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

Apr 23 2015

Ramen Redux: Making a Good Thing Even Better

Ramen Redux

Back in December, I wrote an article about the many uses of instant ramen, those ubiquitous noodle bricks that are a staple foodstuff on both campuses and campsites. And after delivering a brief, cautionary homily about commercial ramen’s high sodium and fat content, I suggested several ways to transform HyperMart ramen into something heartier and (hopefully) healthier. The article was a success, and my virtual mailbag soon contained ample proof that instant ramen stands high on paddlers’ lists of quick camp meals. The writers weren’t all “man cooks,” either.

But not everyone who wrote was an enthusiast. A few readers — their views probably echoing those of many more — made it perfectly clear they wouldn’t touch instant ramen with the proverbial barge pole. And while I continue to eat the stuff without qualms, I can’t offer much in the way of rebuttal to this blanket condemnation. Commercial instant ramen certainly isn’t my idea of health food. It’s not even my notion of healthy food. It is, in truth, a chemical feast.

Want proof? Then let’s examine the evidence… Read more…

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Mar 19 2015

Convenience Stores: Your First Stop for Last-Ditch Provisioning

At Your Service

Convenience Stores are the modern counterparts to the once ubiquitous ser‑sta‑gros that dispensed the four commodities without which life in rural America would have been unthinkable: Red Man chewing tobacco, Coca‑Cola, gasoline, and beer. The ser‑sta‑gro was usually a mom‑and‑pop business, and it had an aesthetic all its own, characterized by sun‑faded pinup calendars (all of them more than two years old), skeins of fan belts (displayed in a smeary plate‑glass window), and countless streamers of fossilized flypaper, whose intended victims promenaded confidently up and down the desiccated bodies of their less fortunate comrades. The “rest room” — if there was one — was often just a hole in a splintered plank in a shack, a rickety affair located somewhere out back among piles of discarded tires and rusting engine blocks.

Today’s convenience stores are a study in contrast. They’re oppressively tidy, resplendent in corporate dress, and relentlessly family‑friendly. The pinups are gone, and judiciously applied poisons now eliminate the need for flypaper. There are changes in the stock in trade, too. Red Man is losing ground to Skoal and Copenhagen, and Gatorade is making inroads on Coca‑Cola. But the gas and beer still bring in a steady stream of customers, and convenience stores often have much more on offer than the ser‑sta‑gros’ Big Four commodities. And that’s a good thing.

Not that the Big Four are in any less demand, of course. Trekkers who drive—as opposed to those arriving on two wheels—need gas for their vehicles. And many of us drink beer, though we don’t do much beer‑drinking in the backcountry on paddling or backpacking trips. We’d have to haul it around with us, for one thing, and beer, being largely water, is heavy. Moreover, the 18‑ and 24‑packs that form the bulk of the convenience stores’ inventory are awkward loads in a kayak or small canoe. We do need to eat and drink, however. So when we have to stock up on food — if, for example, we left the food pack in the garage, and the garage is now 500 miles away — and if we don’t fancy making a two‑hour detour to visit a HyperMart, we’re left with no alternative but the convenience store.

Admittedly, the prospects may not appear very promising. Beer and Cheetos do not a balanced diet make, and they’ll likely be the first things to greet the customer’s eye. But the determined forager will unearth a world of possibilities hidden behind the leaning towers of Pilsner. Let’s take a brief tour and see what we can find … Read more…

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Feb 19 2015

Chili: The Hot Meal for Cold Weather

A Chili Dish for a Chilly Day

Fast food is seldom good, and good food is rarely fast. This is bad news for skiers and snowshoers, who appreciate a hearty hot meal at the end of a long day on the trail. And it’s not exactly good news for spring paddlers, either, who’d welcome a quick and easy supper on their first night in camp. So… Fast food or good food: Which is it to be? This recurring dilemma confronts camp cooks in all seasons. The usual answer is a meal conjured up from some colorful box or shiny foil packet. Occasionally this yields a pleasant surprise, though this doesn’t happen often. But what’s the alternative? Where do you turn when you want good food, fast?

To your refrigerator, that’s where. Or your freezer. The strategy is simple. Bank meals in advance of need. Make a big pot of a favorite dish when time permits, eat what you want, and freeze the rest. Then, when a quick meal is needed at the end of hard day, just open the fridge, remove your already prepared meal, heat, and eat. Or if you’re headed out for a spring weekend, simply tuck the frozen meal in a pack. By the time you reach camp, it will likely have thawed and be ready to drop in the pot. Of course, winter campers can keep enough prepared food hard‑frozen to last right through a weekend — or even a week — provided that no unseasonable spell of warm weather intervenes, that is.

The bottom line? You can have have good food, fast, if you just make favorite meals in quantity. Then freeze them, and hold these frozen culinary assets in readiness until the need is greatest. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination, but you’re sure to have a favorite. And what’s mine? That’s easy: Hot Chili … Read more…


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