by | Jul 31, 2016 | KJ Howe | 8 comments

by KJ Howe

Food is crucial for sustenance.  It’s also an important part of our social fabric, and integral to our celebrations and holidays. Gourmet meals are slaved over for hours, the dishes lovingly selected and created, presented beautifully on a decorated table.

But what if food is unavailable or withheld?  During kidnaps, most captives lose copious amounts of weight as a result of starvation-like diets.  Kidnap hides are usually located in remote regions, restricting the choices for daily sustenance. Meals are often served only once a day, and they can be far from appetizing.

The hostage’s location can greatly influence the daily diet. Bread in all forms is ubiquitous for meals, ranging from cassava to sourdough to rye.  Rice and beans are staples, both easy-to-store and readily accessible throughout the world’s kidnap hotspots.  When it comes to meat, chicken and lamb tend to be the most prevalent forms of protein, as small livestock are easier to care for and transport.  Fish is also a predominant food, especially if the kidnap hide is located near water where daily fishing can offer a freshly caught meal.  In the Middle East, falafels are common, the chickpea- or fava bean-based patty is usually fried in a pan, often served in a pita.  Oranges, apples, and other fruits are sometimes offered, depending on the region.  The choices are extremely limited overall, and it’s likely the captive will be eating the same thing day after day.

When it comes to beverages, water, tea, and coffee rank high.  And, it seems no matter where you go in the world, the caffeinated, sugary beverages of Pepsi and Coca-Cola are in plentiful demand.

Quantities of food are often in short supply in remote kidnap locales, and the cost of feeding a hostage cuts into the profit of a ransom.  The good news for captives is that in most cases the kidnappers want to keep you healthy and alive so that they can negotiate a substantial sum for your release.  It’s important to eat whatever you are given so you can keep your strength, endure the captivity, and eventually return home to your family.  So no matter how unappetizing the food, try to eat it.

Starved, lonely, missing your loved ones for long stretches of time.  It makes one consider what food fantasies would enter your mind while in captivity.  I would choose something called Salzburg Nockerl, an incredible soufflé-like dish that represents the mountains surrounding Salzburg, Austria.  I spent a year in this gorgeous city, and the place holds many fond memories, this dessert among them. I hope you’ll give it a try.


    Makes 4 to 6 (dessert) servings

    15 min
    30 min


      • 1/4 cup heavy cream
      • 1/4 cup bottled wild lingonberry sauce or any fruit preserves or jam
      • 5 large egg whites
      • 3/4 teaspoon salt
      • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
      • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
      • 3 large egg yolks
      • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
      • Confectioners sugar for dusting


      1. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 400°F.
      2. Pour cream into a 9-inch pie plate or shallow gratin dish and spoon lingonberry sauce into cream in dollops (it will be sparse).
      3. Put egg whites and salt in a bowl, then set bowl in a larger bowl of hot water and stir whites to warm to room temperature, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from hot water. Beat whites with an electric mixer at high speed until they just form soft peaks, then beat in granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until whites just form stiff, glossy peaks. Sprinkle flour over meringue and fold in gently but thoroughly. Whisk together egg yolks and vanilla in a small bowl, then fold into whites gently but thoroughly.
      4. Spoon large dollops of meringue onto cream mixture and bake until golden brown and set, 13 to 15 minutes. If you prefer a less creamy soufflé, bake 5 minutes more. Dust lightly with confectioners sugar and cool 5 minutes before serving.
      5. What would be the one food you would crave most if you were kidnapped?

    Don’t Miss a Thing!



    1. Karna Bodman

      You have really given us a lot to think about with your interesting post, K.J. First — the mere idea of being kidnapped and held for ransom is such a mind-boggling thought, it is hard to list a particular food that I would miss in that type of awful scenario — though now, stopping for a moment, the first thing that comes to mind is chocolate. But I know that is silly. I would need some protein to keep up my strength. As for writing about all of this, I know you are the "kidnap expert" because I was privileged to snag an advance copy of your new thriller, THE FREEDOM BROKER — I highly recommend it to one and all.

    2. S. Lee Manning

      I think I'd crave coffee most if I were kidnapped- but I am an addict. Recipe looks great, btw.

    3. Sonja Stone

      KJ, this is so interesting. I tend to be quite particular about what I eat (I'm a bit of a culinary snob), but I've taken a few survival courses, and the two rules are: 1) eat when you can, because you never know where the next meal is coming from, and 2) eat to live, not live to eat.

    4. KJ Howe

      Thanks for the kind words about THE FREEDOM BROKER, Karna. And chocolate sounds good to me. Sometimes for a treat, kidnappers will give their captives things like chocolate bars, etc. Still, imagine living on just a few foods for months at a time. Tough.

    5. KJ Howe

      Caffeine is a staple, and coffee the best delivery system, Sandy! Hope you try the recipe. I LOVE It.

    6. KJ Howe

      Sonja, I also love tasting menus and trying new things…but as you say, when your life is at stake, eat anything and everything you can. Survival is key, and life is sweet.

    7. Jamie Freveletti

      Coffee will always rank with me. Never understood the soda/caffeine thing, but to each his own!

    8. KJ Howe

      I hear you, Jamie. I don't care for sugary sodas either. I love the taste and smell of java!