American culinary folkway, popular during the early-mid period of the 20th century. Basically a shelf for canned goods and other long-storage food items (supplimented by frozen foods) that are a) easily edible by themselves, b) good combined with other foods, and c) boring enough not to get eaten up in any short order.

Examples:

Nowadays, with the availablity of MRE's and other vacuum-packed items, the possibilities are much broader...the idea is when it's too cold or stormy to go out to the market, or you've just hurried home to find your DH and epsilons supperless, you can pop into the kitchen, throw two or three cans into a casserole, and have something that closely resembles home-cooked food. Emergency-shelf cooking, therefore, is the art of combining textures and colors with whatever's available to produce food never intended by Escoffier...Welsh Rabbit over baked potato with bacon bits with canned fruit on the side, tuna casserole, various preparations of hamburger, etc.

Sometimes the shelf needs pruning, which leads to living on the hump.

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