"It’s Alimentary: Provisioning, Food, and Cooking" Archives

May 16 2017

Curry on Camping! by Tamia Nelson

Looking for a good meal for chilly evenings following long days on your bike, on the trail, or on the water? Something that’s quick to throw together, with a bold flavor and warm after-glow? Then Tamia has a suggestion: Dip into a varied and versatile catalog of spicy dishes from South Asia, many of which are now available in an easy-to-transport, easy-to-prepare form. So… What’s stopping you? Curry on camping!

The New Model Climate is making snow a rare treat in much of the northern states and adjacent Canadian provinces, even in winter, but things used to be very different. One August many years ago found Farwell and me on a long, narrow lake in central Québec, struggling in our canoe to make headway against half a gale of wind. This was bad enough in itself, but the wind was driving a wintry mix of snow and sleet before it, and our travelworn foul-weather gear was proving unequal to the challenge. By day’s end we were tired, wet, and cold.

Mugs of sweetened tea helped to thaw our fingers as our supper—canned beef stew—simmered on the stove. The stew wasn’t gourmet fare, but it was quick to heat and easy to prepare. I knew it would both warm us and fill us up. That was enough.

Or so we thought. But then one of our companions poked his head under the tarp. He and his wife weren’t the “tinned stew” sort. They dined every night on home-prepared, home-dehydrated meals, many of which could have been described, without exaggeration, as haute cuisine. (They’d even brought a couple of splits of champaign along for special occasions.) Our friend looked at the bubbling pot. He sniffed the air, heavy with the cloying and somewhat metallic odor of Dinty Moore’s best. His nose wrinkled expressively, but he said nothing at first, and his silence was eloquent. Then he started fishing around in the pockets of his Gore-Tex jacket till he’d found what he was looking for: a 35 mm film canister with a yellow top. “Take this,” he said suddenly. “Stir it into that…” Here he paused, searching for the right words. “Er… Stuff. It might make it…” Another thoughtful pause. “Well, you know, edible.” His tone suggested doubt and hope in equal measure.

I was too tired to be offended by our friend’s less than generous critique of my cuisine. I took the proffered film canister from his hand and opened it. The aroma was as pungent as it was powerful, and my quizzical expression elicited the briefest of descriptions—a single word: Curry… Read more…

Homemade Yellow Lentil and Squash Curry -- (c) Tamia Nelson

Originally published at Paddling.com on May 16, 2017


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Apr 18 2017

A Better Box of Mac Cheese: It Has Bernie’s Rabbit of Approval by Tamia Nelson

Boxed macaroni and cheese makes a memorable camp dinner—for all the wrong reasons. But not all macaroni cheese meals are equally bad. This week, Tamia reports on one brand that breaks the mold.

Let’s face it: By reputation, boxed macaroni and cheese is a meal of last resort, a glutinous melange of limp pasta coated in something that has the texture and appearance of white glue. (This resemblance is not entirely coincidental. Casein glue and cheese are kissing cousins.) And the reality of most macaroni cheese meals often lives up—or down—to their reputation. But to give the devil his due, macaroni cheese is also filling, reasonably calorie-dense, easy to prepare, and cheap. It travels well, too. Which is why it has a place on many paddlers’ menus. Including mine.

Which doesn’t change the fact that there’s an element of penance in sitting down to a such a meal. Even if hunger is the best of sauces, you have to be mighty hungry indeed to elevate the typical HyperMart macaroni and cheese to the level of a gourmet treat. Yet there are exceptions, and I’ve just discovered one: Annie’s Shells & Real Aged Cheddar Macaroni & Cheese… Read more…

Lunch With Bernie - Tamia Nelson Photo

Originally published at Paddling.com on April 18, 2017


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Apr 01 2017

Cyclists Rejoice! It’s Shaping Up to be a Great Spaghetti Harvest by Tamia Nelson

Is there any better reward after a spin on your bike than a plate of steaming spaghetti topped with your favorite sauce? If you love spaghetti, then you’ll be happy to learn that the spaghetti harvest looks like a good one this year.

Where would we be without spaghetti and other pastas? We’d be hungry, of course! Farwell and I each consume several pounds of spaghetti every week, so we were heartened to hear that the harvest this year is in full swing. The venerable BBC has produced a short documentary to explain the spaghetti harvest. It’s worth watching:



Now that’s good news! And if you’d like to know the story behind the report, watch this:



I’m off to the kitchen. The pot’s boiling over!


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Mar 22 2017

Alimentary, My Dear: Break(fast)ing Bad—and More by Tamia Nelson

I have a confession to make. Farwell and I don’t buy many “outdoor” books these days. Having now written the equivalent of something like 30 hardcover volumes on paddling, camping, and related en plein air activities, we’re likely to turn to something completely different when we feel the urge for a relaxing read: history, say, or biography, or a title from that broad and rather amorphous grab bag called “literature.” Still, there are times when one of us hankers for what used to be called a busman’s holiday. But even then we’ll probably reach for a book that was first published many years ago.

It isn’t that contemporary outdoor writers don’t have something to say. They do. And many of them say it very well. It’s just that we’re drawn to earlier writers when we’re in search of rest and relaxation. Which is why I was leafing through the old camping books on our shelves a few weeks back, looking at the authors’ food lists. How things have changed! With few exceptions, the old lists relied on the three B’s—beans, bannock and bacon—or on some predictable variation on this theme. Lard and sugar (lots of sugar!) figured prominently, too. All in all, it was enough to bring joy to the heart of any cardiac surgeon’s stockbroker.

At first I was inclined to shake my head in wonderment. After all, I’ve absorbed the messages of the “healthy eating” school. And I’m truly found of greens, groats, and garlic. Yet I can’t forget the days, not so very long ago, when SPAM fritters were a rare and keenly anticipated treat. Hunger, it’s often said, is the best of sauces, and anyone who has ever relied on an ash breeze to get across a big lake knows this to be true. That may help to explain why I sometimes yearn for a few of the forbidden fruits of the table, a sort of gustatory nostalgie de la boue.

But before I make a public display of my secret appetites, I must utter the statutory warning: If you should be so misguided as to follow me into folly, on your own head (and heart) be it. I will not answer for your conduct to your grieving spouse, and I will leave your lawyer’s summons unopened on my desk.

Now, with that burdensome, though necessary, warning attended to, allow me to reveal my hidden yearnings, most of them quarried from food lists that were already showing their age when I first shouldered a pack. And I’ll begin with a backwoods icon: Coffee … Read more…

Roasting Hot Dogs Alongside the River

Originally published at Paddling.com on March 21, 2017


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