Sunday, March 6, 2011

Earthquake relief

The aftermath of the Christchurch earthquake is basically a lot of mess to clean up. There are massive amounts of rubble in the CBD, with far too many bodies buried underneath, that needs to be cleared away by expert crews. But this is actually by far the least of the mess. Not very many people actually live in the CBD, most people live in grassy suburban areas, many of which have suffered badly from liquefaction - where the ground liquefies and silt bubbles up through it leaving mounds of sludge, much of it contaminated from broken sewers, in people's gardens and houses. Not a few houses have sunk right into it. Imagine you are at the beach, below the high tide mark, and the tide is just going out. If you pat the wet but firm sand quickly it becomes liquefied and flows. That's what happened to a whole city.

Two separate groups of people have formed "Armies" to deal with the cleanup. There's the Farmy Army, a group of farmers from nearby districts who turned up with utes and wheelbarrows and shovels, then there's the Student Volunteer Army, the nucleus of which is almost the entire student body of Canterbury University. The students asked the students at Otago (the university where I work) if they could manage to provide 10,000 packed lunches, enough to keep the Canterbury students fed at lunchtime for a week. The students and staff and friends and families fell to with a will last Friday night, and delivered over 10,000 lunches to the Otago student union by 6pm the next day.

They requested things like muesli bars, tinned tuna, crackers, chocolate. All non-perishable items. I added little pottles of fruit and jelly, or boxes of dried fruit to mine. I also made some vegetarian versions with baked beans instead of tuna, and stuck a piece of cheese into each lunch.

This is my pile of lunch stuff:

Instead of buying muesli bars (I thought the shops might well run out if 10,000 were in demand) I made my own. They're what the English call "flapjack".

Large quantities of butter …

… with white and brown sugars …

… are melted together with some honey, golden syrup, or other flavoured syrup. I used what was left of a bottle of "Maple Flavoured Syrup":

Then you mix up quite a lot of rolled oats along with whatever dried fruit takes your fancy. I used chopped dried apricots, dessicated coconut, currants, and raisins.

You mix solid with melted ingredients, then press out into a tray and bake for 30-odd minutes at 190°C

My flapjack was made in three oven trays, and contained 1.5kg of rolled oats!

Three pieces went into each of my 27 packed lunches.

Apparently the students were getting very very sick of muesli bars by the end of the week! Better than being sick of being hungry though.

Flapjack (Muesli Bar)

200g butter
160g sugar (brown, or brown and white mixed)
500g coarse oatmeal or oatmeal and rolled oats
1/2 cup honey or golden syrup
1 cup dessicated coconut
1 cup mixed dried fruit and/or nuts/and/or seeds

Preheat oven to 190°C
Melt butter, sugar, and honey or syrup in a pot
Add mixed dry ingredients
Press into an oven tray and bake until browned all over
Mark into slices when slightly cooled, then when completely cold cut the slices apart.


  1. 10,000 packed lunches! oh wow! great team work.

    did the clean up went well?

    situation sounds terrible.

  2. The clean up is still going on. It'll be months before some people will be able to move back, and a large number of houses will have to be rebuilt. The government has just about cornered the world market in port-a-loos and chemical toilets, which are being supplied to the worst affected suburbs.