The last ten days have proven to be a true test of Chennai’s character, and I could not have been prouder of how the citizens choose to act in a situation of such duress. It is the worst flood that Chennai has seen in the last 100 years
I am not in a position to contribute financially, nor am I in geographical proximity of the rescue operations in order to volunteer. However, I’m going to try and do my part and raise awareness. Now, my writing about food is rather whimsical on many occasions, talking about cake, or pasta or pizza and their many wonderful flavours and textures. However, it is crucial for all of us to remember that food constitutes a significant part of our sustenance. In situations like this, there are a few guidelines you would need to follow in order to ensure food supplies are safe to consume
- Stock up
This is the first and the most important step. As far as possible, stock up on food items that do not require elaborate preparations, or if possible, no preparation at all. Think of items such as bread, jam, chocolates (for quick glucose and/or energy), ready to eat chapatis, packets of potato or tapioca chips. If you have traditional snacks such as murukkus or chakklis lying around, they too are good for consumption because of their shelf life.
- Do not rely on electricity
A lot of us are surprisingly reliant on electricity to cook. This could be in the form of microwave ovens, electric kettles, electric rice cookers, air fryers, toasters, sandwich makers, induction stoves etc. These gadgets were invented to make our lives easier; but in a situation where the electricity supply is uncertain, you cannot rely on these to cook. It helps to ensure access to a traditional gas stove in order to prepare hot food for immediate consumption.
- Keep it simple
When preparing food, keep it as simple as possible. Instant noodles and soups work well here. Similarly, while cooking traditional food, keep it limited to one main dish and one vegetable curry. Rice works well in this situation because all you need is a pressure cooker and a gas connection. Vegetables such as carrots, potatoes, beetroot, onions, garlic etc do not spoil easily even in the absence of a refrigerator.
- Store, do not hoard
All food must be properly stored in containers. If there are vessels that contain food, ensure it is properly covered. In a state of panic, it may be tempting to buy as much food as you can get your hands on. However, when you’re in a situation where you have access to actually buying food, please do not hoard. Bear other people in mind, because when resources are scarce, everyone deserves an equal share.
- In case of flooding
Food is more important now than ever in order to keep your energy up. Pack a bag that contains essentials such as money, your cellphone, a power bank, etc and carry food as well. If you can get your hands on energy bars, they are the most convenient in this situation. If not, carry chocolate and chips and traditional snacks such as thattai, murukku, adhirsam and so on. These south indian snacks can be preserved without refridgeration, are good for immediate consumption and are a good source of energy. For that matter, Gujarati snacks also work exceptionally well. Think of dishes such as theplas, khakras and khandvi. They need no refridgeration or airtight containers to be stored in and are good for quick consumption.
Store food in packets or Ziploc covers rather than dabbas as boxes add unnecessary weight to your bag and tend to take up space.
- Beware of diseases
With rains and flooding come diseases such as cholera, malaria and dengue. As far as possible, try to make sure your water is boiled before drinking. This simple precaution alone can prevent a lot of water borne diseases. If you cannot ensure your water is boiled, try to make sure it is from a safe source, such as a sealed bottle or from one of those 20 litre water cans.
- Stay together
Staying united with your friends, family and neighbours. Do not hesitate to help each other out with resources, be it milk, oil or vegetables. I will say no more on this front because my people, the ones with hearts of gold; do not need to be told these things.
To all the residents of Chennai, I will just say this. Stay strong, and the whole goddamn world is praying for you. You will get through this and show the world how things are done. I’m already proud of how you’ve acted, and I am proud of this city that I call my home town.