Archive for the 'Let’s Eat! It’s Alimentary, My Dear' Category

Apr 20 2016

The Submarine Sandwich—A Make-and-Take Meal for Every Trek

Sub to Go

Back in the day, when Farwell and I chased around the Northeast in a quixotic effort to hit the sweet spot in as many snowmelt‑swollen rivers as possible before the water ran out, we often had to eat on the go. It wasn’t unknown for us to grab our lunch “out of hand” while portaging our canoe and gear around an unrunnable drop. And this state of affairs continued during our stones‑and‑bones days, since project schedules invariably dictated early starts and long hours. Extended lunch breaks were not part of the program.

Everyone has his or her own coping strategy for such situations, I suppose. Many of our companions — whether paddlers or trowel‑and‑toothbrush crew — made do with some variation on the pop-and-potato-chip theme, supplemented by an occasional Wonder Bread and bologna sandwich. But while Farwell would have been perfectly happy to join the Dr. Pepper and Cheetos brigade — having come of age humping 70‑pound‑plus loads for days on end, fueled by little more than rice and cabbage, he regarded everything else as haute cuisine — I wanted something better. I wanted a sub.

Subs were in my blood, so to speak. I had come of age assembling them for customers in my parents’ roadside eatery. And they’re ideal make‑ahead, take‑along fare. Subs aren’t just fast fuel. They’re a well‑rounded meal of meat, cheese, and vegetables, sandwiched between two thick slabs of bread. Add a couple of substantial oatmeal cookies and a handful of raisins or dried apricots, plus a thermos of hot tea or coffee, and you’re good to go from dawn to dusk. Best of all, you can make your sub at home the evening before your drive to the put‑in. In fact, you should. Taste, economy, even convenience… Homemade trumps store‑bought every time.

Unless you’re very lucky, that is. And this brings me back to my parent’s restaurant. I’ve libeled it in past columns, referring to it as a “greasy spoon.” I had my tongue in my cheek when I did so, but it was a libel, nonetheless. The spoons were never greasy, and the food was always first‑rate. Our subs were made with fresh‑picked vegetables, beef from nearby farms (the butcher was just down the road), and cheese from Vermont co‑ops that used milk from cows who grazed on lush grass and drank from streams that still ran clear. (Nowadays, this would be labeled “artisan cheese,” but we were simple country folk. It was just cheese to us.) The crowning touch was our sub rolls. We bought them from an Italian baker who’d set up shop in a nearby city better known for its shirt collars and church bells, and the rolls’ secret died with him. I’ve never had better bread anywhere.

You probably won’t have the luck we did when it came to procuring ingredients, of course. (After all, our baker is long dead, as is our butcher, and the cheese in the HyperMart is probably manufactured in a New Jersey plant owned by a hedge fund, with milk from cows that are force‑fed soiled banknotes.) But don’t despair. You can still make a perfectly good sub to bring along on your next day trip.

What about it? Do you want to know the secret of a great sub?… Read more…


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Mar 19 2016

The Bialetti Moka Express Under Way

In casa un espresso come al bar!

Some trekkers eat in order to do what they do, whether to go cyclotouring, paddling, or hillwalking. Others trek in order to eat. I belong to the second camp. Be it long or short, every trip holds out the chance of a déjeuner des canotiers. But you need to choose the menu carefully. When you’ll be humping your kitchen and pantry around by muscle power and all trips involve some heavy lifting, you’ll have to leave the ice chest and wine cellar behind. A few luxuries are non‑negotiable, however, and each trekker has her own list.

My roster of must‑haves includes the makings for a good cup of coffee. Many years of experimentation, much of it involuntary, culminated in my discovery of the GSI Java Press, and for a time the Java Press reigned unchallenged. I even brought it along on day trips. Now, however, there’s a new star in my firmament: The Bialetti Moka Express… Read more…

Questions? Comments? Just click here!

Feb 16 2016

Unbending Determination: Microwave Meals for the Backcountry?

What the Compleat Trekker Eats

It’s time for a little straight talk about provisioning and meal preparation. Food is fuel, and hunger really is the best of sauces, but cooking in camp is always something of a chore. There are no marble countertops or food processors in the backcountry. And then there’s the cleanup that inevitably follows the meal. Doing the dishes is never an easy job in a world in which the only running water is in the river. (No, it’s not cool to wash your dishes in the river. But I didn’t need to say that, did I?)

Which is why even young and supple paddlers often find themselves stiff and sore after a few days as camp cook. All that kneeling, squatting, and twisting takes its toll. And if you’re neither young nor supple? Then preparing the simplest meals becomes a painful exercise, something to be dreaded, rather than enjoyed. What are your options? Well, you just might strike up a partnership with a paddling gourmet, a happy cooker whose culinary enthusiasm is undimmed by five days of ceaseless rain and the sudden collapse of the kitchen tarp. Good luck.

Or you could instead do everything in your power to streamline meal preparation and cleanup. This, broadly speaking, is the goal of “man cooking,” and I suspect there’s no more skilled practitioner of that art than 74‑year‑old kayak‑camper Chuck Neubauer. We’ve met him before, in an earlier column. That column triggered quite a spate of reader mail, and you’ll be seeing some of this mail later. But first we’re going to spend a little more time with Chuck, as he demonstrates his approach to meal preparation. You could call it the chuck wagon method… Read more…

Questions? Comments? Just click here!

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