My main memory of the first day of the Ration Challenge? Rice.
Rice is the only ingredient I have in any great quantity, living for a week on the same rations as a Syrian refugee in Jordan. Nearly 2 kg of rice, plus small amounts of oil, flour, lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans and sardines. Somehow food that normally would get used up in 3 or 4 meals has to stretch to 21. Yet I’m lucky to have even this amount of food, as many refugees have to share ration packs or go without.
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Preparation for the Ration Challenge
Preparation has been limited – I feel like I’ve been running to catch up!
I signed up for the Ration Challenge on Thursday, bought supplies on Friday, searched for substitute sardines on Saturday, and – blam – started on Sunday. I focused on spreading the word and seeking sponsorship, rather than meal planning.
Nearest I got to prep the day before was heading off to Kent for a big 80th birthday party. Sitting in a marquee, staring out at the sunshine, I was more grateful than ever tucking into stew and salads, pudding and wine.
For a ‘last meal’ on Sunday night, I opted for quiche and crispy veg, with berries and yogurt. Necked some orange juice, as the last vitamin C I’ll have for a week. Lingered over a cup of peppermint tea, which won’t be an option while on rations.
Can you tell I expect to miss dairy, fruit and veg the most?
Day 1 breakfast: Congee and hot water
Happy Fathers’ Day! Turned out I was better prepared for cooking a celebratory fry up for my husband than my own Ration Challenge breakfast.
I delayed getting out of bed, without my normal tea and porridge to look forward to. When I finally faced up to making the congee (rice porridge) from the Ration Challenge recipes and meal plan (resources here), it took way longer than expected. By the time my husband was tucking into his fried breakfast, I was still staring at a bowl of rice soaking in water.
Fair to say eating soggy salted rice for breakfast was a low point. I appreciate congee is a traditional Chinese breakfast enjoyed by millions. Sitting here in Suffolk – not so much. I ended up feeling like a sulky toddler: “I don’t like it”. In comparison with so many others, I’ve lucky to have it at all.
Choosing a vegetable
Thanks to the amazing support from everyone who’s sponsored me so far, I raised the £250 needed in the Ration Challenge to ‘earn’ 170g of vegetable. (Here’s my fundraising page). This left me with a tough choice, as it’s the only fresh veg I’ll get to eat this week.
I nailed it down to either spring onions or carrots, both of which offered a base for cooking in recipes, and green tips as a salad veg.
But I left the final choice down to Facebook, asking for someone to choose in exchange for a donation. The majority vote went for spring onions – which definitely lifted my lunch.
Day 1 lunch: Lentil soup and rice crackers
Turns out limited red lentils turn into watery beige soup, unrelieved by a few chilli flakes as my single spice for the week. Adding chopped up spring onion did make a difference!
The Ration Challenge has made me realise how much I take bread for granted, grabbing a slice here or there when needed. The ration pack only includes limited flour, and no yeast, so I ended up frying leftover congee as an alternative to bread. Huh. Turns out crunchy, salty crackers were a welcome change in texture.
Day 1 dinner: Rice and kidney beans
For dinner, I boiled up some rice, cracked open the tin of kidney beans and chucked in some chilli flakes and a bit of spring onion. The quantities of rice mean I shouldn’t go hungry, but too few kidney beans it wasn’t the most exciting thing to eat. I struggled to finish it while my family tucked into pizza around me.
The first day of the Ration Challenge was more about endurance than anything else.
I love food, but wasn’t terribly excited about cooking my rations. The limited choice, and worry about eking out scarce resources, took the joy out of one of my favourite activities. It rammed home how I’m normally surrounded by a huge variety of food. As the week goes on, I suspect cooking meals for my family in parallel will become increasingly tough.
I also had a low level headache for most of the day, perhaps caffeine withdrawal, although I don’t drink much tea. Otherwise, it was a pretty quiet day, pottering around after the excitement of our trip to Kent, while my husband had a relaxing Fathers’ Day and I fretted about quantities of kidney beans.
Now – over to you. What do you suggest making from my limited rations? Do share in the comments, I’d love to hear!
Conditions in the refugee camps are even worse during coronavirus, so I’m doing the Ration Challenge again from 13 to 19 September.
If you might consider sponsoring me, here’s my fundraising page for Concern Worldwide UK. Anything you can spare helps to provide food, education and medicine for refugees: https://my.rationchallenge.org.uk/faith-archer
Check out my other posts about the Ration Challenge 2019: