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602 Trail Sense

cooking evening meal at Big South Fork

My wife and I married later in life. During my many years as a bachelor I had formed my own cooking and eating habits. My hobbies were camping, hiking, trail running, and climbing which had me camping easily over a hundred nights per year. My camping time soon bled over to my city life and my menu when I was at home was very similar to my camping menu. In fact, regularly, I cooked outside over a camping stove and ate outside.

Once married, my wife asked me to share in the cooking chores. Frustrated by my basic cooking skills, she exclaimed, "you don't know how to cook, you only know how to heat things up!" She was right. Our view of cooking was different. I enjoyed food, but not enough to waste too much time preparing it. To me cooking was just a chore, I cooked because I had to eat to give me the energy to do the things I loved. My wife in turn, cooked because she loved good food.

So a few outdoor cooking tips from a heater-upper …

When preparing for a trip there are two basic styles for food buying and packing - the menu style meals and the ingredient style. With the menu, you shop for only the fixings to meet the requirements of the menu. The ingredients style allows you to shop for a pantry of ingredients and then with each meal the chef attempts to create a masterpiece.

The menu style is better on shorter trips where the meal is not such an important part of the trip.

The ingredients style is better on longer trips where food becomes a focus.

On longer trips food is more important. There is a lot of pressure on the evening's cook to make the perfect meal.

The ingredients plan also requires more cook ware.

Both styles of cooking require extra seasoning.

With the menu style, freeze dried meals become a quick and easy dinner.

Freeze dried meals are fast, easy, light, and expensive. The tastes range from okay to terrible.

One true advantage of a freeze dried meal is being able to eat from the bag. There are no dishes to clean. You boil water, pour it in the bag, let it sit for a few minutes, and eat. To eat out of the bag, cut down the sides of the bag to form a more bowl like shape.

Don't forget to take out the silicate packages before adding the water. I have mistakenly made the meal without removing the packets and, though I did not die, the directions insist that you remove them.

The ingredients style starts with the base ingredients (potatoes, pasta, rice, etc) then adds sauces, protein, and extras to make a one-pot-wonder. The tastes can be extreme - good or bad!

The ingredients style is fun, but can be messy and time consuming.

For the menu style, you do not have to eat freeze dried meals. There are a lot of options in the grocery. But, you would only buy ingredients to match the menu.

Instant potatoes are a savior. They can be added to any meal to thicken the pot. We find the Ore Ida brand to be tastiest.

Ah, and don't forget the Cup of Soup!

Some dehydrated foods allow you to cook in a bag, once again with varying results and tastes.

Remember to sample all foods at home before taking them on a trip.

Talking about all the camping food makes me hungry for our coveted mashed potatoes supreme. Yum!

Happy cooking trails


Trail Sense Food Links

Importance of Food

An Edible Diet


Kitchen Extras



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