Energy-Conscious Cuisine

I tend to think of food in terms of the food system, which is the whole enchillada from farm to fork. What fascinated me when studying food from this perspective was that the greatest use of food system energy occurs at the household level. Therefore, I have spent a bit of time considering how to lower energy consumption in food storage and preparation.

If I wasn't taking a food system approach and was only interested in lowering energy the consumption at household level I might suggest buying highly processed foods that can be reheated in the microwave, or precooked grains such as parboiled rice and instant oats. But with a wide-boundary perspective I am starting with the premise that the household is buying foods that are primarily local, seasonal and in raw or whole forms. (In a previous posts I went over strategies to store whole foods and low energy methods to preserve foods). Just last week Craig Bergland discussed some of the equipment and techniques used to cook stored food without your typical modern kitchen. I thought this post would be a nice addition to those previous articles.

Much of what I discuss below probably describes how folks got by with little income, as in Great Depression Cooking with Clara. Might it be possible during energy descent, the Long Emergency, or a simple bout of under employment to save energy, learn useful skills, and eat healthier than ever?

First I'll give a little bit more background on energy in the food system. The graphic below shows that a high proportion of energy use happens in the home. Think of all the electricity the fridge/freezer uses and how hot ovens and stoves get.

Image source:

An average adult needs about 2400 food calories each day to maintain a healthy weight with modest activity. These calories come in many forms, including carbohydrates, proteins, and oils. Vitamins and minerals are also important parts of foods. But instead of dissecting food into nutritional parts, it is much easier to eat different kinds of whole, minimally processed foods because then nutrient deficiencies will rarely be a problem.

This article will help families plan meals using whole grains and beans starting from their dried form. Because many of us have relied on the modern food system for so long, including highly processed grains and beans, traditional techniques for preparing meals often need to be learned.

Types of Whole Foods

This is not a recipe book, but a guide to thinking about food that will help families use whole and seasonal foods. Grains are primarily the seeds of grasses and include wheat, rice, and corn, as well as exotic non-grass seeds such as quinoa and amaranth. Dry beans, such as pintos and lentils, provide nutritional balance to the grains, especially with respect to protein. Sprouting is a way to get more vitamins out of easy to store items, such as wheat berries. Oils include animal fats and plant derivatives and are necessary for health. Sugars are calorie dense and improve the flavor of many foods. Fruits and vegetables are a broad category where the calorie dense crops such as potatoes are mixed with the likes of celery. Fruits and vegetables do not usually constitute significant caloric additions to the diet but are needed for vitamins, minerals, and fiber, as well as flavor and textures that make food interesting. The vegetarians among us show that eggs, meats and dairy products are not always necessary for good health, but they are a very dense form of balanced proteins, calories and fats.

This guide will not tell you how much to eat of what, but instead describes how to prepare and incorporate whole grains and beans into complete meals. This previous article would be useful for planning how much food a family eats. After mastering basic whole grain and bean preparation methods, it is then fairly easy to add variety and flavoring in the form of other types of food. Some included recipes can show you how.

Cooking Whole Grains and Beans

Grains and beans provide the foundation of many diets. The approximate soaking and cooking times for a variety of grains and legumes is given in the table below. For all food items, the amount of dry grains and legumes in this chart is 1 cup and the yield is from 2 to 2.5 cups. 1 cup of dry grains or beans weighs about 6 oz and has between 550 and 600 calories.

Rinse and replace the water of presoaked legumes. Place in a cooking container filled no more than 1/2 capacity. Cook in optional ½ to 1 teaspoon of salt for grains and 1 to 2 teaspoons of salt for presoaked beans. Always add 1 tablespoon of oil while cooking in a pressure cooker, which is optional on a stovetop or in a solar oven. Occasionally stir stovetop foods cooking 1 hour or longer.

Stovetop times are for simmering and do not include time to bring water to boil. Likewise, pressure cooker time is for the period at maximum pressure. Solar oven time is for the period spent in the oven and includes getting the pot to boiling temperature. Cloudy conditions that cause the oven to drop below 250 degrees F may lengthen cooking time.

In general, keep pots covered with lids unless stirring. White rice will finish cooking after being brought to a boil and then removed from heat. Foods that cook on a stovetop under 1 hour can be removed from heat at boil and placed in an insulated container to cook, such as a thermos or a pot wrapped in a thick towel. The cooking time is then similar to the solar cooker. Heat retaining methods trap enough energy to maintain boiling temperatures long enough to finish the cooking process without fuel.

One method to reduce cooking times is to sprout grains and beans to the point where the root tip just emerges, which takes about 2 days. (More on sprouting below).

Older beans may take much longer to cook. An alternate use for old beans is to grind into flour. Add bean flour to bread recipes and as a soup and stew thickener.

Sprouting Seeds

Sprouting seeds is a great way to obtain vitamins, enjoy grains and legumes without using cooking fuel, and create “fresh vegetables” even in the winter. Live seeds will begin germinating when given enough moisture and proper temperature. This converts starches to sugars, making seeds soft and easily digested.

Steps to Sprout. Begin by cleaning and rinsing seeds in a mason jar (about 1 quart works well). Refill jar with lukewarm drinking water and soak for the hours given in the chart on the next page. Cover the jar with a breathable lid, such as plastic mesh lid, nylon netting, or thin fabric held on with rubber band or a jar rim lid. Drain the soaking water (it should not be foamy). Let the seeds begin growing in the jar or spread on a tray. Keep in a warm place at about 65 to 80 degrees F. Rinse the seeds two to three times a day and drain excess water. Expose to sunlight, such as a window sill, as the seeds approach harvest time. Store in high humidity in the refrigerator and eat within 5 days.

Some seeds sold for farming have been treated with pesticides and shouldn’t be used for sprouting. Most seeds are healthy as sprouts, but those in the potato and tomato family are poisonous.

Basic Recipes

Prepared grains and beans can form the base of many great meals. Some simple recipe ideas are given below. Instead of being specific, these recipes use general terms as much as possible. For example, “1 cup cereal” could be composed of any combination of cracked grains. The same is true of “flour” although gluten-containing flour, such as wheat or triticale, is needed for bread to rise substantially and not be crumbly. Nuts, dried fruits and seasonal vegetables can be whatever kinds you prefer or can obtain.

Hot breakfast cereal. This is simply coarsely ground grains and water, plus dairy, fruit, nuts and sugars. A general recipe for hot cereal is as follows:

3 cups water
1 cup cereal
½ teaspoon salt
Honey, milk, fruit, nuts and spices to taste

Bring water and salt to boil. Stir in cereal and simmer for 5 minutes uncovered, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, cover, and let sit for 7 minutes. Serve in bowls and add other ingredients to taste.

Bread. In its most basic form, bread combines finely ground grains (flour) with water and a leavening agent. Other liquids, fruits, nuts and a variety of flours may be used. A general bread recipe for one loaf is:

• 12 oz water (preferably warm)
• 1.5 teaspoons salt
• 1.5 tablespoons oil
• 2 tablespoons sugar or honey
• 4 cups flour
• 2 teaspoons yeast

Add all ingredients to a bread maker and run on the basic, whole wheat setting. Or, mix ingredients in large bowl and kneed to form a large ball of dough. Cover bowl with cloth, set in a warm place and let rise to about double its volume (ca. 2 hours). Punch down the risen dough and form into a loaf (e.g., in a bread pan). Cover and let the bread rise again. Bake in oven at 350 degrees F for 40 to 60 minutes. Bread crust should be browned and sound hollow when tapped. Remove from pans and let cool.

Energy bars. Many people appreciate having small snacks throughout the day. These energy bars will store for weeks at room temperature. With a food processor this is a quick recipe.

• 1 cup finely chopped nuts and seeds
• 3 cups rolled oats
• 1 ¼ cups dried fruit, half finely chopped (size of small raisin or less) other half pureed.
• 1 ½ cups cereal
• 1 ½ cups water
• ¾ cup honey
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
• 2 teaspoons of seasonings (e.g., vanilla extract, cinnamon, etc.)

Lightly toast the nuts and rolled oats. Combine toasted nuts and oats with chopped dried fruit. Boil water, add cereal, stir and then let sit for 3 minutes. Mix pureed fruit, honey, oil, salt and spices into hot cereal and keep on low heat for 7 minutes. Combine all ingredients, press into ca. 9 x 13 inch pan and let sit for 3 hours. Cut into bars and store in covered container.

Seasonal stir fry. Begin by cooking grains as described in the section above. While grains are cooking, chop seasonal vegetables into bite-size pieces. Try to include some alliums (i.e., onion, garlic, chive or leek) for a flavor base. Add chunks of meat if desired. When all ingredients are chopped, oil a large pan and place on high heat. Begin by stir frying meat, then add vegetables according to their hardness (e.g., carrots first, cabbage and sprouts last). Cook until just softened, and add whatever seasoning you prefer when nearly cooked. For meal planning purposes, 1 cup of grain will cook into 2-2.5 cups and be enough for about 2-3 people. Start with about 4 cups of raw vegetables, which will be nearly reduced in volume by half to become 2 cups of cooked vegetables, and the proportion of grains to vegetables will be about right.

