Tuesday, February 28, 2017

CHOWMAGEDDON: Post Apocalyptic Author Cora Buhlert

As part of the ongoing Chowmageddon series, I talked to Post Apocalyptic Author Cora Buhlert about dining after Doomsday...

1. How long have you been writing post-apocalyptic fiction or non-fiction?

My first work of post-apocalyptic fiction, the novelette The Hybrids, was published in 2013. However, the roots of the story are much older, since The Hybrids is a reworking/updating of a short story I wrote during my second semester at university in the 1990s. So I guess you could say that I've been writing post-apocalyptic fiction for twenty years, though I've only been publishing it for four years.


2. What kind of apocalyptic event do you find most interesting?

Whichever scenario I'm writing about at the moment. So far, I've had nuclear war, a killer pandemic, global warming, global cooling, climate change in general, asteroid impact, solar surge/EMP pulse, alien invasions, kaiju attacks, a zombie apocalypse and a robot apocalypse. I write mostly short fiction, which means I can try out a lot of different scenarios.


3. What kind of apocalyptic event do you fear the most?

The ones that have a decent chance of actually happening. Let's face it, the chances of a zombie apocalypse or a kaiju attack happening in the real world are pretty much nil. But climate change, natural disasters or killer pandemics are a lot more likely. However, I think the apocalyptic event I fear most are nuclear war or an INES 6 or 7 level nuclear accident. I grew up in the 1980s, when fears of nuclear war and mutually assured destruction were widespread. I was twelve when the Chernobyl accident happened and since I lived in Germany, we got some of the fallout. At school, we weren't allowed to go outside in the rain, we weren't allowed to drink milk or eat fresh vegetables for a couple of weeks and all because of a danger you could neither see nor feel. And the nearest nuclear reactor, thankfully shut down by now, was only fifty kilometres from where I lived. Experiencing that sort of thing as a kid leaves its mark.


4. Are you a prepper? At what level do you consider yourself?

Preppers are mostly an American phenomenon. We don't really have them here in Germany. That said, I do believe in having sufficient food supplies to hold out for a while in case of natural disasters, etc… We also have a vegetable garden and a greenhouse, so we can grow our own food. 

I'm also lucky enough to live in a house that is largely self-sufficient with regard to power. We have solar panels, a co-generation unit and a battery storage which can still supply power, even if the grid goes down. And should the grid go down for longer than the battery lasts, we also have an emergency diesel generator. We also have a wood-fired stove in the basement, so we can still cook even if the power goes down (plus, it keeps you warm). I picked this idea up from the old farmers in my area, who always kept a wood-fired stove around, even after they got gas or electricity, just in case. 

I think such precautions are sensible, for even though you'll probably never experience the zombie apocalypse, power outages due to natural disasters, etc… happen and can last several days, if you're unlucky.


5. Where do you think the ideal place to live is prior to an apocalyptic event?

I think a semi-rural, semi-suburban area is best, because that way you'll probably have enough space to grow at least some of your own food and/or keep chickens, pigs, etc…, but you're still close enough to major population centres that you're not completely cut off from emergency services. 

Also, try to choose a spot on relatively high ground, so you won't be affected by floods. I live near the North Sea coast, so storm surges and flooding are a genuine risk. We get storm flood warnings a couple of times every year, while the last really big flood, which drowned more than three hundred people in Germany alone, happened in 1962, i.e. only 55 years ago. 


6. Shelter-in-place, or bug out?

It really depends on the nature of the apocalyptic event: In case of a killer pandemic, shelter-in-place is the best strategy. But in case of a massive flood or a nuclear meltdown, you'll want to get the hell out of there. 


7. What do plan to eat in the apocalypse?

Whatever is in the basement. I keep my pantry well stocked, so the food should last a while. We also have a vegetable garden and a greenhouse to grow our own food. I could also can and pickle food, if necessary.


8. What foods do you regularly stock in your home that would be adaptable to a post-apocalyptic situation?

I always buy the big fifteen kilogram bags of dry rice, so that should last for a while. I also always have a decent supply of Ramen noodles, other noodles, canned and pickled foods as well as dried lentils, beans, etc… in the pantry. The freezer is usually full of garden vegetables, so I could have those, too, as long as the power lasts. What is more, I usually have several crates of bottled water in the cellar, so hydration is assured as well. 


9. What is your preferred preservation method for post-apocalyptic foods? 

I don't have any specific preference. It's probably best to have a variety available, so if there's something you cannot use for some reason, you still have an alternative.


10. What's the primary factor for you in deciding on a survival food? Taste? Weight? Nutritional Value? Ease of preparation?

I don't stock any survival foods per se, just regular food supplies that could be adapted, if necessary.

11. What's the worst "survival food" you've ever tasted?

I'm not sure if I ever had anything that was specifically marketed as a survival food, but those powdered protein shakes they sell to bodybuilders taste pretty bad.


12. What's the best?

See above: I don't think I've ever had anything specifically marketed as a survival food.


13. Any special survival recipes you have up your camouflaged sleeves?

Nothing specific, but I think it's helpful if you know how to pickle or can food. Home-canning has fallen somewhat out of fashion in the past forty years or so, but your grandmother might still have a home-canning cookbook (or you can pick one up at the flea market) and maybe even the respective equipment like Mason jars or Weck jars. 


14. What's the best survival food tip you've ever heard? 

Not really a survival food tip, just a neat story: In the early 1970s, a massive storm hit the area where I live and knocked out the power for several days. As a result, frozen food quickly began to spoil. So the people took their frozen food to the local undertaker and put it into the morgue, because it had an emergency diesel generator and therefore still had power. This story illustrates an aspect that is often missing from post-apocalyptic fiction, namely people helping each other and working together to get through the disaster and survive. 

To find out more about Cora, or check out her amazing written work, visit her website: http://corabuhlert.com

Cora is also on Twitter: https://twitter.com/CoraBuhlert

Apocalyptic/Post-apocalyptic works:
The Death of the American Dream: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01F6FB1FQ


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