Today’s Daily Prompt, ‘Five a Day‘, says:
You’ve being exiled to a private island, and your captors will only supply you with five foods. What do you pick?
I guess in my travels I’ve had a chance to figure out what I do and don’t like, and what my body does and does not cope well with and without. I’ve certainly gone through stints where I’ve had to get by on pretty poor diet- certain deployments, for example, where both food choice and food quality were pretty low. They were good times to go through from a learning perspective- but certainly not fun. I don’t enjoy being hungry- especially not when you’ve got a demanding job to do, under difficult circumstances.
I can’t pretend to be the world’s healthiest eater. MIO and I are constantly fasting things from our diet (generally, sugar and alcohol) in order to kick-start some healthier habits- and general fitness. So I suppose if I’m going to be marooned on a desert island, this is also going to play a part.
Of course, the real question is, what type of island is this? Does it have coconut palms? Can I catch fish? I should be able to get salt from the sea, and maybe some other goodies as well. And what herbs might be growing to add a little flavour, and could I talk my captors into bringing me a few seeds from time to time…? But maybe that’s all cheating.
I reckon my five foods would be as follows:
1. Bread. And I’m going to request fresh bread. Every culture has a staple. I can’t deny my northern European genetic heritage. So it’s either going to be bread, or potatoes. But I do love my daily bread. Growing up in France, I got spoiled having boulangeries on every corner, and cheap, warm, soft bread pretty much on tap. Of course, over the years I’ve found I love breads from most parts of the world- so long as it’s fresh, usually soft, and ideally warm. Flat-breads from the Middle East, or naan from south Asia, or a nice Turkish bread, really, I’m open to variety. In fact, while you’re at it, by all means vary said bread on a daily basis, just to keep in interesting. I don’t mind a weekly rotation.
From a dietary perspective, of course, bread is a nice source of carbohydrates, an appetite-killer and a stomach-filler. If I’m stuck on a private island someplace, then I don’t want to be thinking about my hungry stomach all the time. I thought about rice, but rice can be a bit starchy, and doesn’t have the variety that bread does. So, bread it is.
2. Beans. When I lived in northern Papua New Guinea, my housemate and I would shop for all our food needs at the local market. It was a grubby but vibrant place, with a beautiful range of fresh- and I mean fresh- fruit and vegetables. We’d stock up once a week for about $20, and would generally cook curries for ourselves, with lashings of hot sauce, curry powder and other spices and flavours in there. I’m no vegetarian, but we’d generally only have meat once a week, sometimes less, and I’d say that that period was one of the healthiest, from a dietary perspective, I’ve ever enjoyed.
I’ve never really been a fan of beans. But in PNG we’d buy great bunches of snake beans for a pittance, and they’d become a mainstay of the curry. Beans are greens (again, never been big on greens) so chocked full of nutritional goodness, and I reckon they’d be a good option in terms of maintaining the healthy side of things. Not my favourite foodstuff, but if I’m stuck on an island, I don’t want to be getting sick or scurvied.
3. Lentils. I love Indian food. Again, I enjoy a blend of international cuisine, and done well, Thai blows me away for the subtle aromatic nature of it. But the sheer variety and tastiness of Indian cuisine delights me non-stop. Hence I’ve garnered a love for lentils (encouraged by my wife, who also loves them and cooks some very tasty lentil dishes). As a pulse, lentils are full of protein (seeing as I’m not asking for meat)- and another good one for filling you up, but filling you up with stuff that’s really healthy. While I realise that my captors may not be providing me with a spice rack (if they did, we’re home and dry), at least if I’ve got to eat blandly, let’s get the right building-blocks into the system.
4. Tomatoes. Another mainstay of stews and curries, tomatoes in cooking add so much flavour. As a fruit they’ve got some good nutritional value (sure, I want to limit my risk of prostate cancer). But I reckon, cooked with beans and lentils, you’ve actually started to get yourself a stew with some flavour and nutritional goodness. Now, I’m not about to tell you that’s all I want to eat for the next 50 years. But, look, I reckon if I did, I wouldn’t come away too unhealthy. At least that’d be my hope.
5. Cheese. I nearly put Vegemite here. After all, I have to stay true to my Kiwi roots (okay, fine, Sanitarium Marmite, but Vegemite would still be my choice). It’s a little spread of home, that nice salty blast really wakes up the mouth, and you could even use it as a food additive to bring some additional flavour. To this day I travel with a tub of Vegemite on longer assignments- one of my comfort foods. And it helps make even stale bread taste a little better (yes, learned from experience). I also tossed around peanut butter for similar reasons- and also because it would help the sugar cravings.
However. Cheese. There are few things I enjoy more than cheese, in pretty much any of its forms. I love the variety (again, I hope my captors will be acquiescent here)- from nice bitey mature hard cheeses to rich soft stinky gooey ones, I’m pretty open to a gamut of them things. Dairy’s a nice balance to the above smattering of food groups- gotta keep my bones strong. It’s a total comfort food for me. And, it’s one of those universal savoury foods- meaning, it goes with pretty much anything.
Also, if I played my cards right, with bread and cheese I’ve got the starting of a cheese fondue. Just got to bargain my way to a little garlic and a sloosh of kirsch. And that is something I could eat from here to eternity.
1. Island in Madang Harbour, PNG
2. Sweetlips, aka Lunch, also PNG