Seasonal soups and stews. A great way to use leftovers or vegetables beyond their prime is to make a stew. Combine cooked grains and beans with chopped vegetables in pot. Add broth, water, seasonings, and any meat, and then simmer for about an hour to allow flavors to combine. Another option is to keep the grains and cooked meat out of the stew and then puree to make a smooth soup. At this point milk and cream can be added. Lastly, add the grains and meat to the soup and return to a brief simmer, or combine when serving. Consider topping with nuts, cheese, ground pepper or croutons.

Note. This post was based on this handout, which was produced by Jason Bradford for North Coast Opportunities, Inc. and Willits Action Group for the Mendo Food Futures Project through a grant from the California Endowment, and with the collaboration of Willits Economic LocaLization (WELL). Permission to copy and distribute freely is explicitly given. A copy is available here as a pdf.

Here is a link to a great little booklet on how to build five low-tech, low energy cooking devices, including a rocket stove, rocket bread oven, two types of solar cookers, and hayboxes.

Capturing Heat

Also, sorry to be picky, but a bread machine??? That doesn't seem very "energy conscious" to me. It's very easy (and satisfying) to knead bread dough by hand - once you learn how.


saved. thanks.

Heating just the bread machine instead of the whole oven could easily cover the watt hours spent on the kneading. Not everyone likes to knead. King Arthur Flour's test kitchen cheerfully admits to kneading in bread machines, then popping the loaves into a regular oven.

could easily cover the watt hours

Could? If it's "does," then good. But then consider opportunity cost. Using that electricity there means it isn't available elsewhere. Could be a deciding issue in an energy constrained, i.e. off-grid or low-income, home.

I think it's a good habit for us, when thinking on solutions, to keep in mind one person's could is another person's should is another person's must is another person's can't.


Using that electricity there means I am available elsewhere.
Another deciding issue is rather than fire up a whole oven for one loaf, the bread machine bakes it perfectly, as well as maintaining a warm environment for rising.

Big energy savings in an energy constrained or low-income, home.
If you are off grid this conversation is meaningless.

I think it's a good habit for us, when thinking on solutions, to keep in mind one person's could is another person's should is another person's must is another person's can't.
And practice what we preach, amen.

Using that electricity there means I am available elsewhere.

Another deciding issue is rather than fire up a whole oven for one loaf, the bread machine bakes it perfectly, as well as maintaining a warm environment for rising.

True. Figured that was clear, and was already mentioned elsewhere. There's a post with calculations further down thread now.

Big energy savings in an energy constrained or low-income, home.

If you are off grid this conversation is meaningless.

Don't see how. Don't off-grid homes have a finite amount of energy at their disposal dependent on their set-up? It's not easy, for example, to run a home on micro-wind. One might have to go to hand kneeding if the electric power is needed for irreplaceable uses such as lights or heating... whatever.


the bread machine bakes it perfectly, as well as maintaining a warm environment for rising.

That wasn't my experience when I had a bread machine. Exactly how much flour to work in depends on several variables, most especially the humidity that day. E.g., in winter, when the air is dry, a bit less, in summer when it's humid, a tad more. You get a better feel for this when you're kneading, as opposed to observing the dough in the machine and making adjustments.

Plus, sometimes the machine makes a lumpy shaped loaf. At those times, I'd take out the dough, shape it into a nice loaf, and put it back in the machine. I began to wonder why I was even using the machine when I had to tweak it so much.

I suppose if a person already has a bread machine, they'll use less energy baking bread with it. But, in this economy, how many have money to go out now and buy a luxury like a bread machine? In the future, what will the energy to manufacture bread machines cost? Will that be a good use of energy? And, finally, will our children and grandchildren have access to bread machines in the future? If not, maybe it would help them more to learn how to make it the old-fashioned way...



I agree with the proclivities of the bread machine and your results.

Mine are the same. And what you get is edible but its not like really good bread. Its IMO more of the same 'lets get it now and not make a fuss about it' bread.

So here is my suggestion that I wish you would try and report back, if you so desire.
You will find that this is somekinda bread.

This is the URL. My original was from Cooks Ilustrated where I had a subscription but this URL is the same and mentions it came from Cooks.

Note that I do NOT use a mixer. I simply knead it on my dough board and its really not that much work. The secret is the 'biga'. This you let sit in the icebox(refrigerator) overnight. The resulting slow rise in a cool place is what develops the very good taste of the Hard Wheat bread flour. I use King Aurther's bread flour but others I have used seem to do as well.

Here is the URL:

Better save it to your harddrive as these things tend to disappear.

I then bake mine in my microwave convection(dual type) oven which is small but enough to put two loaves in. I usually use a pizza stone. I also spritz it with water to make it crusty. I also split it down the center and when almost done mixed up some real butter and minced garlic and bath the split area when it is almost done. Then sprinkle some kosher salt(coarse) over that and maybe some mixed Italian seasoning(oregano,parsley,etc..from Sam's Club)..

The problem is when you take it out you might tend to eat the whole thing before it even cools. I sometimes toast it in my little toaster oven to make garlic bread. Or just eat it for a whole meal with some John Volpi salami from Dago Hill in St. Louis where John has a retail outlet. Some parmagiano/reggiano on top before toasting means you have entered Bread Nirvana.

You simply cannot buy bread of this quality. Nowhere,nohow.

NOTE:You want to follow the copied insert(shaded) that was the original Cooks recipe that I use. The suitcase fold is sorta important. With this you get a very good bread full of holes and fluffy. I don't like rustic with a dense texture. Thats what a bread machine gives you. And the crust is just not there. IMO.


Thanks, Airdale, I will surely try this. Sounds marvelous.

Also, appreciated your post on corn and may try your cornbread recipe. I like cornbread, but more often eat corn tortillas (I am Mexican on my father's side) and tamales. Thing is, I worry about getting GM corn products inadvertently...


Well, there you go!
The very best I have baked has indeed been kneaded by my own hands and baked in a full sized oven.
Yet everytime I have made bread in a bread maker it has been a success.
Not so with a standard oven.
Sadly I now suffer from a skin condition where large areas of my hands crack and split and bleed so hand kneading is totally out of the question.
So the bread maker has been a boon to me and my electricity bills.


There is a solution. Let the breadmaker do your kneading for you.

Then if you want to let it rise fast you can use the breadmakers heating capability.

I pull the paddle off the bottom to do this.

You can just unplug or hit stop and exert enough control this way to have it do most of the work...

I usually just knead mine and let it rise slow on its own.


I agree that firing up a standard oven for one loaf likely uses more energy than a bread machine. Would kneading it yourself and baking it in a toaster oven use more or less energy than a bread machine? My understanding is that these use about 1/3 the energy of a standard oven, so I nearly always use the toaster oven.

Of course, the lowest energy use would be kneading it oneself and baking it in a rocket bread oven (uses just twigs - not large amounts of wood). My goal is to get one of those built by the end of the summer...


Thanks for those links! Ideally, cooking is done with renewable energy. But in terms of efficiency I am not sure a bread maker or a home oven is more energy intensive since ovens are generally large and bread makers are small. Would be interesting to see the calculations. The book Cool Cuisine might have data on this. Does anybody know?

Hi Jason,

Thanks for this article and your many others.

re: Kneading. Here's something you may have seen.

I did make that once and it was fantastic. However, I made it on my hardwood stove top and it didn't cook as evenly as it would have in an oven. I have a hard time justifying firing up my gas oven for one loaf of bread so I haven't done it again. The crust is indeed perfect.

Thank Jason, great post--
A few words on sprouts -- plants use chemical warfare to prevent things from eating them, especially when they are first sprouting (they can't run, so this is one of the evolutionary steps taken).
I would not recommend eating alfalfa sprouts, as they are very toxic (and I ate my share during my blissfully ignorant youth).
But many things sprout with few toxins, and increased benefits.

u sure sound sure about the alfalfa sprouts, & i guess i could research/google it, but this is a campfire.

i was told /read they were the best of sprouting seeds - sprout better with age & good nutrition.

is it the amount?

Best used in moderation, but tasty. I have friends who do deep water sailing (Pacific Crossings), and alfalfa sprouts are their source of fresh produce.
Used in moderation, no problem


i heard of a guy saving & toasting a lot of apple seed. killed em. cyanide i believe; & the story stuck w/ me as i would have considered doing such.

Alfalfa sprouts have a small quantity of saponins, which aren't a problem unless you eat far more than a sane person would eat normally.

Sprouts are a very good source of vit. C. Chinese sailors ate sprouts and avoided scurvy long before the Brits earned the nickname "Limey."

That's a relief. Thanks.

Alfalfa is in the legume family (Fabaceae) which is has a lot of species with highly toxic seeds, so this had me worried. But then again I found alfafa sprouts recommended in many books.

Saponins shouldn't be highly toxic. Might cause "the runs" if eaten too much?

I feel the most energy efficient diet would be based on corn sprouts.

hand grinder ... solar oven or wood fire.

worked for me ... 12 years plus

OR can use blender and waffle iron for corn sprout waffles

i had no idea u could sprout corn. tx.

Its how corn mash 'shine gets made. OR any brew from grain really - the sprouting creates enzymes that convert starch to sugar the yeast can use.


