potatoes with me on backpacking trips I was looking forward to trying this one. Again, though, I ran into bits of things I didn’t like very much. Apparently the soup uses freeze-dried potato chunks, and the result contains lumps of potato that doesn’t care to reconstitute thoroughly. It was a soup I needed to chew sometimes. The flavor was good enough, though, and the packet actually made a meal’s worth of soup, although certainly not two meals. Creamy Potato Soup still gets a thumb’s up.
Efoodsdirect recommends adding things like bacon, ham, clams, poultry or seafood to this rather good instant soup, and I agree. By all means, add pieces of real food to this chowder, and you’ll have a pretty good meal. With all these freeze-dried products you face the same problem. Freeze-drying removes all or part of many important vitamins. Although the food in these packets stays edible for years (the assortment I received expires in May 2017, five years from now), by itself this diet will not provide the essential vitamins and minerals you need for a healthy post-apocalyptic lifestyle. Excessive amounts of salt can also cause health problems, especially if you’re just sitting around the basement wondering who won the war. Efoodsdirect supplies large quantities of these freeze-dried staples in sturdy storage bins, but for a hefty fee, and if you want to actually live long enough to rebuild civilization you’ll need to add real food. These packets are the sometimes tasty equivalents of white flour, salt and butter. Those were all necessary staples on the old Frontier, but people added things like freshly caught wild salmon, buffalo meat and all sorts of wild fruits and vegetables to what otherwise would be a deadly dietary plan. If you can afford the efoodsdirect emergency food supply, add a couple of sacks of potatoes and sweet potatoes and a few bags of storage onions. They won’t last for years but in the right basement they’ll last for months, and you can switch them out for new ones if civilization keeps ticking along. Some canned meat and fish would go well with that, and I’d certainly recommend some bags of dried beans and peas, the kind that won’t immediately head for the bodily exit door.