You Can Buy a Year's Worth of Post-Apocalypse Food for $10,000, but How Does It Taste?
I never expected freeze-dried food would cross my path as a food critic. I was in Park City, Utah for this year's Association of Food Journalists conference recently, and food storage was the topic of one of the scheduled discussions. I was hoping the presentation would feature a cute old lady with glass jars and a pressure cooker, but instead of learning the finer points of putting up summer peaches I got a detailed discussion on stockpiling food for decades.
Freeze-dried food is one way to assure your existence when the world as we know it ends.
Between Mormons following religious direction and otherwise prudent individuals, it's estimated that up to 25 percent of Utah residents are sitting on a three-month supply of food. Some fill food safe buckets with rice, grains and other staples, but a growing number are buying collections of elaborate, freeze-dried meals in self-contained pouches.
The latter option can be expensive. Daily Bread, a Utah-based company that offers storable food and emergency supplies, sells a yearlong meal plan for a family of five that costs nearly $10,000. Their freeze-dried products have a shelf life of 25 years, and according to CEO Mark Hyland they're delicious.
Food storage techniques and statistics were interesting enough, but it was "delicious" that really pricked up my ears. I wanted to know how food that was frozen to temperatures rarely seen on earth, zapped of its moisture and stuffed in an airtight bag for a decade, could actually taste good. I also wondered what it would feel like to eat freeze-dried food for a year after some unfathomable catastrophic disaster, but mostly I wanted an excuse to validate what I knew I was about to do. Hyland had handed out samples of his products and I was about to eat all of them.
I'm not entirely new to freeze-dried foods. I grew up an hour away from the Smithsonian in Washington D.C., and a trip to the Air and Space Museum wasn't complete without a packaged of freeze-dried ice cream. It comes in a multi-colored brick the size of a Klondike bar and has the consistency and flavor of aerated chalk. I'd eat my "astronaut" ice cream on the walk back to the subway, taunted by an endless line of street carts covered in pictures of Drumsticks and push pops, while other children painted their faces with the real deal. This happened once a year for more years than I'm willing to admit.
Astronaut marketing no longer causes my pupils to dilate, though, and even the ice cream sold by street vendors tastes waxy to me now. I wondered if the technology used to preserve foods had advanced significantly in the past few decades. What if freeze-dried food really was delicious now? Certainly for Hyland to call a product delicious in font of a room of journalists and food critics had to take a significant amount of confidence.