Very good Topic. I love these Campfire sagas. Feels like I am a junior high kid and back to camping and cooking with the Boy Scouts. The ones back when we had to cook our own meals. Tenderfoot stuff, you know.

Anyway I notice you didn't include corn in your category as a grain or seed, unless I missed it.

Each time at harvest I go to the combine in the field as they are combining the soft red winter wheat. I usually just take what I need for free but if I were not part of the picture I would simply tell the may whose crop it is that I wished to buy a bushel of his wheat.

Then I would test the moisture and dry it down to about 10 percent and store it. Mostly in 5 gal buckets, some in 1 gal glass jars.
Same as corn but I grow my own open pollen field corn and have plenty of that. Corn stores very easily.

I know that in California most likely do not eat the amount of corn that we do here. I simply could not get by without corn.
Mostly in the form of meal.Corn meal.

Same with soft red winter wheat. For quick breads like biscuits, pies and I guess cakes but yeast rolls are big with us. Or fried apple/peach or whatever pies. Easy to make.

Back on the farm of my youth there was a lot of hard work. To do this work men had to eat very hearty meals. We ate a big breakfast,after the morning chores, then worked til exactly noon and ate a big dinner. My grandmother was not going to start that wood range up again in the heat of the day so she just threw a sheet over the dinner table and we ate a cold supper.

There absolutely had to be a cook and a good one at that or else the men who did the hard physical work would come up short. This was what the women and daughters did.

If there was a big crew,say cutting timber or working a lot of mules in large tracts away from home? Had to be a cook as part of the crew. Men simply were not into cooking back then. Unless it was a fish fry or pit barbecue outside.

I go quite a bit to an Amish store not too far away. They sell amazing products. They also do a lot of baking and their bread is very dense and sweet. This is so I suppose they get the most calories since the Amish men do hard physical work. All they sell in products to cook with and nothing ready to eat except the cheese and lunchmeats. All else is basic staples.
Funny that they can sell whole good brand milk for half the price that the grocery stores sell the same brand for!!! Yet they still make some profit on it. Means that the town stores are gouging us pretty hard.

One other thought is pasta. I have a pasta machine and was looking at the book that comes with it and was surprised at this:
Pasta has more protein that either potatoes or rice 7,5,4
Pasta has about the same fat as the other two.1,trace,trace
Pasta has less carbohydrates than the other two.39.51,50
Pasta has less sodium than potatoes but a tad more than rice.1,16,0
1 cup cooked pasta vs one baked potato,vs one cup cooked white rice
Pasta has no egg or oil in this comparision.

I eat quite a bit of pasta and always heard it was not that good for one. I have changed my mind.

BUT when one is doing a lot of work, as we are all likely to be doing in the future then comparisons might be of less value. Yet pasta is basically wheat, usually with egg.

If we are working hard then I think diets will become a part of the past. Myself I was usually one to carry a beer gut, as we called them long ago. That not been a problem with me since I came back to the farm and I wear waist size 32. In my youth I was 30. My son sadly is about 46. He does not physical work unless its tapping a keyboard or presssing the gas pedal.

Again,,good topic but I fear that regional differences will tend to dictate a food supply as well as what one can or cannot raise where they live. We have excellent corn growing seasons here. Beans I grow plenty of. Been eating my asparagus for almost three weeks now. Pick every other day. Lettuce is sorta up. Onions are 6 inches. Potatoes starting to poke out above ground. 20 cabbage plants in the ground.
Spinach sprouting. Arugula sprouting. Radishes as well. Looking good so far.

No honey bees in sight. Only saw one lone bumblebee working my Yellow Delicious apple tree. Blossoms are now all fallen. I do see some fruit but without good pollination it doesn't make much. No bees. No hummingbirds sighted and right now no Purple Martins. Some say they should already be here but they are not coming back to the houses like they always do...its not good news I am afraid for much wildlife. Hard to even see a possum now. No foxes in a long time. Coons are scarce. Only thing I see much is wild turkeys and I think they might be in trouble around here.


Thanks for the interesting post, Airdale, and especially the info about pasta. I adore pasta but always feel a little guilty eating it. I think I'll indulge more and work harder in the garden.


PS When will you write a campfire article?

Pasta, is unhealthy to the extent that it is made with white flour. In addition, white enriched flour is treated in such a way that it expands in your stomach. (In my middle age, I noticed I was getting heartburn after eating pasta and it was not the tomato sauce). So white pasta has a high glycemic index, which overstimulates the pancreas and can lead to diabetes eventually. With 25% of American adults testing positive for pre-diabetes, it is definitely a food I try to avoid.

So if you eat whole wheat pasta, that is healthier, though it is still processed food in my book. Also, if you make it at home you may find that you can only use 1/2 ww and 1/2 white flour. Also, pasta usually has one egg per cup of flour, which would explain the protein content (though it should also raise the fat content.

Isn't a pamphlet for a pasta machine kind of like an advertisement? Do we get serious nutritional information from ads?

Also you get nutritional benefits from less processed food like baked potatoes that you can't get from white pasta. Vitamin C, for example.


While your comments may be germane to most here they do not apply to what I buy.

Very little of the flour I buy is treated. Did you ever hear of naturally whitened flour? It turns white by aging and not bleaching.

Check the King Arthurs site if you wish.

Besides I sometimes grind my own. And in the above I stipulated I used semolina. This was not altered in any way.

That you see is the problem with those who don't get the picture. White flour,white sugar and so forth. Its like a mantra that the food gurus who come and go chant over and over.

Whats new this year. Saturated fats. Whats next? Omega oils and so it goes.

Please google up Michael Pollans website and read.

Say fat. A big big buggaboo...yet according to Pollan we need fat.

The pioneers had to hunt for fat for their diets. Wild game is lacking much fat.

So I use lard. I use naturally whitened flour. Sometimes whole wheat when I feel like it.

Eat potatoes? Hey I grow them. Got 20 lbs of seed potatoes in the ground right now.

Are you preaching to the choir or to me?

What the box says? Yeah sometimes ,depending on how it says it.

Did your disprove my numbers on the pasta, wheat and rice?

One hell of a lot of Italians consume various types of pasta. I bet they are one on one far healthier than we are.

Airdale-besides I am at the age where I tend to eat as I wish. My youth is over. My middle age has receded way out there.

PS..But perhaps good advice for others,,yet in a full blown power down? We will not have many choices...wheat is easy, corn is easy, hogs are easy..add eggs and thats a lot of my staples (now tell me some really good hickory cured bacon, two scrambled eggs,gravy, homemade bread,elderberry jelly and real cow's butter? Does it get any better? (Breakfast)

real nice post airdale.

i like hard work; but i like even more when doing so i can eat lots- as i want & not gain weight!

what variety of corn for meal? i think u previously said trucker's favorite.

i'm using a johnny's seeds - the only one they had last yr.- a yellow.

i'm a lot cooler- no asparagus yet.

Well there are two varieties of open pollen that I found at a few locations here about 4 or 5 years ago.

I was told that way back when we all grew open pollen corn that the favorite yellow corn was Truckers Favorite. There is another that was very popular and named after the city of Paducah but I haven't been able to find it.

The other is White Hickory.

These are the two I have been growing for several years,,4 or 5 and since I keep at lot I have plenty of seed. The only problem is that they tend to mix a bit and I end up with some both white and yellow.

I like to use yellow for coating fish and french fries. Way down in N. Carolina some millers told me that in the past all they like yellow grits better than white.

Now yellow grits will burn far more easily than white. I prefer my grits white. My corn bread white too.

Some like yellow but I like white but am prone to try to use either when I got time to experiment more.

These corn stalks grow very very tall. Maybe 13 feet and have huge diameters. A very tough plant and put out 2 or 3 ears that have quite large kernels.

For roasting ears(roastnears we say) I plant Golden Queen and Silver Queen. I tried boiling some white hickory and couldn't chew it.

The Silver and Golden likely will not grow 'true to form'.Some say it will and most say it won't since its hybrid. Thats why I plant four varieties of corn in my garden.


year before last i used truckers[mine was whit] & a white- corn meal variety of johnny's seeds.

they mixed & johnny's only had a yellow last year. i have plenty of this for seed.

i'd like to grow some silver queen but won't it cross with my corn for meal?
i can't separate much.

corn meal is more important & the only corn i grew this past year. very good grits, etc.

Spacing on differing varities of corn is important. I try to give them as much room as possible but the wind does scatter the pollen about.

Does non-hybrid cross with hybrid? Good question. I would suppose so but what is the effect on the reproducibility of the non hybrid? I have no idea. Might be bad. What I need to do is have another garden just for hybrids. Mhhhhh.

Grits cooked down are what was once called 'indian pudding'.
The indians knew to 'slake' their grits with what they called 'seeping water', which was lye made with wood ashes. This brings forth far more niacin in the corn and prevents pellegra. Southerners either didn't know this or forgot it and started developing health issues.

All mexican corn flour , massa harina, says on the package that its been treated with an alkaline product. This is essential. Unless you get your vitamins elsewhere.

Real grits treated this way are not that easy to make , at least when I tried it. You have to let the shells pop open, then dry it and then grind it. Perhaps better to grind it then treat it,,if you leave it whole with the popped hulls then you have 'hominy'...grits made this way I always thought were called 'hominy grits'.

