If you're a survivalist, a doomsday prepper, or just want to do something terrible for yourself, then boy, do we have a weekend project for you. Instead of making a sandwich that you could eat and enjoy immediately, Andy George, the host of "How to Make Everything," has released a YouTube video that will help you piece together a sandwich that you can save until this time next year.
Why would you do this? Who knows! But George does his best to explain why food goes bad, what you can do to slow down that bacteria-driven process—and how to stop it entirely. Before he ties his apron on and heads into his kitchen, he consults with Daniel O'Sullivan, a professor of microbiology at the University of Minnesota, and the two talk yeast, mold, and bacteria.
George and O'Sullivan decide that the best options for preserving a sandwich for a year-plus are to take the ingredients and either smoke, salt, dehydrate, or pickle them. George attempts all of those techniques, basically creating a Choose Your Own Adventure story that could have botulism at the end of every chapter. (He also coats one batch of ingredients with chemical preservatives, but notes that he doesn't use them "in their intended way" and he's also using "quantities higher than intended to eat."
He then lets everything age for four weeks, which makes me think that he either lives alone or with one of my former roommates, who frequently attempted a much less scientific version of this meal. He then presented Dr. O'Sullivan with the least appetizing array of foods you'll find outside a Nebraska gas station's sushi display. ("I've never seen anyone pickling bread before," O'Sullivan says.)
George later assembles a sandwich out of the ingredients deemed "safe" to eat, and watching him raise it to his mouth legit made my stomach curl into a ball and hide near the back of my abdominal cavity. "It's worse than not bad," he said. "It's edible. It kind of hurts to swallow."
If you want to prepare for the arrival of our alien overlords but don't want to do this yourself, the U.S. Army has already developed a sandwich that remains shelf-stable for up to two years. Much like George and O'Sullivan discovered, the sandwich's creator Michelle Richardson said the key to keeping the food safe and edible was controlling the pH, moisture, and oxygen level inside its package. "If you think about bacteria as sprinters in a food system, what we're trying to do is put enough hurdles in so they can't survive," Richardson told NPR.
Although those sandwiches were originally distributed to the military, California company Bridgford Foods manufactures a civilian version too, which is sold at outdoor retailers and on various survivalist sites. You're not making it yourself, like George did, but you're probably not going to barf in your mouth while you eat it either. We'll call that a draw.