Foods that never spoil

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Zubin D’souza

I have always had the urge to travel. It has to be an impromptu action; to just pick up my backpack and traverse the world.

There are to be no plans and no restrictions. Where the path allows me I would go; if the excitement fills me on that particular day then I don’t even mind risking life and limb.

I would love living out of a mobile home; not shackled down in a trailer park but as far from civilisation as I can get.

It would be a great chance to get in touch with myself; to explore the dreams that I had put aside for years while I chose to try and fit into society.

Trying to assimilate into the general world is definitely a tall order for me; quitting it and moving on isn’t.

I can do without most trappings of modern society. I don’t really mind living under the grid with no access to phones or TV.

A couple of books, a few reams of writing paper and gallons of ink and I am sorted!

What I would really require would be food. And not just ordinary stuff; I would need food that would keep for a really long time because there aren’t any grocery stores where I plan to go.

I can share my list with you just on the odd chance that you may feel like setting out on your own!

Almost everyone knows about how honey has found the fountain of eternal youth and never really spoils. It has been the symbol for purity, chastity and longevity. Poets have waxed eloquently in its praise and lovers have used it as a term of endearment for centuries. Pure honey is the stuff of legends and the oldest honey in human possession is about five and a half thousand years old.

Salt, well actually the purer sodium chloride has been around for billions of years and has remained unchanged. It has been used since the dawn of human civilisation to preserve foods. Although fortifying it with iodine to create iodised salt has reduced its shelf life to a couple of years, pure salt remains the one product that can beat honey hollow in the durability department.

Pure maple syrup never spoils if it is in a sealed container but once opened, it needs to be stored in a refrigerator but can stay continue to survive indefinitely.

Some foods have extended lives when they are in their purest forms while others need to be tweaked a bit to achieve their true potential.

Brown rice can last for only about six months before it starts to go rancid due to the oils present in the bran. But white rice that has the bran removed can be stored indefinitely in airtight containers.

The same theory applies to sugar that doesn’t go bad because it is not the coolest place to grow bacteria. Of course you need to place it in an airtight container to prevent it from turning into a brick.

White vinegar comes with an incredible amount of health benefits. It is used to cure stomach ache and cut down on belly fat. Dieticians recommend it to kick-start weight loss programmes and to help in solving water retention issues. The high acid content ensures that vinegar itself doesn’t spoil and is pretty much self-preserving. It is often used as a pickling agent to extend the lives of other food.

The only thing that we need to keep in mind to ensure that cornstarch can be stored forever is to ensure that it never gets wet. If kept in an airtight container, well, it joins the list of the other exalted foods that have gained immortality.

Soy sauce needs to go into the fridge once the bottle is opened but till that life changing moment, the high sodium content protects it from spoiling. In fact in several Southeast Asian cultures, it holds a rather significant spot and as a symbol of prosperity and long life.

Pure vanilla extract contains alcohol and that itself is enough to ensure that it has an extended life. In a sealed bottle, there can be no bacterial growth and this tends to stay on forever. Unfortunately the imitation vanilla extract does not work in the same manner and you would have to chuck out the bottle by the expiry date.

That’s the same rule applicable to all hard liquor which can keep for a very long time indeed. It can be used for preserving stuff and extending shelf life. Unfortunately it works just the opposite manner when people insist on ingesting the stuff.

Dried lentils have been known to cook rather slowly after a suitable number of decades have elapsed but they remain perfectly edible.

I could also pack a couple of cases of canned food. Most of them do come with an expiry date but unless the can is puffy or has been punctured, they stay pretty good for a really long time.

I would love to stay and chat a while but the great outdoors is beckoning and I need to heed the call!