Yet grits I brought in N. Carolina at an honest miller were not treated. I believe that all you buy in stores have never been treated and all you can find on the shelves says "Instant Grits"...and this is your basic junk food. Trash. Not worth feeding to the hogs.

They used to make ordinary grits but that went off the shelves some years ago.

Airdale-most all I know about corn for consumption

Most pasta is made from durum varieties of wheat, which is high in protein compared to other grains, and rice is low in protein, so your figures make sense.

You are right about not including corn. I should have done so. Do you have cooking tips for whole corn or cornmeal?

Hope the bees show up.

The Survival Foods And Gardening Section


by Kurt Saxon

"Corn and beans have been staple foods for thousands of years. Those American Indians who farmed grew corn, beans and squash as the main elements of their diets. All three are easy to grow, are very productive, filling and nutritious. In fact. one could live on these three foods, and many have had to.

While researching this article I talked to many Southerners who remembered corn and beans as their mainstays as children during the Great Depression. Cornbread and cornmeal mush and beans were always there, regardless of their poverty, and they thrived! "

receipes follow w/ cooking techniques. i find a double boiler necessary for cooking mush/grits [scratch cooking that is].

Jason see my reply upthread.

I cook breakfast grits once or twice a week. I use what I brought in N.Carolina winter before last. It lasts a long time. Takes only a small handfull for one person. Swells a lot during cooking.

Take a small saucepan, fill half with water, add some salt, boil water and then slowly add grits. You have to judge all this as the grits will surely swell a lot so be careful. You can always add more water or grits but hard to 'take away' so go slow. Let just barely come to a slight boil. Watch it intently and stir so it doesn't stick to the bottom.

I prefer a stainless steel pot. You can go to a larger size pot if you have more to feed. The aluminum disturbs me and I don't entirely trust that I am not eating something from the metal.

So watch it roil in the pot. If you scrape the bottom on the pot with a spoon you can tell if its trying to stick. Cook it slowly for about 10 minutes. The length to cook is not real critical.

We say "boil em grits down"..and if taken off the stove too early will not be as tasty as if you did it right and long enough. You learn all this very quickly after doing it a few times.

When it appears right then shut the heat off and you can eat it but I cover the pot with a lid and let it set a while. Stir one last time to be sure its not sticking.

As it sits it will absorb even more liquid and then become somewhat more stiff. A bit less mushy. You can eat is very mushy or stiff. Depends on what you prefer.

The yellow grits which is not available in stores? I hardly ever cook cause it will stick like the devil. White does not. Less starch I believe.

To eat the eats. I put in a small bowl, throw in a nugget of cow's butter, add more salt to suit my taste and pepper. One can pour some redeye gravy in it. Make a hollow spot and fill that with the redeye gravy. Or one can put sugar on it and this makes it far more palatable to children.

If you grew up eating it plain with salt and pepper you would not want sugar on it. I eat it both ways as the mood strikes me. if your grits have stuck to the pot? Don't worry. Just cover with a lid and let sit. Or any leftovers do the same while the pot is still warm. The result is 30 minutes or so later it will magically have unstuck itself and come out as a single layer all solidified together. This one can fry sort of like scrabble but its tough to fry as it tends to just fall apart. Yet I do it and then use table syrup to pour on it. Got to use whats leftover or else feed to the dogs.

I think there is far more one can do with grits but I haven't explored that area. I just like my grits the way I described above.
Bacon grease from pan drippings(au jus ? as per the French) is also good to season the grits with. Some folks like to put a fried egg on top of their grits. I do that sometimes. I also eat mine with toasted homemade bread. They go together very well.

If one has there own dried corn then like me they can run it thru their steel-burr hand cranked grain mill. You catch the first runthrough. Sift it to get most of the hulls out. Sift it with a finer and more finer strainer to produce a more refined quantity of grits. The differing grinds(crank the burr down harder) results in the difference between corn meal and grits. Grits are coarser.

If you really crank the burr down you get corn flour. Then one can make tortillas. If you want real tortillas then treat the corn with an alkaline solution. Lime is ok I read. Lye is better perhaps but more dangerous. I believe that lime is what most use. But if you use nothing you still get some very good grits or corn meal or 'polenta' as the Italians call it.

Whatever you do this is some good eating. Not just for breakfast. Lots of good Italian polenta recipes.


Make my pasta with a handcranked machine and use semolina when I have it.

Usually don't have to dry it unless to save. Right out of the machine into boiling water.



Here is my recipe and technique for southern style cornbread,,as well as corn dodgers/corncakes/ashpones/cornpones..whatever.

I posted it on Glenn's Household Dry Cooking the other day.

That recipe for cornbread? No wonder you folks are in trouble!

Here is the southern style (and the best) recipe.

Nothing but cornmeal. Martha White if you can get it. WHITE.Not yellow, white. The name Martha White doesn't necessary mean white corn.

There are other brands but they have strange things added and muck it up badly.

So straight pure white meal.
Add some salt. Takes a pretty good hit of salt. For 2 cups of meal I put in maybe two tablespoons of salt,perhaps a bit less.
Marha White is self-rising but you might have must plain meal so add some baking powder and baking soda and to work with these add some buttermilk. Maybe half a cup? Don't use pure buttermilk instead of sweet milk. The sweetmilk makes a huge difference. Buttermilk is best in biscuits.

Add regular cows milk to make a somewhat thin mixture. Most people make it too thick. More like pancake batter. Between regular pancake batter and crepes batter. This you need to learn by doing.

Add melted bacon grease. This is the one ingredient that makes a huge difference. Pork grease and good bacon grease at that. Most bacon these days is bad. Thin and sleazy. I don't buy that stuff and instead use real true hickory smoked,salt cured bacon. No nitrates.

Again the amount of grease is a personal call. I heat and iron skillet, put in some grease,,maybe 4 tablespoons and pour all but a bit into the batter.

You now have a hot skillet,some batter well mixed, so pour it in the hot skillet and put it in the oven. Like 350 or so or even 400.

Here is one part that most get wrong. The amount is crucial. How far up the sides of the skillet. The thinner the more like a pancake it is. The thicker the more like a cake it is. This is a call and I pour in enough to about 1/3 of the height of the skillet. This has a most unusual effect on the taste. It needs to be somewhat crunchy on the bottom and sides and fully done on top.

I forgot. An egg. Mix and egg in to the batter after the milk.

If you do all this right or find the nirvana of it then you get the best cornbread that is possible. Of course some yanquis put in sugar. Which would gag a red mule.

One can also make corncakes. Or called corn dodgers or ashpones or just cornpones. You just spoon some of the batter into the skillet and fry it on the stovetop. Just about as good but something essential is missing versus the baking.

Eat with white beans and a slice of onion. Vidalia is best. Some bacon on the side and fried potatoes. Southern style.

Airdale-sorry for tromping on the topic but hey,,you could do this with a solar over thing possibly


One could adapt this recipe to solar perhaps or a dutch oven. I think the crust would maybe turn out different and in this style of cornbread the crust is very very important to what is produced. The crust adds immensely to it and that is why the depth of the mix in the skillet is very important.

Just getting a recipe with measurements I have found just leads to mostly disappointments. The 'techniques' is where it is all at and using an iron skillet,right ingredients(particularily the lard) and around here using Martha White Self-rising or being sure to put rising in your own meal, as well as preheating the skillet...all of this is basically 'technique' and what makes it turn out wrong if not learned correctly. Mostly from watching you grandmother or some one who does it well and knows how.

I also wish to add that I completely forgot hushpuppies. We eat a lot of these with our fried fish. The same batter but with the additions of chopped onions. Spoon out into a hot boiling container of grease(melted lard) or some use soybean oil but I prefer Peanut Oil. Lard smokes at too low a point so its better for frying corncakes.
A slight degree in technique and ingredents and the corn cakes become tortillas,suprisingly.

The hushpuppies again are a item that one almost has to have eaten and watched others or experimented quite a bit.

Down on the river bank with a propane powered homemade fish cooker, a big jug of peanut oil, some fresh caught blue cat,yellow cat of the least a channel cat, some onions and a sack of meal...throw some french fries in the cooking oil and this is all one needs. Fish caught and dressed just minutes before cooking. Hey even some crappie would do nicely. A bass perchance but here the best is 'white carp ribs'. Next is buffalo ribs. This is the fish cut up so that two of each side ribs is individual. Thus no ribs in your fillets. So we fillet them crosswise with the main ribs...White carp only run at just the right season and timing is crucial. Buffalo only come in the shallows and lay eggs at just one time. Crappie run at just the right time. But the big cats you can hook onto anytime if your a wise fisherman. The best are found in deep holes along the TVA impoundments old river channels. From the waters of Kentucky Lake and Barkley Lake south and east to their headwaters of the Tennessee and Cumberland.

A worthy thing to do is a good boat and tackle to take down those rivers and lakes catching your dinners as you go. Taking plenty of cold beer and iced tea. Stopping for good barbeque as the need arises.

Airdale-my boats are a bit too small for that navigation, right now that is...and please no corn muffins with sugar!

"I simply could not get by without corn. Mostly in the form of meal.Corn meal."

I agree ... Corn is the Grain of The Americas

Most efficient plant ... most efficient human food.

