Today, we have an interview with Lauren Wilson, the author of The Art of Eating through the Zombie Apocalypse. We also have a recipe straight from the book: Overnight of the Living Dead French Toast. Enjoy!
Which recipe is your favorite?
Oooooh great question! I have so many for different reasons! Some (like Overnight of the Living Dead French Toast) because it just tastes so darn good, and others (like Back to Basics Bannock) because they, to me, truly represent how tough it will be to eat well during the zpoc. I have a real soft spot for the Geedunk Magical Layer Bars because writing the MRE chapter was a lot of fun. These army rations have such an interesting backstory and represent some truly ingenious food preservation technologies yet they (somewhat deservedly) get a bad rap among soldiers and have garnered some pretty hilarious nicknames like “Materials Resembling Edibles” and “Meals Rejected by Everyone.” There’s not much to dislike about the Geedunk Magical Layer Bars, though – brownies and peanut butter and M&Ms – this recipe was a great mash-up of various MRE components!
How did you come up with the recipes?
All the recipe ideas were driven by what I imagine the food landscape would be like during a zombie apocalypse. I also tried to follow a loose chronology that reflects how that landscape would change as the zpoc wore on. From there it was a matter of using common ingredients that most North Americans would either have at home and/or could find roaming the wasteland or out in the wild.
Which recipe was the most fun to test?
I loved making the Blackberry Mead because it astonished me how easy it was to make tasty alcoholic beverages at home, and really all of the fermented foods in the Putting Up chapter were a lot of fun to test. Fermenting is a technique and topic that I knew little about before starting the book and I GEEKED OUT while doing this chapter. I must give a shout out to Sandor Elix-Katz for his amazing book The Art of Fermentation, which was my bible for that chapter and contains a wealth of information.
Which recipe was the least fun to test?
The freeze-dried and dehydrated foods in Cooking in a Well-Stocked Safehouse were a challenge. These foods would be extremely valuable in a zpoc (or any emergency situation) but they do get a bad rap for being, shall we say, less than tasty. But with a little work I was able to figure out ways to make things like freeze dried beef chunks and powdered eggs more palatable – it was a matter of figuring out each ingredient’s strengths and weaknesses and playing up the strengths.
Perhaps the most memorable test, though, was for the insect recipes in the Urban Hunting & Foraging chapter. The UPS fellow who delivered my live insects seemed very confused and said to me, horrified, “I think there are live bugs in there!” The dispatching of said critters was tough. I took the easy way out and, offering copious apologies while doing so, popped them in the freezer – this is the most humane way of killing them.
Where there recipes that you created that weren't included in the book that you now wish you could add?
Yes! There were lots. While geeking out about fermentation I wrote a whole section on making cheese from fresh raw milk (assuming you could get your hands on some dairy cattle, of course) that had to be cut for length (I wrote enough to fill two books!). I also wrote two additional chapters for Long-Haul Bug Out Locales that involved a hunter-gatherer strategy for Idaho and taking over an Old Order Amish farm in Mississippi that I had a lot of fun putting together.
Bugging In or Nouveau Home Cuisine
The recipes here are quick, simple, calorie rich, and, perhaps most importantly, comforting. Yes, that’s right, they’re the zpoc equivalent of the post-financial-crisis comfort food trend. So get ready for warm, indulgent, and satisfying meals that can be fixed in a jiffy and/or need minimal attendance. These recipes are geared to the first days of the outbreak—when the power is either still running or has just gone out—and so, will focus on perishable ingredients that most people would have on hand in their refrigerators and freezers
Overnight of the Living Dead French Toast
Yields: 4 Hungry Survivor servings, 6 Regular Joe servings
Welcome to the zombie apocalypse! Tomorrow is a big day: you will be losing your head (hopefully not literally) trying to fend off the newly infected. On top of that, those pesky little weak spots in your fortress will surely present themselves, leaving you overwhelmed with survival and physical defense–focused activities.
Before you go to sleep tonight (if it even seems safe to do so), why not plan ahead for breakfast? Not only will it help use up some of your perishables (milk, eggs, butter, bread), it will also give you a calorie-rich jumpstart to your undead-filled day.
If the power has already gone out, reduce the amount of time you soak the bread to a couple of hours and use an Oven Hack (page 6) to cook this bad boy.
