Probably the last 40-year-old Mountain House taste test

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I’ve got 30 cans of this stuff, immured for decades in Big Brother’s utility room against the Big One, and I sure don’t plan to open them all at once. So I’ll likely be working with two open cans, opening a new one as I empty an old one. They’re already pretty old, obviously, so I’m not saving them for a rainy day: I eat’em for lunch two or three times a week.

And I say this’ll likely be the last such taste test because we’re getting into repetitious territory here. We seem to have established that Mountain House long-term storage food really will last a long time in the can. But with this last example…

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…we notice that the words in the review aren’t the only things getting repetitious. It’s all freeze-dried, often loaded with corn starch to thicken up some sort of stew, always loaded with salt and MSG to boost the flavor, and though the individual flavors vary somewhat it’s all pretty much the same. You could eat it every day, but you’re going to get tired of it. Possibly before the end of whatever emergency drove you to start eating it in the first place. More on that later, but first the review…

This can was in poor shape externally, but it held pressure so the contents were in acceptable condition…

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This one took more hot water than the “recipe” called for, because the tiny beef chunks were really dessicated and chewy. After ten minutes we have something that – once again – looks kind of revolting…

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…but doesn’t really taste bad. It’s basically ground beef in really salty mashed potatoes. You wouldn’t want it every day, but as a quick lunch it works fine.

And that seems to be what Mountain House storage food is about: People use it as backpacker’s meals at least as often as they store it for emergency food because Mountain House freeze-dries prepared meals. Period. Whether it’s packaged in a big can or a little foil packet, it’s all the same stuff.

I’ve always been an advocate of eating what you store, storing what you eat. But even I can come up with scenarios where that’s not practical. If you’re stocking a cabin for the apocalypse, those #10 cans will look like an awfully good solution to your problem. Maybe they are.

But a few cans into these taste tests I begin to notice something important: If this stuff was all I had to eat so I could survive, it wouldn’t take more than a few months before I began wondering whether “survival” was worth the price.

But what are the chances you’re going to spend months unable to do any food preparation more elaborate than boiling water? Not long ago my neighbor decided to put up some cans of storage food, but took a different approach…

Lentils

Lentils

Instant milk

Instant milk

Dehydrated eggs

Dehydrated eggs

Wheat berries

Wheat berries

Instant rice

Instant rice

You get the idea. Dozens of cans, containing not meals but ingredients. There’s dehydrated fruit and condiments as well as basic bulk stuff. Is this a better approach than bulk food in buckets? Sure, if the most important consideration is long-term storage. My way is cheaper, but I eat mine every day and it’s not expected to last decades. For me, the shit hit the fan years ago. So my neighbor maybe has the best of both worlds: long-term storage food that takes some preparation, but doesn’t taste more-or-less exactly like what you had yesterday.

This approach would take more planning and thought before I’d be confident in it. One nice thing about Mountain House; you know what you’re going to get. With no more than the contents of my neighbor’s cans, could I prepare a large variety of palatable meals? I’m not sure. I’m not much of a cook. I’d want to make sure ahead of time.

But I guess it just points out that there’s no one fits-all approach. Just make sure the approach you take works for you – before you find out too late that it doesn’t.

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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9 Responses to Probably the last 40-year-old Mountain House taste test

  1. Matt says:

    Either approach is likely better than pinto beans and rice, day after day after day.

  2. Judy says:

    Your neighbor’s approach would work for you, also. Here’s the caveat you need a cookbook that focuses on dehydrated/freeze-dried foods and there are several out there, to store with those foods. I made a 3-ring binder of recipes to go with my pantry because Hubby and the daughter are not the level of cook that I am. I wanted to provide them with recipes to reproduce what they were use to eating if something happened to me.

    The other caveat I have for anyone doing food storage is spices and herbs. With a few spices and herbs, I can fix a meal with the same basic ingredients (chicken-n-rice) and eat from a half-dozen different cuisines just by changing up a few spices and herbs. With your beef and potatoes to change it up a little, get some curry powder (Indian-ish) or chili powder (Mexican-ish) or ginger powder and soy sauce (Asian-ish) or garlic, Italian seasoning and tomato sauce/dried tomato powder. You don’t have to suffer from appetite fatigue; believe me it’s no fun.

  3. Ben says:

    You know, there are cultures out there that subsist on the same diet day in and day out. Perhaps it’s more about having the right food.

    I do recall that Joel got himself into some industrial-strength food boredom once, so he is likely the person to argue the other side of that.

  4. Mark Matis says:

    But if you are truly in a SHTF situation, Judy, you don’t want to advertise that you have food. And nothing says “FOOD HERE!!!” quite like cooking with spices and herbs.

    Now if Joel is so remotely located that invaders are unable to get to his fortress, that’s different. But in a true SHTF event, you would be surprised at how quickly “out in the jingweeds” becomes “right next door”…

  5. Andrew says:

    Freeze-dried prepared food, like MREs, are IMAT food. It makes a turd. As you found out, you can live on it but it’s nothing to live for.

    So, have you considered, as Judy above suggested, modifying the boring fares one way or another? Try using the meat/potato/onion as a soup base, adding in veggies and whatever else you want and cook for a while. Maybe use it as a base for chili with beans. Heck, you got a ton of the stuff, might as well do some experimenting…

    I would be curious as to the results of such experiments. I am sure that one of the “L” ladies can help you with suggestions if you asked, along with your loyal readers. Can you post a list of the varieties you have for the curious (or morbid, or curiously morbid?)

  6. Norman says:

    A not incorrect conclusion. For years (decades, actually) we’ve bought the #10 cans of Mountain House and vacuum-sealed the contents in plastic Food Saver-type bags, along with a variety of dehydrated foods, for camping, because doing it that way is cheaper than buying the foil packets and we get better menu/portion control. In a two week period it’s not repetitive enough to be bothersome,but two weeks ain’t two years.

    Assuming one is not intending to be highly mobile – or even moderately mobile – your neighbor has the right idea. #10 cans of standard staples, or even nitrogen-packed and oxygen-absorber-equipped food grade buckets, is the way to go if one has a stable environment in which to prepare food as opposed to just eating food. One solution requires only boiling water and a spoon, the other, time, a flat sheltered surface or two, controlled application of heat, and a variety of vessels and utensils; both have their place.

    I’d suggest attempting to maintain a balance between the two.

  7. deborah harvey says:

    with all the salt in that food the best is boiled fresh potatoes to add to it . this absorbs the overabundance of salt and makes it taste better than glop.
    also, butter always makes it better, i don’t care what it is.
    as suggested above, a store of herbs, spices, dehydrated onion and other vegetables, and ‘true lemon’ will make it more edible.

  8. anonymous says:

    The ingridient theory is interesting, but once the can’s seal is broken, the life expectancy falls to normal level. So the bottom of the cans can be expected to taste ‘not so much’ by that time unless they are consumed in timely manner. For a group or family, probably not a consideration.
    For the single survivor, might be an issue. That would be my guess.

  9. Mark Matis says:

    By the way, in a SHTF situation, you’re not likely to have a shortage of protein. When things get frisky, a missing cow or two ain’t that big a deal. Leave the bull, however, and at least SOME of the cows…

To the stake with the heretic!