I spent last night up on Sherwood Road, and was it cold! Garden of the friend I stayed with was frost covered, and the faucet had an icicle on it. Flowering peach and Asian Pears looking for pollination.

I am seriously looking forward to warm temperatures the next few days to get some seeds germinating. It is not uncommon to frost here the first week of June. I never plant squash until early June.

The nurseries are selling tomatoes and peppers that are likely to be killed, but folks don't seem to remember this and just want to spend one weekend planting everything as soon as it gets sunny and warm.

You are welcome to look me up for a visit when you are around.

thanks for u'r post jason.

one addition like lilth's haybox to hold heat for cooking is to use a thermos, especially for grains overnite- about the perfect time for any grain brought to a boil. i'm sure most know this.

I have been on a pressure cooker kick since my wife got me one for my birthday.
I am trying to figure out how anybody lives without this.

I wish I could get a pressure cooker with a built in dewar flask like a thermos.

Here's a tangential article on a work program the Japanese government has going to train people to be farmers. After all, energy-conscious cuisine requires energy-conscious produce.

Via The Automatic Earth.

Solution to Japan's Jobless Problem: Send City Workers Back to the Land

Unfortunately, while "organic" farming is mentioned, thre doesn't seem to be any emphasis on natural or permacultural practices. Still, the economic realities are evident, as well as the difficulty of adjusting to a completely different lifestyle.


Add all ingredients to a bread maker...

I got this far, then rolled on the floor in tears and laughter. You're talking about saving energy, then you resort to a bread maker! What happened to good, old-fashioned muscle power? How many people are going to have devices like a bread maker when doing depression cooking?

Sorry, but I take this post as a joke.

Glad to give you a good laugh.

Some people will take baby steps. Some will leap to the solar oven. I want to give people options. This is not necessarily written for people who "see the end times on the downslope of Hubberts Curve" but to anybody who is willing to become more self-reliant...bit by bit.

Also, see comments above about bread maker. Might be more efficient than firing up a whole stove for a loaf. Anybody want to run the numbers?

Also, see comments above about bread maker. Might be more efficient than firing up a whole stove for a loaf. Anybody want to run the numbers?

My bread machine has a nameplate draw of 600 Watts. During a full cycle it bakes for about 1 hour and kneads for about 20 minutes total. Assuming full nameplate draw for each of those we get 1.3 X 0.6 = 0.78 Kilowatt hours to bake a loaf. My guess is that it is actually less than this since I doubt the knead motor draws 600 watts

My stove's bake element is 2400 watts. It takes about 25 minutes to preheat the oven and the cast iron dutch oven I use for doing my "no knead" baking in to 450 deg., then during the 1/2 hour of baking time I'd guess that the element is on about 50% of the time, judging by the pilot light on the control panel, so lets say total 40 minutes or .66 of an hour X 2.4 = 1.6 Kilowatt hours to bake a loaf.

So, if you are just baking a single loaf I'd say the bread machine is clearly ahead, but of course unlike the bread machine the oven can bake multiple loaves at the same time, or you could be cooking some other non-bread item along with the bread, in that case I'd say the oven could be more efficient.

By the way Jason, you said 2 tablespoons of yeast in your bread recipe, I assume you meant to say teaspoons?

Ugg. You are right. 2 teaspoons of yeast. Sorry. Now fixed in online article and in handout. Thanks.

I usually make a loaf of bread about every four days. A year or so ago my sister gave me a bread machine that had been mouldering in her basement for about ten years. Tried it on a sunny day (My house is off grid solar) and it used about 450 watt hours total to bake a loaf, with the 600 watt element switching on and off.

Took it apart and stuffed in mineral wool insulation everywhere including inside the lid. It had no insulation at all before. Did a test run outside to see if anything overheated, or if any fumes came off. All ok. Now I use it more or less every four days and it uses about 180 watt hours total for a loaf. While this is a significant fraction of my total daily energy budget of one kwh, it certainly is much easier than doing it by hand. About five minutes to sift everything in, then delicious smells come out about two hours later.

So there, a low energy house using a bread maker! They are most definitely not designed for efficiency. Insulating it took about half an hour. Use a non-combustible insulation like mineral wool. Has been working this way nicely for a year now. The brand of insulation I used was Roxul which seems to have no toxic binders or additives. Leave the vents around the lid for bread cooking vapours to come out.

Recently did a new one for a neighbour. Same result.

Happy efficient cooking,


Wow, what a clever idea! And the main reason I visit this site - for the insights from minds that work differently than mine. I don't have a technological or engineering-friendly bone in my body...


If you are off grid this conversation is meaningless.

Well, there you go!

I bake a small loaf every day for breakfast. It takes 10 min. to warm up and 10 min to bake. (A stone bakes it faster with better results.) The oven can draw up to 9600 watts (40 amp breaker x 240 watts), but it probably only does that if all 4 burners, and the both the broiling and baking element are on. So lets say it uses 3000 watts in 20 min. Here in Springfield, Oregon a kilowatt hour goes for 4.5 cents and 92% of the energy is produced via hydroelectric power. So it's about 15 cents at the most to bake bread every morning--but it's probably much less as the oven is not on full element blast. Even in higher rate areas that is not much. You will save energy by not driving a car, worrying about saving power via bread baking ain't going to do much.

The "Watt's Up" gives me 440 Watt Hours to bake a large loaf in a breadmaker. About 7 cents around here.
A gas oven makes it a little difficult to work out the big oven efficiency.

I prefer hand-kneading but in the tropics the additional liquid added during kneading (sweat from brow & hands) messes up the recipe. Bleagh!

I have a 12-yr-old Panasonic bread maker that I also metered with a Watts-Up meter. The result was 660 Wh for a 4hr-10min cycle for a 1 1/2 lb loaf. I tested a newer machine at a friend's and it came out at 440 Wh as well.

Yes I will admit to using a breadmaker when I have no time to do it the old fashioned way.

Yet the best bread I have eaten is Italian rustic. Made with a 'bigga'. Which is slowly ,very slowly allowed to rise as a starter in the icebox.

Kneaded very little.

The amazing thing about using bread flour ,which I do for the Rustic, is that it never ever molds!! It gets hard as a rock. You can then grind it for bread crumbs or better make bread pudding..which you dress with copious amounts of bourbon sauce. This is the food of the Gods.

I have some pieces of bread made with bread flour that are 3 years old sitting above my computer table. Not bothers them. I could make stewed tomatoes out of them today and it would be good. Add some bacon and onions and stew slowly.


Hi Dayahka,

And, please see my link further up to the "no-knead" recipe. I'm interested to see if anyone tries it (and if it turns out more like all the people who wrote in to them and said "Great!" - and less like mine did.)

A lot of people (I'm not one but just to say...) purchase bread-makers second hand, from the thrift store.

And some predict the price of electricity to remain low for quite a while, if stores continue to go out of business and manufacturing drops.
Not that solar cooking or etc. isn't the ideal.


Here is my basic no-knead dutch oven method, which I find to be consistently good.

In a large mixing bowl mix together:

1 cup hard whole wheat flour
2 cups hard white flour
1 1/2 cups hot (say 110 deg or so) water
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon yeast

Cover the bowl with a lid, foil, or plastic wrap and let sit at room temp for at least 6 hours.

The dough will be very wet and sticky (and should look bubbley), and so I use the following method to simplify the transfer of the dough to the dutch oven and produce what I think is a pretty looking loaf:

Scoop out the dough into a greased springform cake pan. (for me an 8" springform holds the dough ball after the final rise and just nicely fits into my dutch oven.) Cover the springform with the inverted mixing bowl and let sit at room temp. for 2 or 3 more hours.

Preheat the stove & empty dutch oven & lid to 450 deg.

Dust the top of the loaf with whole wheat flour or corn meal, slice the top of the loaf with a razor (this step cosmetic and optional).

Place the springform in the dutch oven and bake with the lid on at 450 for 15 minutes

Remove the dutch oven lid and bake for a further 15 minutes


If you measure the temp. of the middle of the loaf with an instant read thermometer you are looking for 190 to 200 deg.

I noticed on your grains you did not list millet or teff. I'm hoping to establish teff as the default 'ground cover' on the neighbors deer field VS whatever is there now.

Both can grow from the material you'd buy as food for people. Teff traditionally is ground into flour then made like a sourdough. (If the goal is low energy/poverty food look to India/Lentils and Teff/Ethiopia)

If one is looking for low-energy cooking there is various rocket stove designs - for fuel take a walk in the local park and while harvesting garlic mustard (to make green manure out of via a solar cooker) you gather some sticks to hack up as fuel for the rocket stove.

Oh, and let us not forget the Scheffler dish (per my profile links)

I don't know teff well at all. Be curious to know if any particular varieties do well in the Pacific Northwest. Some of these north African highland crops (and Andean crops) do fine outside of the tropics.

I'd like to get a rocket stove this year. I commonly use a solar oven, but when it is cloudy or I need water to boil quickly a rocket stove would be great. I collect small sticks from the forest for my bee hive smoker, which would be a great fuel for a small rocket stove.

I made a rocket stove at my lifeboat during one of our frequent blackouts a few years back.
2 coffee cans, 1-10oz. kidney bean can and a few steel pop rivets. 1/2 hour construction time.
Its good for boiling the kettle for tea or coffee but it tends to fill with ash with longer use.

