If you live in Southern California, you should know what to do in the event of an earthquake, and what to pack ahead of time. The Red Cross advises that you get a kit, with at least 3 days of supplies, including: water (1 gallon per person per day) and food, flashlights and duct tape, and a small catalog of highly useful items. You can order an inexpensive kit from the Red Cross, or assemble your own. But disasters are personal as well as public, and preparedness can be a highly subjective state. If the world is going to take an abrupt Cormac McCarthy turn, some of us will need chocolate. Plastic jars of Nutella are unlikely to shatter, and they won't melt in the unrefrigerated summer heat the way bars of Valrhona or Michel Cluizel will.

You can also find small ration-size packets of the Italian chocolate-hazelnut spread, which come in handy if you can't yet locate your spoon. A few cookbooks would also be worth their weight, as you will only be able to last for so long chewing on the pressed wafers of wheat flour, vegetable shortening, sugar, coconut and salt that the Red Cross has perhaps furnished you with. Take the religious book of your choice; pack Dante and Shakespeare and the Twilight Saga.

But also toss in James Peterson's excellent how-to guide What's A Cook To Do? and Nancy Silverton's pantry-friendly A Twist of the Wrist. The first because you may need simple instructions on how to poach a fish or make an omelet; the second because cans will be your new best friends. And to the assembled cache of light sticks (fiat dinner candle) and radio batteries and plastic emergency tablecloths, do not forget to add a can opener. Just because the first soldiers to benefit from the invention of canned food had to use bayonets to open the cans (can openers were invented later), doesn't mean you should too.

LA Weekly