Asteroid apocalypse presents unique culinary challenges

Remain calm, but according to this graphic, the asteroids have us completely surrounded.

Recent apocalyptic buzz has moved from zombies to the slightly more realistic threat of asteroids. And for good reason. At the end of September, Russian scientists reported a 15-meter-long meteor that whizzed by a mere 11,300 kilometers away from the planet’s surface.

Also this year, we all saw the footage from the dashboard cameras of freaked out Russians that showed an object exploding in the Siberian sky with the force of 20 Hiroshima-sized bombs. Scientists call this a “city-buster.”

On the other hand, a larger rock which threatens to strike the Earth in either 2029 or 2036 is a “nation-buster.” Its force would be closer to 20,000 Hiroshima bombs.

The scientific community is abuzz with debate over the likelihood of a collision, but one thing remains abundantly clear. If the asteroid, Apophis— named for the Greek god of anxiety (no, really)—actually does connect, the effects could be cataclysmic.

With the cataclysm would come a whole new class of culinary challenges. Below is a quick run-down of my top 5 Asteroid Apocalypse Culinary Quandaries and accompanying suggested solutions.

1. The Death of Salad?

The skies may be darkened with ashes, partially blocking out the sun. So the first thing to go will be salad. For that matter, tender, leafy greens in general should be hit the hardest and the fastest. Tomatoes too, and for that matter any greenhouse crop.

Now, this may not sound like the biggest problem, but think about it. Most of our favorite non-salad-related dishes depend heavily on fresh veggies. They balance out dishes which are otherwise too heavy. Imagine a BLT with neither L nor T. Just salt and grease on toast then, isn’t it? Even if you don’t love salad, these foods are probably a central part of your diet.

And don’t forget one of the most versatile and tender of herbs, basil. The death of basil means the end of Caprese salads, Margarita pizzas, just about every worthwhile marriage of tomatoes and cheese. And pesto. What of pesto?

The loss of tomatoes might be the hardest to take. I won’t bore you with a list of things that contain tomato, but soon after the asteroid hits they will run out. I expect nothing less than anarchy when they do. No pizza. No ketchup. No fun. Plan accordingly.

2. Mushrooms are the New Everything

While  greens might suffer, it should be a banner year for mushrooms. Granted, only certain types will thrive. Anything that depends on plants, like chanterelles and truffles, may be just as screwed as the rest of us. But shiitake or oyster, forget about it. Fresh and plentiful anywhere you find rotting wood.

3. Think Soup

Now, if the sun is obscured by a toxic layer of dust and ash, you can expect it to get a bit chilly. So, I’m thinking soup. Here's a recipe I recommend any time an asteroid hits the earth. It’s a nice tomato-rosemary soup, made from several ingredients that keep and/or loot well in an apocalypse-like scenario. It is a fine way to enjoy the last of the tomatoes as you wait for the skies to choke what life remains on Earth. Heck, I even enjoy this soup when it’s just rainy.

Or, try this delicious recipe for Apocalypse Tomato Soup

4. Prepare for Added Tartness

Another thing to expect from the global dust cloud is acid rain. This is a particularly tricky problem for those of us committed to apocalyptic gastronomy and I can think of only one good road from lemon to lemonade on this one: pickling.

Not only is it a way of putting acidic water to work, it is also a great way to preserve your remaining produce before it decays into mold and food for fruit flies. You'd be amazed at how many things you can pickle. Almost any vegetable, properly-treated, makes a great pickle, as do many fruits. If you have never had a pickled peach or apricot, then go find some.

You’re welcome.

5. Prepare for a Long Winter

The secret is good planning. Expect the world to resemble a giant root cellar for a very long time. Store potatoes, onions, and dry or canned goods. Many fruits store well in these conditions as well. This time of year is the last chance to get apples and pears in bulk. So go get some apples. Lots of apples. But most of all, keep it simple with lots of comfort food like stews and mushroom-heavy dishes. No need to make the apocalypse any more stressful than it already is. Life is stressful enough already.  

Particularly right now.  Did you know NASA monitors potential impact by asteroids through its Near Earth Object Program and that the U.S. Government shut down means...no one official's watching for what's coming at us.  Until the Tea Party and Obama come up with a compromise, the only plan is “Everybody look up.”

The reality is that Apophis probably won’t hit in either 2029 or 2036. Even if it does, it’s not big enough to plunge us into an endless, apocalyptic winter. But still, if Mt. Tambora’s eruption in 1815 could cause the year without a summer, then surely a condo-sized asteroid could lead to a year without fresh salad.

Get your pantry ready.

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