Passport to Survival

One of the dusty corners of the Homegrown Evolution reference library holds two examples of a book genre I always look out for: the Mormon survival manual. As far as I can tell, these tomes assume we’re, “in the last days,” a period for which the Latter Day Saints hierarchy suggests keeping a two year supply of food for your household. Having just seen the grim Cormac McCarthy/Viggo Mortensen vehicle “The Road” and not wanting to have to resort to cannibalism (those folks at the Wal-Mart sure don’t look appetizing!), I cracked open my Mormon survival books starting with Esther Dickey’s Passport to Survival.

The astonishing thing about the 110 recipes in Dickey’s book is that they make use, almost exclusively, of only four ingredients: wheat, salt, honey and powdered milk. This makes Passport to Survival one of the most unusual cookbooks ever written. From these easily stored and inexpensive raw materials Dickey makes everything from tacos to ice cream. The fake meat that forms the centerpiece of her suggested meals is made by extracting gluten from flour and then making seitan. Your greens come from sprouting wheat. Here’s a few recipes and meals:

“#26. Mock Tater Tots

1/4 cup dry milk
1/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup thick starch #14a

Combine, and drop mixture from a teaspoon onto a cookie sheet Bake until brown. (Make tater tots miniature size).”

Ever resourceful, Dickey’s thick starch is the leftover water made from extracting the gluten from the wheat.

“#83. Soft Ice Cream (Emergency Flavor)

1 cup dry milk
3 cups water
3 tbs.honey

Mix, put in shallow tray, and freeze solid. Break in small chunks and beat with electric mixer, bender or juicer. Serve in miniature cones made from dough #51.”

Dickey whips up some lavish meals for the bunker, again, with just flour, salt, honey and powdered milk:


“Tuesday supper: “Hors d’oeuvres #27, green cream soup #70 and #73, thin sticks #9, wheatburgers #36, oven-cracked wheat #46d, soft ice cream #83 with caramel syrup #84, barber pole sticks #90, cold milk.”


“Monday dinner: green drink #73, emergency stew #20, noodles #27, bread sticks #38, criss-cross cookies #91.”

Dickey slept outdoors into her 90s and passed away in 2008. From her obituary,

“Nobody could say Esther had not practiced what she preached. As a young couple, Russell and Esther lived in a campground for more than two months, baking bread with a reflector oven. In her own east Multnomah County backyard, she once comfortably lived in a 15-by-4-by-6-foot cave, as an experiment. She once pushed a loaded two-wheeled metal cart to Oxbow Park along the Sandy River to live in a campsite by the river for several days.

There was one notable Thanksgiving with gluten drumsticks.”

I have the 1969 edition of Passport to Survival that I picked up on Amazon. There’s a more recent edition written by two of her daughters, but I haven’t seen it.

Should you be inspired to try your hand at wheat gluten cookin’, here’s some step by step instructions on making your own seitan from scratch on the Forkable blog.

Update 1/15/2010: I was just thumbing through my copy of the 1980 edition of the Whole Earth Catalog, and found a page devoted to Mormon survival manuals including a review of Passport to Survival. The review even included the same photo I chose for this post. This proves that:

1. The Whole Earth crew invented the internets.

2. There’s nothing I can blog about that the Whole Earth folks didn’t already cover. I owe them a tremendous debt and continue to admire their work each time I open my old copy of the catalog.

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14 Comments

  1. The thing I have never understood about Sister Dickey’s book and it’s ilk (I am LDS and do store food, though not 2 year’s worth), is why they assume I would have access to a freezer when I don’t have access to anything but wheat, honey, and powdered milk.

  2. I don’t know about surviving after “the” apocalypse because I’m sure I won’t. But what’s more likely is that once petro stuff starts to get scarce, we dust off some near-forgotten methods of doing things.

    I recently picked up Gardening When It Counts by Steve Solomon.

    Not really a survivalist kind of thing, but definitely takes you back to basics with the thought that you, as a “vegetabletarian”, may be growing most of the calories you consume.

    Anyone here familiar with it? I’d love to hear opinions.

  3. I am also LDS, and I also store food (although I prefer to imagine I’m storing it for economic disaster, not the apocalypse). But Sister Dickey’s book, while indisputably clever, is unworkable for many people. You can’t feed honey to infants, what if you develop gluten intolerance, what about the lactose-intolerant among us… thankfully my storage is vastly more varied than dear Esther’s.

    “There was one notable Thanksgiving with gluten drumsticks” is one of the funniest sentences I’ve read in a while.

  4. I like the concept, but one obviously needs gas, water, and electricity, at the very least, to eat this way, which seems to me to defeat the purpose.

  5. Obviously, in a well-stocked survival pantry, water would be something one would naturally store. As far as electricity, it is not needed if you have a solar oven or a camp stove or a fire. There are alternatives to cooking that don’t involve a stove.

  6. Wou’dnt the mormon survival handbook consist of just a piece of paper with the following instructions?
    “1. Walk into forest.
    2. Place head in hat.
    3. Wait for instructions from golden plates.”

  7. Golden plates???? They don’t look golden to me. They’re white, with flowers on them. And extraordinarily clean, considering there’s apparently no dishwasher (only a freezer and an electric mixer) in the last days scenario. When I go camping, I wash my tin plate with sand, in the creek, and dry it with my grungy bandanna, after I have happily eaten pretty much anything that’s been cooked over a campfire. But for years at a time?? And that gluten stuff, I dunno. It’s so….brown.

  8. Update 1/15/2010: I was just thumbing through my copy of the 1980 edition of the Whole Earth Catalog, and found a page devoted to Mormon survival manuals including a review of Passport to Survival. The review even included the same photo I chose for this post. This proves that:

    1. The Whole Earth crew invented the internets.

    2. There’s nothing I can blog about that the Whole Earth folks didn’t already cover. I owe them a tremendous debt and continue to admire their work each time I open my old copy of the catalog.

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