The 'durable' stoves I've made are from old cashew shipping tins, #10 cans and #6 (the 1 qt juice ones) and line the steel with refractory cement. Less rocket more wood chip burner.
And with chipped based fuel - a few days in a solar oven setup dries that wood right out.

Teff should do fine. Ag sites mention it as a cover crop in the US. It'll grow in Canada.$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/crop772

And with your bees, have you tried top bar style hives? I'm moving to that so I can every few years remove the brood material so the bees have a 'fresh clean' environment thus any of the bee pests will have a harder time gaining a foothold.

I don't have any top bar hives yet, but a guy around here makes them so I'd like to get one to try out. Since I only keep a few hives I use a crush comb extraction method anyway so don't need to keep comb-drawn frames around. I also like the top bar because it is easy to build in an observation window, which is fun.

For a light, portable, and extremely efficient wood stove, you might want to look at the Bushbuddy.
A few of my backpacking friends use and love them.

I don't have any top bar hives yet,

Just add a V shaped hunk of wood to the top of the langstrom style. Your tablesaw set to a 45 angle will do a fine job. I'm moving to the large supers, plastic based comb (not perico but similar) and all the older gear will get cleaned sold/changed to top bar for comb honey.

I think there could be a checklist of attributes for low energy input cooking, including
- avoiding ingredients like grain fed meat
- longer preparation time like pre-soaking
- low wattage or biofuelled cookers
- local rather than remote produce.

Only last night I was watching an Aussie TV cooking show where the host had an oven preheating to 180C while some ingredients were being pan fried and liquid in a saucepan was reduced 80%. That maybe used 4000 watts of gas or electricity at one point. I'd like to see TV chefs cook up a three course meal using just a single wood stove. Brit Hugh Fearnly Whittingstall seems to be the only one doing this.

The other thing I would like to see TV chefs do is make a meal from 'gut fillers' like home grown potato, eggs, tomato, corn and pumpkin. Keep exotic ingredients like ham strips or coconut milk to under 10%.

Ten percent quota to be used up by chocolate. For emergencies.

Great points. I keep running into problems with recipes that assume you have access to anything from anywhere, anytime. This is why I am somewhat proud of the energy bar recipe, which eliminated peanut butter and shredded coconut--the almost ubiquitous ingredients found elsewhere. I just tried making a fruit paste for additional binding (the likely function of peanut butter and coconuts) and it performs perfectly.

I sometimes catch Iron Chef when traveling to cable TV lands and while the spectacle is, well, spectacular, I gag at the waste of it all. What kinds of "standards" are being promoted, does media shape expectations that can never be met, and are we unhappy because of it? I am getting a bit a stream of consciousness here, but it reminds me of the one and only time I went to Madagascar (ca. 1997) and the most popular TV show was Melrose Place.

I wish more people made these connections. One minute somebody can be telling me how concerned they are about the environment, whether climate change, droughts, plastics in the ocean, and then the conversation moves on to their next vacation or the plastic toys recently purchased for their precious grandchildren.

Yes! and that is so discouraging. And it makes change so slow...

Went out to eat Tuesday at a restaurant that prides itself for organic food and environmental consciousness. Yet nothing on the menu was seasonal, and there was shrimp (in Colorado), red bell peppers, coconut milk and white rice in many of the dishes, and on the special. Yet tons of food is available in Boulder right now - eggs, of course, a host of greens, asparagus, rhubarb, and many stored squashes and cabbage.

Our local Edible Communities publication has a page on "farmer approved" restaurants that walk the talk - eating out could be an educational experience!! and a way to drive local agriculture towards better stewardship of the land. The farmers make fun of restaurant owners who claim to get "local produce, when seasons permit" then turn around to source most things from the Sysco truck.

The coconuts are pruned & thrown away around here so I consider coconut milk to be a free staple. Potatoes, on the other hand, are brought in from 3-4000 km away.

I'm not being critical but in some (most?) places mangoes are not exotic, they are a slipping hazard!

The mango is the worlds most popular fruit.

Keep in mind I wrote this for where I live, so adapt accordingly to your circumstances. I love mangos and coconuts. Too bad I get mango mouth if not careful and that they come from so far away.

Only last night I was watching an Aussie TV cooking show where the host had an oven preheating to 180C while some ingredients were being pan fried and liquid in a saucepan was reduced 80%. That maybe used 4000 watts of gas or electricity at one point. I'd like to see TV chefs cook up a three course meal using just a single wood stove

Oh, yes! Ever since I became "peak oil aware" TV chefs have driven me crazy doing stuff like this. I've often thought about writing Alton Brown and challenging him to demonstrate some low-energy cooking, since he claims to be interested in the science of cooking. Maybe I should get busy and do that...


See if you can get a mass of people to write in about the same topic over the course of a week.

What would be the minimum amount of money necessary to provide a reasonably well balanced diet of around 2500 calories per day? What commercially available foods would be recommended for such a diet, with or without cooking?

To give you some handle on that. Grains and beans can be purchased in bulk at a retail of ca. $1.00 per pound. A pound gives ca. 1600 calories. 2.5 cups or ca. 1 lb of fresh vegetables would add another 200 calories at ca. $2.00 per pound. Mix in some eggs, dairy, sugars, oils, meats, etc. to fill out the rest. My previous post on food storage (see links at beginning of this article) gives some more details but without such prices.

$1.00 per pound is retail bulk pricing. At the warehouse stores, flour is $.30/lb and rice $.50/lb, both in 25 lbs bags. Yeast in a 1 lb package is $4. Enjoy the discount retailing while it lasts.

Dark green leafy vegetables typically have the best nutrient value per dollar. Kale, collards, and broccoli are the biggies. A possible exception are those which have oxalic acid (spinach, chard) which tends to block calcium absorption (if you're concerned about calcium). Costs fluctuate wildly depending on the season, but I'd buy the least expensive, whatever that is, and make dark green leafies a staple. Collards are easy to grow, at least for me, but this probably varies based on your area.

If you're a vegan, you'll probably need a B-12 pill. Currently, B-12 tablets are quite inexpensive; no idea what will happen post-peak, or the energy inputs required to create a B-12 tablet.

no idea what will happen post-peak, or the energy inputs required to create a B-12 tablet.

B-12 (a.k.a. cyanocobalamin) is produced industrially by fermentation culture of one of several bacteria including Pseudomonas denitrificans, Propionibacterium shermanii, and Streptomyces griseus. Same sort of hardware required as is used to make many antibiotics.

Do-able with early 20th century level technology, unlikely in a world of only permaculture eco-cottages in my opinion.

Thanks! Interesting. This gives me a handle on the problem.

This sounds extremely cool, I took some of my whole moong and will see if they sprout!

I moved to Santa Barbara CA in 1966 and soon became a Garrett Hardin fan. Frances Moore Lappe published Diet for a Small Planet in 1971. I expected it to be ignored and bought several copies to give as gifts. As I recall it was initially or almost immediately published as a paperback and became a best seller. It was soon followed by a semi-sequel, with a Lappe introduction - Recipes for a Small Planet. As is well known Lappe emphasized the use of complementary sources of protein to obtain essential amino acids. Lappe was at a meeting which I attended in Santa Barbara. She was having a feud with Garrett Hardin and his followers involving population politics. Nevertheless she influenced me and some of my relatives toward vegetarianism. William F. Buckley garnered some publicity during that period when he claimed that a US resident could live on a food expenditure if about 1$US per day.

“Men and women aren't going to be motivated to practice any form of birth control until they know that most of the children they do bear will survive! As it is now, the only way poor people can provide for their old age is to have several children who will care for them . . . and the only way they can be sure of having enough living offspring is to have many, many births. People must be sure that they can meet their own basic security needs, and that the children they bear will have a reasonable chance to survive, before birth control can be considered a realistic option. Only then, when people have freedom from famine, can conscientious efforts to teach and encourage family planning be successful.”
- Frances Moore Lappe

early 85 i got by on about a $1 a day. got plenty of vegs too; mondays in Keys was mark down day.

Review of a new book on fresh food and the significance of refrigeration: FRESH A perishable history by Susanna Friedberg.

These posts on food are interesting and informative. Yet.

To use less energy in food production, choice, transport, preparation, in the US and GB (only because the available studies come from there), at the *household* level, the number one factor is:

Eliminating the waste of food. So much food is thrown out in the home (not discussing the thrashing of surplus at other levels, industrial processing, local treatment, etc.) that this factor overshadows, trumps all the others.

For US/GB the waste in no. of calories is estimated at between one third and to one half. Goes straight to the garbage/rubbish bin, with other deleterious effects.

Some articles off the top of google:

The interesting thing about most of the mainstream articles off google is that the waste is expressed in tonnage or other measures incomprehensible to most ppl - no meaningful numbers or comparisons are presented. The articles sound like another ‘scare’ about climate, oil, etc. - not a topic that should concern your super housewife or dashing occasional male cook. Who of course are thus implicitly encouraged to continue not BAU (biz as usual) but AAS (actions as usual); others have filthy, disgusting or wasteful habits, but “my” kitchen is impeccable, top standard, etc.

Mindsets and behavior have to be changed first, provided one is sincere about having the greatest effect.

