Our world of convenience has caused most Americans to lose touch with the work involved in food. Self-reliance takes a lot more than throwing some seeds on a patch of dirt and then magically being fed for a year. Grabbing a “quick” sandwich or bowl of cereal belies what it actually takes to procure those ingredients.
We take a lot for granted. We don’t think about life without things like specialized supply purveyors, large-scale agriculture, cheap labor, machines for manufacturing, and the transportation system. Very few people can imagine life without the accessibility provided to us by grocery stores and processed food. Even in the circles of those who stick closely to a non-processed diet, few go all the way.
A video from Andy George, of the awesome show How to Make Everything, explores what it really takes to make a homemade chicken sandwich. The video blogger spent 6 months, $1500, and countless hours in pursuit of a meal that most of us would consider fairly simple. (Warning for the squeamish: an animal is butchered for meat in this video.)
In an interview after he made the video George said, “”I respect that I can go into the store and buy this ready-made stuff so I don’t have to do it, but also enjoy the do-it-yourself experience and respect the people who want to make it on their own.”
Here’s what it takes to make a sandwich without the conveniences of stores and market transportation systems:
- Plant the wheat and vegetables.
- Tend your crops.
- Harvest your crops.
- Mill your wheat.
- Grind the wheat to turn it into flour.
- Go to the ocean and get salt water.
- Distill it to make salt.
- Raise a chicken.
- Kill the chicken.
- Clean and butcher the chicken.
- Bake bread.
- Cook chicken.
- Make the sandwich.
How this sandwich relates to preparedness and self-reliance
From a preparedness point of view, George’s video is pretty enlightening. I’ve written a lot about the production of food and the unsustainability of our current diets should a disaster strike that renders the transportation system obsolete. If you had to provide every single bite of your food, from nurturing the animals, planting the seeds, butchering, harvesting, and processing, you’d have time for little else.
Many folks who have never raised more than a small vegetable garden seem to believe that when disaster strikes, they’ll be able to live off the land. Their survival plan includes growing crops, raising livestock, and hunting. But have they really considered what it takes to do all of this? In today’s convenience-based society, even the more self-reliant among us have lived a very pampered life.
It starts locally
It can be done, though. We can all move towards a lifestyle that is more self-sufficient by focusing on what we can grow ourselves or acquire locally. To do this, we must not only learn to grow food, but to preserve it for times of the year when nothing is growing or when your garden flops.
In her beautifully written book, Animal,Vegetable, Miracle, best-selling author Barbara Kingsolver documented the year her family spent eating only food that had been produced on her own farm or nearby. Kingsolver and her family had recently moved away from their home in the desert to resurrect an old family farm, so they weren’t lifelong producers of food. It’s a must-read for anyone considering embarking on the quest for a self-sufficient lifestyle.
Let’s use this as food for thought. What would it take for you to continue eating the foods you eat now? What can you produce entirely on your own? Share your answers in the comments below.
- Animal,Vegetable, Miracle
- Surviving the Apocalypse in the Suburbs: The Thrivalist’s Guide to Life Without Oil
- The Pantry Primer: A Prepper’s Guide to Whole Food on a Half-Price Budget
- Storey’s Guide to Raising Miniature Livestock
- The Complete Guide to Saving Seeds: 322 Vegetables, Herbs, Fruits, Flowers, Trees, and Shrubs
- Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits & Vegetables
- The Organic Canner
- The Locavore Way
- The Backyard Homestead
- The Encyclopedia of Country Living, 40th Anniversary Edition: The Original Manual of Living Off the Land & Doing It Yourself