My lovely fiancé thinks I should start including more food in my blog, or just blog about a few certain foods. I love to cook and for a while on Facebook I’ve been doing a running commentary sharing some good meals with photos (except when I eat them up too quickly!) using a cooking show styled announcement using my gaming group nickname: Tonight on Cooking with the Captain… (fill in description of deliciousness). I’ve blogged my limoncello, and a few other fun bits. His suggestion was really two part: one, tell the world the awesomeness of Christmas dinner from this year, and two, start blogging about backpacking food.
Me, I just need to get into the habit of blogging at all. Post more historical costume bits! Book reviews! Photos of the day! Anything!
Maybe I’ll get to Christmas eventually. But backpacking food I can talk about for a little bit. My fiancé might have something here. In a few words, backpacking food sucks.
Okay, it doesn’t really suck. This isn’t really a rant, but an explanation of the state of the majority of backpacking food advice. There are some exceptions, but it’s important to know what the mainstream is, or rather, how the topic is framed. Backpacking food can be fantastic and there are certainly some people out there who are elevating the food eaten in the wilderness. Going out into the wilderness, you have a wide range of options. Unfortunately, the way the industry of backpacking is set up, and the culture of backpacking falls, food choice usually only is framed as two options: buy backpacking food, or make everything from scratch.
You can buy pre-made backpacking food, which is convenient, but is expensive, a toss up for flavor, needs supplementation for proper calorie counts, and usually needs repackaging because bags of freeze dried or repackaged foods often are full of air, and you need all the space you can get in a bear-proof food canister. Making your own food has the most control, but it’s often more laborious. And, if you’re not a handy cook, it could be more trouble than you expected. Both of these options have some hefty stereotypes.
So, what’s a foodie to do? What’s between these options? What are easy approachable recipes? What is tasty and healthy that you can just pick up off the shelves? How can I put something together without the expenditure of “backpacking food?” What if I miss my wine with dinner? Can I dehydrate food without an expensive dehydrator? Is this at all socially conscious? Is it even healthy?
There are plenty of folks writing about many suggestions and recipes and reviews on food, but, at least in our opinion, they don’t really come across right for a food lover, and not usually in approachable means or practical purposes for a novice – either at cooking or packing.
To be fair, Backpacker Magazine does an excellent job, but it approaches this from almost too many directions depending on the authorship of the article and what the focus is. They also tend to focus their writing to someone with experience; you like backpacking, or you wouldn’t have picked up the mag, which means you’ve done it at least once before. You have at least something to compare to, to hold in your mind as The Way Things Are Done, and thus you can say oh, I want to read that article about cooking eggs because we didn’t have that, I had no idea you could take those! or we cooked on a grill on our fire, I wonder if they have something about that on their website? Searching “beginner food” comes up with 887 results, which is a lot to sort through and none are specifically a beginners guide to food. Meanwhile for perspective, Instant Upgrades is a popular column of ways to improve commonly known pitfalls.
My bottom line is that food should be tasty, filling, last all day, and not require too much effort after a long day of hiking. It should be approachable for your skill level. There’s got to be some sort of middle ground, a happy ground for compromise between these different food options, and that’s something I like to try to find. Fresh and processed, specialized and not, home made and packaged, and it should all still be filling and tasty. It should fit in my canister and any extra weight should be worth it in spades.
That’s a challenge, and it saddens me that so many backpackers, when I read their blogs about trips, give up on food, or are just okay with the status quo of backpacking food without question. On the other end, there are just as avid backpackers who post recipes on end, akin to a digital cookbook. I believe there’s a gap between the status-quo of packaged food and printed recipes that prevents folks who want something better/cheaper/tastier/varied from being able to achieve it. There are very few stepping stones to practice or try things out or just make choices to bridge the gap. It can intimidating to cook in the backcountry when there is not much margin for error.
So it is indeed very tempting to write about these things and share them. Really, even if I don’t get around to sharing them all, I want to say let’s have some fun cooking and eating on the trail! Let’s harken back to the days before processing and take slabs of ham and eggs for breakfast, or eat a salad and fruit. Let’s make a little room for the cooking spray on some trips, and know how to gussy up things from the supermarket. Let’s drink our wine to watch the sun set and our espresso to watch it rise again! Let’s make fresh biscuits in a pot over an open fire!
In short, backpacking food does not need to be boring, or expensive, or hard to make. And it should be delicious. I think all food should be delicious. Why let this be an exception? I’m an avid cook and perhaps more avid eater and translating that to one of my other passions – the outdoors – is something I shall endeavor to make mention of from here on out.