At the other end of the scale (factors with much less weight, and now technological) I would include pots and pans and cooking methods such as stewing vs. stir fry. These are not much discussed but really can contribute to energy efficient food cooking. But see airdale above.

Good pans are expensive and energy is cheap - or so it seems.

re: throwing out still-edible food. You might find this website interesting: However, I can't imagine households throwing away more food than the unsold food thrown away by restaurants and grocery stores.

I was thinking along the same lines recently and was wondering about eating more raw food. For example I just had for lunch a grilled cheese sandwich filled with pea sprouts (from a friend's garden). Yet I could have eaten the whole thing raw, not grilled. Cheese is fine raw, after all, and so are the sprouts. To take it one step further, the bread requires energy to make, but sprouting some wheat berries does not. And the cheese is a greatly volume-reduced form of milk, which is perfectly nutritious for many of us.

So now the meal becomes a pea sprout salad with sprouted wheat berries and a glass of milk. Maybe I would sprinkle a little butter (OK, oil) on that.

I am reminded of this when I try to cook all my own food, and get irritated that the kids prefer apple pie to just sinking their teeth into an apple. Yet, tomato sauce is more nutritious than tomatoes (apparently something in the cooking makes nutrients easier to absorb). So there is a tradeoff, but it is worth thinking how much energy we waste because we can. My kids are big fans of cornbread, but they also love to eat fresh corn cobs off the plant (different types of corn, I know). So cornbread, or grits, is something you may prefer to do when it is not fresh corn season.

There's a lot of habits to change there, and traditions to re-think when energy becomes really scarce.

A salute to Mr. Bradford for yet another outstanding post.
And a group of most excellent comments.
I used to thumb my nose at bread machines, but after reading comments I certainly changed my mind.
Yes, they sound excellent for single loaf bakers, and intermittent bread folks.
And, what a great idea about insulating the machine!!!
My hat's off to you.
Just got done baking 20 loafs of WW bread for Earth Day. Yes, I did hand knead them all, but I'm pretty much used to the kneading, and it lets me get in touch with the yeast. Also it gives the opportunity to discern whether or not it needs more water, or flour, and lets one control the type of loaf you want. Wetter loafs will give different breads than drier ones, and I like to experiment.
I have learned that it is possible to use different amounts of yeast, and this all depends on how much time you allow for rising.
I've used just a few pinches of yeast in my starter batch the night before, and found that by letting them party overnight, they still have enough energy left to raise the rest of the flour the next day. It does take a little longer to do this whole process, but IMO letting fresh ground WW flour interact with the yeast longer, it seems to allow the flavor to come out better.
More yeast gives a quicker rise time and faster bread, but I think it suffers taste-wise.
I am learning by trial and error, that if you let the yeast go too long, they'll get tired and often the bread will fall in the oven.
My fix for this is to both pay attention to the condition of the yeast, and I also add about 1/3 of store-bought white flour to the mix, instead of just whole wheat. This gives a slightly lighter bread, and most people I give it to enjoy it.

My basic bread mix is: 4 c. WW flour, 2 tsp yeast, 4 cups nearly hot water. Mix together and cover in warm place until bulk doubles. Next I add 1 c. misc. flour (barley, oats, etc.) and 3 cups white flour with 1 tsp salt, and occasionally a couple of tsp of sugar or honey. Also I stir in 1/3 cup of oil, but have made bread without the oil. Mix all together and pour out onto your breadboard covered with WW flour. It's sticky, but add more flour and knead until it loses much of its stickiness. You can feel when it's ready, because it is alive. Rub it with oil, and put back into covered bowl until it again doubles in bulk.
Next, drop the bowl or slam it on the countertop to shock the yeast mix and let it de-gas. Punch down about 20 times, and cut up into equal portions to put into your bread pans. Rub butter onto breadpans to help release when done, and it adds a nice flavor. Cover and let rise once more until doubled in bulk. Pop into oven at 350 for about 45 minutes. Done when lightly browned and can thump it with your finger. Also, nice to cut a line in the tops for releasing moisture.
Almost a whole freakin' meal by itself.
Just found a rare old book on oldtime bread baking, and am going to start experimenting. Will post what I learn about this very ancient and subtly complex past-time.

Lillith, thanks for the link to the rocket stove oven, I've been wanting to build one for a long time, and now you have provided plans, which will certainly save a lot of grief.
I still want to build a community solar oven on a small trailer, but am considering using propane as a backup for when the sun disappears. Or maybe even wood. Nothing is such a bummer as losing your sunlight when the bread is partway done....

What a great post, thanks all...!


Lots of good experiences shared. Thanks.

Here is one I have found the hard way. I find it very important to judge the amount of rise and put it in the oven at just the right time.

This way you get what is termed an 'oven bounce'...meaning it continues to expand..and if you slice the top to allow even more expansion you get some very nice rustic looking bread and it rises even further.

However it you wait too late to put it in the oven..then it will not rise anymore and tend to deflate.

Its a real judgement call and technique is what matters. Trial and error , doing and redoing until you just KNOW when the timing is right.

I have never been able to appreciate bread with whole wheat for some reason. Perhaps my being raised without it and developing a different set of taste buds.

To me the choicest of all is nicely done yeast rolls. My grandmother used to bake these and anyone passing by on a horse or buggy or later car would tend to stop and sample some. All on a wood fired cook stove.

There is a pretty well known restaurant over in Sikeston, Mo. called Throwed Rolls aka Lammerts. They are famous for their rolls. As well as their other cooking. Its usually very crowded and the vast crowds has tended to somewhat reduce the quality but its still way up there.

Airdale-they call it Throwed Rolls cause Norman(who has since passed on) used to roll out a tray of rolls and throw them to who ever raised their hands for a catch. I have seen him toss them clear across the dining room. Then they come around with a can of homemade molasses to pour on them. They cook all their own food. Nothing frozen or preprocessed AFAIK. An outstanding place to eat a good dinner or supper.

Post that recipe for the rolls if you can remember it.
The old book I'm reading says that the French could (then) only use 4 ingredients to make legitimate F. Bread. They were water, flour, salt and yeast. However under law they could also use a bit of rye, fava bean flour, and tiny bits of vitamin C.
Any other ingredients and they were not allowed to call it "French" bread. Interesting.
And, using just these 4 ingredients, they were able to make many different tastes, crusts, etc.
There are whole new dimensions of complexities to explore. Wow.
Going to have to try capturing some air yeast pretty soon as it warms up, and see if I can finally get the hang of sourdough breads. I've got a nice ceramic pot to keep it in, and would appreciate any input on cultivating and using this style of starter...?
I like to try adding different grains to my flours, and last week I added some corn that I ground up. Obviously I used way too much corn flour, as the loaves are now little bricks sitting on my desk, laughing at me. They are solid enough to build a house out of, certainly, and it's going to be awhile before I try corn again.
On another subject, does anyone have experience making crackers? Something I'd like to try with a little advice. Crackers, unlike my breads won't spoil and mold quite so quickly, and make pretty long-term storables. My breads will spoil in well under a week, so I freeze any that are not needed to give out later. I've heard that adding a spoon of vinegar will delay spoilage, but don't really like that idea, as I'm a purist snob, I guess.... Crackers, on the other hand, should store much longer.

And finally, after making bread, I clean the breadboard and religiously wipe it with mineral oil, which reputedly will not allow any bacteria to grow. Then I put it away, and only use it for bread.

Thanks again to Jason for keeping this kind of fascinating fireside chat going.

Nothing like a good hot wholesome cooked grain cereal for breakfast.
I've found that a lot of grains are especially good after toasting. You can either pop them into the solar oven until they get brown and toasty, or cook them over medium heat on a woodstove or electric/gas range. The latter method requires that you give them lots of attention, as they will quickly burn. I use a nice deep cast iron pan, generally cooked over charcoal briquettes which to me is better at maintaining a medium heat than wood. Of course you have to shake the pan every minute or so, especially when the grains start to pop.
You can tell when they're done by the color and the smell.
Wheat, brown rice, oats and barley are great, and smell incredibly good. Millet, not so great, and haven't tried amaranth or rye yet.
I grind them fairly coarse, and cook them in lightly salted boiling water for about 12-15 minutes. Use 1 part cereal to 4 parts water, and stir the cereal in SLOWLY so they don't lump then lower the heat. A spoon or two of honey in the water is nice, and when done, I add a pat of butter, and use real milk. Don't use that crappy blue milk, use real half and half for an outstanding breakfast.

Well I really don't have a recipe for yeast rolls.

But I have an old timey bread recipe and I usually make rolls using it sorta as a guide. I think I used to use soft flour or maybe sometimes all-purpose but never bread flour..never.

But here is what I do.

Put about 1/2 cups of whole milk in a saucepan. Add a couple tablespoons of lard. A tablespoon of salt(there has to be enough salt in bread for the real taste to come thru) and then scald the mike. Not to a boil,just so its sort of scalded. You could scald the milk and then add the lard and salt..let it cool down to lukewarm...then put some warm water mhhh 1/2 cup in a cup and about a tablespoon of yeast. Let it dissolve good. Then put all this in your bread bowl and start adding flour. How much is a call. You want a soft sorta tad towards wetish dough. I mix just a bit of flour to get all the stuff together then start adding flour. I use a wooden spoon to mix it with. After you get enough flour to make it stiff then let it sit for a while. ...Seems to me that if I had used soft flour(biscuit type) that it might have stayed sticky so I likely use all-purpose.

