In a wilderness camp such as described in the previous section, food preservation is a challenge. There is no refrigeration and smoking and drying works better for some foods than others. Keeping a pot of soup or stew constantly simmering on the fire is an excellent way to preserve food while ensuring a hot meal is ready to go. Perpetual stew also can be filling and stretches limited amounts of meat.
Simply put, you add whatever you have harvested to the pot daily.
For example, the day starts off with pancakes made from your dwindling supply of pancake mix. A few nuts and/or berries gathered the day before are added to it for flavor. There is no butter or syrup, but people are happy to have “real food” from before the fall and no one complains.
After breakfast, everyone sets off on their tasks. Let’s say that the food gathers came home with small wild onions, lots of watercress and other greens, wild carrots, and handful of pine nuts and some mushrooms. The trapper has more luck as the trap line caught a possum and a raccoon.
Lunch is a salad made from most of the greens with some of the onions, carrots and mushrooms added to it. Perhaps some smoked fish or dried meat from a previous catch can be added to it.
Everything not set aside to be eaten immediately goes into the pot with the butchered possum and raccoon after they are browned over an open flame. Simmer for a few hours and this will be the main course at dinner. Maybe the scout comes home a few hours before dark tired and hungry after a 12 mile hike. He did not kill any game, but his backpack is full of cattail roots. He can have his hot bowl of stew right away while he tells the gatherer about a meadow he has discovered with several edible plants and a pond that looks like it has turtles in it. Afterwards, he works around the camp site in his other role as the engineer while the food preparer bakes the cattail tubers in the embers of the fire. There is enough cattail for everyone to have one that night and leave plenty to be fried up for breakfast the next morning. The leftovers are sliced and added into the stew for the next day.
Throughout the day, the food preparer adds water to the stew to keep it from drying out as it simmers. By adding whatever is available, you get a blending of flavors and the heat kills any germs. Even the toughest rodent flesh softens nicely in perpetual stew. If necessary, a can of vegetables, some dried noodles, barley, or rice can be added to the pot,. (Again, it is important to stretch out your valuable and limited food supplies.) Maybe some dumplings are dropped in once a week.
Does the stew pot ever get emptied? Of course. On a day when there is plenty of food available – say a deer was killed or a 50 pound beaver caught in a trap – the stew is eaten at lunch and the pot cleaned. The pot may be needed during the butchering. If it is cool enough, you can hang the deer to age while a haunch is cooked. Strips of meat should also be cut off and smoked into pemmican or jerky for consumption over the next few days.
But afterwards, when the majority of the meat is eaten or preserved, whatever is left is browned and goes back into the pot for the next day’s food. Maybe there is enough that you have it for breakfast of biscuits as well as for dinner. In this kind of survival situation, we don’t worry about having “breakfast food” for breakfast – you just eat what is available.
Keep in mind that your Preparer of Food may also spend much of his or her day gathering food or at another task, and cannot be expected to dedicate every hour of every day to cooking and preparing food. Baking is time consuming on the best of times, and even more so in primitive conditions. Perpetual stew allows everyone to have a wholesome, filling meal at almost any time.
Nuts, berries and other fruits probably should not be added to the pot, but just about any meat (including reptile) and vegetable can be. Even grains gathered in the wilds. You can mix red meat and fowl, or you can separate them in different pots for a bit of variety. Fish stew should probably be done separately as fish do not lend themselves as well to the long simmering process as red meat does.