They call it Bundy cuisine: What to cook when your occupied wildlife reserve is under federal siege
“Man, that dinner was good,” Neil Wampler, a retired woodworker told the Guardian after he finished his meal of spaghetti, salad and biscuits at the Malheur national wildlife refuge in south-eastern Oregon. “When I was at the Bundy ranch, we lit a fire on a propane stove in an outdoor shed and washed our dishes in a ditch. But I could get used to this.”
Wampler came to Malheur to join Citizens for Constitutional Freedom, a militia group that seized the publicly owned wildlife refuge and its buildings this week . He’s one of two dozen heavily armed men that have settled onto the public land and are prepared to spend weeks or months there, in defiance of the US government. They have lots of propane and power generators to sustain them.
What exactly they want is unclear. They’re mad at the government, that’s for sure, specifically for the imprisonment of a pair of local ranchers found guilty of arson, but they’ve made no specific demands.
This is a food column, however. So today, on their fifth day holed up together, I am concerned with the question of: what are these guys going to eat? Since they’ve said they could be there for “months”, I’m thinking canned goods are going to be their best option (Hormel’s chili, Campbell’s soup, Bumble Bee tuna – that sort of thing).
But not all canned goods are created equal. When I was writing a book that very few people would ever buy , I’d often hole up in a small ramshackle cabin in the woods of Catskill, New York to get some peace, quiet and undisturbed writing time. I am not a great chef , but I would stock up on preserved food and alcohol and do all right for myself; in fact, I sort of consider myself an “expert” in this field.
So, in the hopes of finding a peaceful resolution to the situation in Oregon, I hereby offer my suggestions for the Citizens for Constitutional Freedom weekly Safeway shopping list. “Siege Cuisine”, we’ll call it. “Militia Meals.”
Progresso minestrone soup
The soup makers at Progresso have basically perfected the canned minestrone soup. It’s far from the homemade version that your buddy Vinny’s grandma makes every spring (and drizzles some fresh pesto sauce on before serving.) But it works. Progresso’s minestrone has almost become a distinct category. Sort of like how a McDonald’s hamburger doesn’t taste like any other hamburger, but hits the spot every time you eat one. It’s own special spot. Hopefully, you don’t eat one too often.
Campbell’s tomato soup
Same, basically, as above. And I imagine the militia members are all big Warhol fans, right?
For beans, for me, the choice is Goya (“Oh-boya!” as I have been trained by years of television commercials to explain every single time I hear the name.) The classic blue cans with that sort-of art-deco typesetting says it all doesn’t it? You got your pintos, your garbanzos, your small reds, your dark kidneys. Butter beans: so large and hearty, so underappreciated! A bowl of butter beans with a little olive oil and some salt: there’s a meal for you right there, my friend!
Militia men: I know you guys have a bent towards conspiracy theories. I assure you that this recommendation – that a group of two-dozen large men eats lots of beans night after night in a cramped, poorly-ventilated bunkhouse – does not come in cahoots with the feds. Also, I am far too mature to include a Blazing Saddles-style fart joke here in my very serious food-and-politics column.
There is only one option here, fellas. Cento’s certified Italian plum tomatoes are indeed “distinct in flavor”, like it says on the label. “These Cento San Marzano tomatoes are grown in the Agro Sarnese Nocerino region of Italy, renowned for its especially fruitful soil as a result of its proximity to Mount Vesuvius.” Mount Vesuvius! That’s a VOLCANO!
Salt is salt, right? (Unless you’re into importing pink crystals from the Himalayas or the “ Alean ” kind from Hawaii that has the clay in it.) So again, go with the classic. The Morton’s salt lady is one of the iconic images in American food-product marketing history (second only, perhaps, to Miller High Life’s splendiferous madam-on-the-moon ). And hey, it can get a certain type of lonely out there in the woods, a bunch of dudes cooped-up for days, weeks, months …
Martin’s Potato rolls
For venison sandwiches , there is no substitute.