On dystopian nightmares and tinned condensed milk

Amanda Thompson always thought the apocalypse would be more about zombies and less about a lack of flour. No matter, this recipe will stand you in good stead for either eventuality.

Our current dystopian nightmare was not the apocalypse I was expecting. 

I do not feel prepared, even after years of planning. Big fans of movies and books of the whole the-world-is-ending-and-all-I-have-are-my-wits-and-a-dirty-backpack genre, my family has always found it fun to discuss how they would survive the unsurvivable. They like to imagine how they would heroically roam a zombie- or alien-infested chaoscape with their trusty dog, a greasy hat, some inexplicably attained triceps and a machine-gun-mounted Hilux. They talk about it all the time. There isn’t a single walk through fallen leaves that cannot be ruined by having one of my nearest and intermittently dearest explain to me how you can grind up acorns to make coffee. They beguile me on long car trips by pointing out remote farmhouses as “easily defendable once you dig out some trenches” or as having particularly lush solar panels. They will passionately argue the merits of chickens or cows as the ultimate “food stock’ (apparently it’s cows. “I would tan the leather and make shoes,” confidently says my 14-year-old who is lost if the cheese doesn’t come already grated.) 

I have been dragged through the Walking Dead experience at Universal Studios, standing in line with a lot of overstimulated college kids who airdropped GIFs I couldn’t understand and smelled like barbecue sauce, wasting a lot of time I thought could have been spent drinking Duff at Moe’s Tavern. My husband on the other hand loved it. He still rates it as one of the top 10 things he has ever done, including me.

I think my kids mostly enjoy talking about this constantly because it is funny to annoy me. They know my views on battling through zombie infection, alien invasion, or sharknado inundation – I just wouldn’t. I am slow and numpty and would be the first to trip and roll into the lava, get lost in war-ravaged Los Angeles or sink along with New York. Also I would be just a little bit unenthusiastic about inheriting a world in which I have to butcher my own shoes anyway. Why would you want to survive in an irradiated wasteland? What for? Acorn coffee and crapping in the bushes? Count me out.

Bumblebees in progress (Photos: Amanda Thompson)

None of us thought we would still have running water and Netflix when the virus that would forever change our world finally arrived. How could we know that it would be battled with isolation, with boredom – with snacks – from the couch? We never guessed that the cost would be a slowly toppling world economy, the saddest of lonely deaths for a few of our loved ones and the pure terror of home schooling for many more. I always knew that the infuriating wind-up torches my husband likes to collect would be useless – but I did not reckon on my emergency kit needing a really big sack of flour.

There is still no flour to be had in my neck of the woods and I have to imagine there may not be for some time. It is a sad thing. I would have very much liked to make Anzac biscuits last week, but I could not so you will just have to believe me when I tell you that my recipe is much better than yours. Instead I am making use of another wartime staple, a tin of condensed milk.

Canned milk was a necessity in the days when refrigeration was a luxury, and it was often sent to troops overseas as a treat. This recipe is always made by my mother-in-law at Christmas and the very best thing is that it uses exactly ¾ of a can of condensed milk, which is the perfect amount so that you can feel justified in eating the rest with a spoon. Any more and it would be all gone, any less and you would feel obliged to save the half-a-can for the next round of baking, and that is not right.

Bumblebees pre and post baking (Photos: Amanda Thompson)

GRANDMA’S BUMBLEBEES

  • ¾ can condensed milk
  • 2 cups desiccated coconut
  • 1 cup raisins 
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix all of these things together to make a delicious sticky paste. Shaping the delicious sticky paste into lumps that look nothing like bumblebees is fine work for any children you may have lounging about. Eat the rest of the condensed milk while they are thus occupied. Place the lumps on baking paper and cook for about 20 minutes at 170°C. Enjoy.



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