It goes thru a stage after a bit where it loses its stickiness. I add more flour and when the stickiness is gone I put it on my bread board and knead it. When you think it is right then back in the bread bowl after you clean it and smear lard around it or maybe olive oil or canola in a spray can. Let it rise. Before it uses up the yeast knead it one more time then start pulling off golf ball size pieces. Mess with it with your hands til you got a nice size ball ,,maybe just a tad bigger than a golf ball,,depends on how high you want your rolls to be.

I use a bread pan with about 3 inch sides. I already smeared it with some lard. Put them close together. Let rise some and when risen enough bake them. They bake real fast.

From there on its simple. Take them out of the pan after they shrink a bit but not too long. Cool on a grill or whatever. Don't cover with plastic wrap until they are totally cool..I just cover mine with a kitchen towel.

You have to experiement with the above. You will know when your getting there. They will rise very high and the insides will be very light and fluffy. You want them to mushroom over the sides of the bread pan. My small pans hold about 6 nice sized ones. Each roll is about as wide as you hand.

Try it.Let me know.By he way...I forgot something. After the milk scalds put two or three tablespoons of honey in it and then the lard and salt. If you taste this concoction you will get an idea of what the bread will taste like.

Airdale-if your don't like lard,many don't you might use crisco

Well I stumbled on my old yeast roll recipe.

Here it is verbatim:

2 cup milk
4 T sugar(I use honey)
1/2 cup fat(I use lard,maybe butter might work)
2 t salt
1 yeast cake or package
1/4 cup lukewarm water
6 cup flour(I use all purpose

Scald milk. Add sugar(honey),fat and salt and allow to cool until lukewarm(warm to wrist). Add yeast dissolved in the 1/4 cup lukewarm water and then mix with enough flour to make as soft a dough as can be handled. Knead lightly a few minutes to obtain a smooth surface. Place dough in a well-greased bowl, brush with melted fat(butter perhaps) and cover bowl with cloth. Set in a warm place and allow to rise until light. Bake at 375 to 400 for 15 to 20 minutes.

For sweet rolls make it with 1/3 cup sugar and 2 eggs.

u guys are makin me hungry!

Cooking has always been a mystery to me. I do buy lots of frozen dinners, generally of the low calorie variety. I am amazed at how inexpensive they are. I am interested in tasty low calorie breads such as bagels and English muffins and in high fiber cereals. It is difficult to find cereals containing no sugar. I love low calorie ice cream substitutes. The best Carbolite that I have found is in Malibu near the Colony.
---I have fond memories of certain food items from my grandfather's Missouri farm and my mother's Texas home. Of particular note is a Christmas cookie tradition dating to early 20'th Century, home made bread with a starter that had been handed down for decades and home made ice cream that was so cold that it made ones eyes ache.

A group oven is more energy efficient than a one or two loaf oven.

I am fortunate to live 7 blocks from Leidenheimer Bakery

There bread is good enough that they air freight out about a third of their production (I once saw a glimpse of their distinctive wrapper behind the swinging doors of a restaurant in Phoenix (and the rolls seemed familiar), so I asked the waiter and was proudly told that "Yes we bring in bread from New Orleans every day".

Air freighting bread will surely disappear post-Peak Oil, but the local bakery will not. Massive reserves of wheat stored in silos for export nearby (enough for generations in New Orleans), and enough natural gas production for essentials like baking bread "en masse".

I do disagree with Airdale, I have eaten far more than my share of Kentucky country cooking, including home smoked hams (a hobby of an uncle, a dentist in Hopkinsville KY). I will take a crab omelet (made from crab that was crawling 36 hours before), home made fig preserves and fresh squeezed orange juice from Plaquemines Parish# at Surrey's for breakfast.

# Raising citrus in mud rather than sand gives a stronger flavor that I very much like.

Best Hopes for regional cuisine,


New Orleans always promised adventure. Besides the strange food and chicory coffee one could enjoy extra strong Picayune cigarettes and especially the exotic vegetarian entertainer Lily Christine

When I was in school in Biloxi I ate as the Biloxians. Seafood, including flounder and shrimp right off the boat.

When I was in Hawaii for many years I ate quite a bit of oriental and south sea islander food. I too this day still eat with chopsticks when I go to a Hunans or oriental restaurant.

When in San Jose I also ate what the cuisine was there.

However I was born and raised on Kentucky/Southern food and that is what I loved and still do.

So that is what the recipes I offer are of. Many will still claim that good southern cooking is hard to beat.

Of course there are those who diss biscuits,ham and such.

Great. Leaves more for me.

I did once visit New Orleans while at Biloxi. I didn't get a chance to visit any eateries there. But I will note that unless someone has changed the rules that Louisana is still considered to be a southern state.

I like all 'good' food. But I will not eat trash. So I very rarely go to a place that uses freeze-dried junk food and calls it real food.
All franchises mostly.

If the Good Lord don't care and the creeks don't flood out then I will surely one day make it back to NOLA and try some of those funny biscuit/doughnuts they make. And some cajun style home cookerery.

But I shan't be visiting the French Quarter again like I did in sometime back in the late 50s.

Best hopes for righteous cooking where ever it be,

I totally agree with good food and staying away from franchises. Over 20 years since I last pulled into McDonalds on a long trip.

I was raised on Southern cooking (both my parents from Kentucky, mother from Centertown, which is near Beaver Dam & Hartford KY). Currently in Georgetown helping care for her.

But New Orleans has always been set apart from the rest of the South. Culinary and culturally. French from 1718, and Spanish too. With some justification, we can call ourselves the northernmost Caribbean city as well, and we are certainly a major international port, with all the influences that brings.

My uncle gave up smoking hams a decade ago (his age) and I still miss them occasionally, but I would much rather give that up than crab omelets or oyster and artichoke soup.

Give me some warning when you come down, and I will fatten up you up !

Best Hopes,


There is a farmer in Muhlenberg Cty. Near unto Greenville.

His farm is called Scotts Hams...and his is the best damned cured ham I have eaten in a long long time. His bacon is superb. Beware though that it is salt cured and quite dry. '

I cooked a pan full 5 days ago and let it sit on the counter. Its still just the same as the day I cooked it. The ham comes very close to the quality of Prosciutto from Italy. Could be eaten without frying as some tend to do but I like mine slighty browned.

If your near Muhlenberg(right down by the green river where Paradise once laided) then check him out. He is way up a one lane road but UPS and Fedex beat a path there daily.

This is called 'niche farming' since with tobacco shot and not much rowcropping there many small farmers are hard put so they are turning back to small niche things. Like cured meats. BBQ. Crafts and so forth. This is a part of Ky that I am proud to be in the same state with.

But the hill and creeks are full of poison. From the strip mining. Yet you can cover your eyes and pretend that its not there for what is left is nice green rolling hills with cattle on the hillsides and hogs in the lot. Not too many huge chicken farms did I note.

Airdale-and his prices seem to go up very slowly...and be sure to have someone there put an icepick into the ham to test just in case for mold on the bone. Smells good? Its fine. I do that since I drive far enough that I can't return one easily and welllll...I always one from a city store and it was never buy them in city stores. BTW most women folk will not eat this bacon...more for me!

When I buy ham in New Orleans, I, like most of the locals, insist on Chisesi's ham. 5th generation in training in the business.

The bought out their rival, Schott's, a generation ago but kept the recipes.

Not country cured, but a nice and unique flavor. Great quality.

Best Hopes for Good Food,


According to Yahoo Maps, it is just 22.76 miles from Greenville to Centertown, KY, my mother's home town.

And yes, in the 40+ years of my memory, that country has lost FAR too much to strip mining. I can tell "reclaimed land" at a glance. Yellow creeks and more.


Over 20 years since I last pulled into McDonalds on a long trip.

So that was you

Glad I had my camera.

Send some of that bread to Ky and I will surely buy some.

For the record I sometimes buy Amish bread at an Amish store not too far from the farm...but their cinnamon rolls really do need more work.



It was on one of the Campfires or somewhere else in TOD that people were lamenting the lack of simple timers. I don't recall if for cooking or whatever.

But instead of looking in vain for one that is not electronic there is a simple solution.

Use a old fashioned windup clock. Like a mantle clock. They usually strike the quarter hours as well as the hour and half hour. Just by listening for the strikes you can tell approx how much time has elapsed.

For better definition just tune you ear to the tick-tocks.

I am lubing one of my old ones right now when this idea came to me.
It has been stopping intermittently and so I am cleaning the springs and pivots then reoiling them. I use brake cleaner spray on to clean them then use 'BreakFree' ,which is a gun oil that has teflon in it.

I put just a very small drop on each pivot 'valley' where the indented cup is on each pivot. And spray the springs.

These old clocks I learned to repair from an old friend of my uncles who was once the town's jeweler and repairman. He even took a stab at my Rolex but didn't have the tools to work on it but he fixed a couple of my old railroad watches and a mantle clock.

When TSHTF we will savor these old time pieces.