Chef’s or survival knife and cutting board
1 bread knife
1 small mixing bowl
1 mixing spoon
1 fireproof baking dish (preferably 7" x 11")
1 large bowl
1 whisk (or fork)
Piece of foil, to cover baking dish
Indirect, conventional oven or other Oven Hack (page 6)
10 minutes prep
4-8 hours inactive soaking time
35 minutes unattended cooking time
¼ c. (4 tbsp.) butter, melted
½ c. brown sugar
12 oz. bread (challah, raisin, French baguette, Wonder—whatever you got, preferably a mix of several different kinds), sliced into strips 2–3 fingers wide
½ c. dried cranberries or raisins
2 tbsp. granulated sugar
1 ½ c. milk, cream, or combination
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground nutmeg
½ tsp. ground ginger
Pinch of salt
3 tbsp. rum, orange liqueur, or brandy (optional)
1 c. nuts (walnuts, pecans, or almonds), roughly chopped and preferably toasted
Maple syrup, to taste
1. Mix together the melted butter and brown sugar in a small mixing bowl. Spread the mixture along the bottom of the baking dish.
2. Put down a layer of bread fingers, overlapping and filling gaps where needed. Sprinkle with dried fruit. Repeat with remaining bread and fruit.
3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk eggs and granulated sugar together until the sugar has dissolved, about 1 minute. Add the milk/cream, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, pinch of salt, and liquor/liqueur (if using). Whisk until incorporated.
4. Pour the custard over the bread and dried fruit, sweeping back and forth to moisten the whole top layer, filling any nooks and crannies. Cover with foil and let sit for 2 hours (no refrigeration) or at least 4 hours to overnight (in the fridge).
5. Preheat oven (for perhaps the last time!) to 375°F or set up an Oven Hack (see Judging Temperature, page 7).
6. Remove foil from the baking dish and sprinkle with the toasted nuts (if using). Drizzle lightly with maple syrup.
7. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes, then cover and bake for another 15 minutes to avoid overbrowning. Check after 20 minutes or so—cooking time will vary widely depending on your setup.
8. The French toast is ready when the custard at the center feels set (i.e., not jiggly, squishy, or raw). Let stand for 5–10 minutes, then drizzle liberally with more maple syrup before tucking in.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Lauren was infected with a rare strain of undead enthusiasm over a decade ago while fighting off the zombie menace of Raccoon City in the original Resident Evil. From video games to comic books, zombie walks to online communities, there are few corners of the culture she has not explored. And she’s got a decent zed t-shirt collection, to boot.
When not nerding out about zombies, space, or Adventure Time, Lauren works in the world of food as a professional cook and writer. Since completing her culinary training at Toronto's George Brown Chef School in 2008 she has done a variety of work—from restaurant cooking to cheesemongering, online sales to catering, teaching cooking classes to writing for print and online media. She completed research and course development work at George Brown examining the career motivations, ambitions, and expectations of students with the aim of better understanding low female representation at the executive level of professional kitchens.
After eating up all the good bits of Toronto, Lauren followed a trail of crumbs to Brooklyn, where she is cooking, eating, writing, and teaching happily.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
You duck into the safest-looking abandoned house you can find and hold your breath as you listen for the approaching zombie horde you’ve been running from all day. You hear a gurgling sound. Is it the undead? No—it’s your stomach.
When the zombie apocalypse tears down life and society as we know it, it will mean no more take out, no more brightly lit, immaculately organized aisles of food just waiting to be plucked effortlessly off the shelves. No more trips down to the local farmers’ market. No more microwaved meals in front of the TV or intimate dinner parties. No, when the undead rise, eating will be hard, and doing it successfully will become an art.
The Art of Eating through the Zombie Apocalypse is a cookbook and culinary field guide for the busy zpoc survivor. With more than 75 recipes (from “No Knead To Panic Bread” and “Apocalypse Soup for the Survivor's Soul” to “Pasta Aglio e Oh No!,” “Down and Out Sauerkraut,” and “Twinkie Trifle”), scads of gastronomic survival tips, and dozens of diagrams and illustrations that help you scavenge, forage, and improvise your way to an artful post-apocalypse meal. The Art of Eating is the ideal handbook for efficient food sourcing and inventive meal preparation in the event of an undead uprising.
Whether you decide to hole up in your own home or bug out into the wilderness, whether you prefer to scavenge the dregs of society or try your hand at apocalyptic agriculture, and regardless of your level of skill or preparation, The Art of Eating will help you navigate the wasteland and make the most of what you eat.
Just because the undead’s taste buds are atrophying doesn’t mean yours have to!
Do you want to win a copy of The Art of Eating Through the Zombie Apocalypse? Here's your chance. I will be giving away one copy of The Art of Eating Through the Zombie Apocalypse. US/Canada only. Once I have chosen the winner via Rafflecopter, I will email the winner to ask for his/her shipping details, which I will then forward to BenBella Books. Prize fulfillment will be done by BenBella Books. Ready? Enter below:
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