Monday, 15 August 2016

Mushroom clouds, but no mushrooms

I borrowed from my SES Unit's shed some of the older booklets we have lying about.  Lord knows how we've not mislaid them: they seem to date from when the unit was the Shire of Rodney Civil Defence Organization and preparing for nuclear war.

One that is particularly fascinating is the Directorate of Civil Defence's Welfare (Commonwealth Government Printer, Canberra, 1967).  Its 62 A6 sized pages cover setting up a welfare service and centre in conditions of nuclear fallout, arranging supplies of food and clothing, ensuring proper sanitation, and the billetting and registration of displaced people.

Image from here

The section on catering is particularly striking.  It covers setting up an improvised kitchen using materials scavenged from wrecked buildings (chiefly bricks and sheets of metal, held together with a mortar improvised from sifted soil and water).  Steel rubbish bins are favoured for ovens.  Instructions are included for building a three-stand washing up station out of 44 gallon drums.  It recommends dividing waste into wet rubbish (including food scraps), dry rubbish, garbage (including tea leaves and coffee grounds), bones and tins.  Garbage is to be burned, and wet rubbish used as pig feed (pp.11-25).

Some idea of anticipated need can be had from the kitchen diagrams and the recipes.  A small kitchen is intended to feed 250 people; a large one would feed a thousand.  The recipes give amounts needed to feed 100 and 500 people in servings of 1/2 a pint (0.28 litre) per person.  By way of example, the instructions for Irish Stew for 500 people are (p.29) -
  • Mutton - 110 lb (49.9 kgs)
  • Onions - 25 lb (11.34 kgs)
  • Potatoes - 175 lb (79.38 kgs)
  • Turnips - 25 lb (11.34 kgs)
  • Water - 22.5 gallons (102.3 litres)
  • Salt - 1 lb 12 oz (0.79 kgs)
  • Pepper - 2 oz (0.05 kgs)
My friend Lauren recently set out her preferred instructions for Macaroni and Cheese.  In a post-apocalypse world, the recommendations for that dish (for 500 people) were (pp.29-30) -
  • Macaroni - 40 lb (18.14 kgs)
  • Grated Cheese - 15 lb (6.8 kgs)
  • Flour - 20 lb (9.07 kgs)
  • Milk & Water - 17.5 gallons (79.6 litres)
  • Margarine - 2 lb 8 oz (1.13 kgs)
  • Salt - 1 lb 4 oz (0.57 kgs)
  • Pepper - 1.5 oz (0.04 kgs)
The recipes are all things that can be prepared in single large batches by a cook with only basic skills.  Interestingly, no allowance is made for food allergies, dietary preferences or religious requirements.  In addition, the recommended inventory for the kitchen includes perishable food (for example, fish, fresh milk, tomatoes and vegetables) but not fresh fruits (yes, I know that the tomato is a fruit, but you get the idea).  Presumably it was assumed that living in a post-war world would simply be a matter of survival.

If cooking outside in radioactive fallout conditions, the guide recommended that "all equipment and utensils should be washed or hosed to remove dust.  Any washing cloths should then be thoroughly rinsed and the water used for washing and rinsing discharged down a drain or got rid of in some way".  Food should be kept under cover or thoroughly washed if fallout contamination was suspected.  The guide recommends burying tins and wrappers which may be contaminated  (pp.31-2).

What's most impressive about this booklet is how comprehensive it was: assuming that foodstuffs and water could be had, in an emergencya person with minimal training could set up and operate a field kitchen based on the instructions provided.  This alone makes it knowledge worth preserving.

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