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Monday, December 18, 2006

The Anti-diet, rations from the World Food Programme

I'm exploring a different side of food here today on Chez Pim. Not the usual romp among the delights of gastronomy, but a more realistic look, perhaps, at the state of the world. A couple of days ago, a package arrived from the World Food Programme headquarter in Rome. Inside the box were a few examples of typical emergency ration distributed by the WFP to the hungry and needy around the world. Greg Barrows of the WFP suggested I try them. I thought that might be fun, so I said yes.

I know, I know, it was glib of me to think that something like that might be fun. But in my defense, I could hardly help it, food is fun for me, and for many of you too I'm sure. It's only when I opened the package that the reality of the situation set in. The stuff they sent looked more than grim. I wondered to myself if I should talk about those rations at all, if juxtaposing High Energy Biscuits –that look sort of like compacted sawdust- with the usual talk of fancy food around here would just be too, you know, weird or heartless or...something.

But then I decided I'd do it. I would try them all, and then I would blog them even. Not that trying these rations would make me understand what it's like to be starving, but perhaps it might teach me a little something. We might never willingly give up our indulgences, but if this awareness inspires us to share even a little of what we have, it might do us -and the world- a bit of good.

So, let's see, shall we?

The first box that caught my eyes was something called "BP-5 Compact Emergency Food". The notation that came with it said that it's useful in natural disaster or displacement situation where people might be stranded and have no means to cook food. The paper box had the label on one side, and on the other quite a cute set of illustration in lieu of usage instructions, obviously intending to be universally understood. Inside the paper box was yet another packaging, this time aluminum foil printed with the full nutritional values. Inside the foil pacgake are the compact food bars, wrapped in pairs in paper. Each bar pack quite a punch, with 8 grams of protein, 9 grams of fat, and over 30 grams of carb. This aint no Slim Fast bar I tell you. Kat of Kungfoodie commented on my Flickr stream that this is modern day Lembas bread. (You are geeky enough to know that Elven food, yes?) I suppose it is.

These bars look kind of grim, sort of like compacted sawdust. I picked one up...doesn't smell that bad really, something like toasted oat or wheat. It doesn't taste half bad either. I wouldn't say it tastes good by any means, but sort of pleasantly toasty and slightly sweet, though I must admit the texture bothered me a bit. But then again I've had things that tasted far worse at some of the world's fanciest restaurants.

The second item I tried was a package of High Energy Biscuits. The foil package said that it's a gift from Iceland to the World Food Programme. I guess this qualifies as the first Icelandic food I've ever tried. These biscuits are not entirely awful either. I'd say they are rather inoffensive tasting stuff, sort of taste like what you think a biscuit would –albeit slightly stale, and obviously suffered a bit in transit.

There was also a small green package with a Sponge Bob-looking character on it. It's apparently some sort of wafer, and it might even have some chocolate in it. I didn't get to try it because it came with a note warning me that it's 'past its sell by date.' That might not deter me usually, but the wafer was produced in Iraq for Iraqi children –an example of locally produced food items funded by WFP- and the package was covered in Arabic...which means I couldn't quite figure out exactly how long past the date it, in fact, was. Call me a wimp but I took a pass.

The last and final item was perhaps the most interesting. It's what they called CSB, or Corn Soya Blend, a mixture of corn, soy and vitamins. It's the stuff that WFP use to feed starving people in Africa, for example. Apparently they ship over half a million tons of it a year. It's usually cooked simply with water to make mush or porridge.

Recently the WFP sent a sample of CSB to some of the most famous chefs in the world to cook with and serve to their customers. It's a sort of quirky awareness campaign, uniting the world's richest with the poorest through food or something like that.

I thought it might be fun to do something with the CSB that they sent me. The powdery CSB in its raw form smells like peanuts to me, so I made a batch of peanut butter cookies with it. I used a peanut butter cookie recipe from an old cook book by my friend and Menu for Hope II's European host, David Lebovitz. I had to change the proportion a bit, adding an extra egg because the batter was a little too dry for example. The cookies came out not so bad at all, in fact.


Menuforhopelogo_3Don't forget to check on our list of great prizes and get your raffle ticket(s) today. Help us support the great work that the WFP is doing. If you've supported Menu for Hope already, thank you so much. Did you see we made just about $25K already!?!

You might also want to check our regional host blogs which will be highlighting great prizes that you may have not noticed yet throughout the week.

US West Coast: Becks and Posh
US East Coast: The Amateur Gourmet
US (the rest): Kalyn's Kitchen
Canada: Cardamom Addict
Europe and UK: Davidlebovitz.com
Asia Pacific/Australia/New Zealand: Grab Your Fork

And for wine related prizes: Vinography

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