Post # 235 It’s NOT Taco Time again!

April 2, 2014 at 2:11 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post # 235 It’s NOT Taco Time again!

April Fools!  It really is.  No it isn’t.  Just kidding.  Nope, today I’m going to talk about food on the go, more specifically, food I take camping with me.  Back in my spent youth (mis-, well-, or otherwise), I went camping, hiking, backpacking quite a bit.  I also rode my bike all the time, something I’ve picked up again, but haven’t been as dedicated to just yet.  Bringing the right foods with you to sustain you during whatever activity is critical to the success.

When I planned a simple day hike, the menu was easy.  Water, a sandwich or four, some fruit, and some chocolate.  Just because.  Longer trips required a little more planning.  If it was a simple overnight hike, that too was easy enough.  Anything longer than two days was going to require some give and take.  And it also depended on what kind of hiking and camping I was going to do.  If I was hiking to a spot, setting up camp, and staying there, food prep was fairly easy.  If I was hiking for several days straight, point A to point B, food became more problematical.

I was doing a day hike once with a friend, and since I was learning the plants I could eat in the woods and forests around where we lived, I was pointing out to him while reinforcing to myself the various edibles.  At one point, he laughed and said, “Hiking with you is just going to the grocery store.”  It’s true that I like to know what’s around me.  Started way back in upper state New York, and continues to this day.

I don’t go crazy, though.  I know I can eat cattail pollen like flour, but I’ve never collected it and make biscuits.  But I have ventured out into the woods on an early Spring morning to gather enough fiddlehead fern shoots to make a salad that is beyond compare.  I’ve also wandered by a bunch of wild asparagus and broken off a few and munched away while everyone stared at me like I was crazy.  One time, at home, I was making something and needed some scallions but didn’t have any.  I rushed out of the apartment to the nearest stand of trees and found what I was looking for growing wild.  I picked enough for my needs, hurried home, washed them well, and used them.  No one was the wiser.

One time, I was taking a wilderness survival course in Virginia and as the instructor was leading us somewhere, I saw a bush of black raspberries.  I broke off a branch and popped them into my mouth one by one.  When he asked me what I was eating, I told him berries.  He said I should never eat anything in the wilds that I couldn’t identify.  I told him I knew that and kept eating the berries.  Finally, he took one of the berries and was surprised at the tremendous flavor.  “How’d you know what it was?”  “It’s not my first time in the woods.” I replied.

Another time, my ex and I were riding bikes around D.C.  This was when we just met and didn’t know each other very well.  Going home, there was a killer hill we needed to climb, and because of all the gods in the sky, it was at the end of our ride, the end of our energy, and the end of our patience.  I suggested we walk the bikes up the hill.  I was doing okay, but I could see she was struggling.  About halfway up the hill, there was a small tree providing a little bit of shade.  I said, let’s set the bikes down and rest.  I had to laugh when she grumpily let go of her bike and let it crash onto the grass, heedless of any damage.  She was not a happy cyclist just then.  I only had a small bit of water left, and I knew she had none.  I gave her mine because we were really less than half a mile from my apartment.  As we sat there recuperating, I glanced up at the tree.  It was a mulberry and berries were thick, and drooping, and full of juice.  “Hang on,” I said.  “Try this.”  I stood and broke off a branch heavily laden with the ripe black berries.  She looked suspicious, but relented.  We finished off two full branches of berries, got very sticky and stained, but were ready to tackle the last half mile to home shortly after that.  She still talks about how good those berries were.

It was because of hiking that I learned how to make beef jerky.  I even made several different batches for my brother in law for Christmas one year.  I learned to dry foods using the oven and using a real food dehydrator.  My volunteer little brother and I once spent an entire afternoon making fruit leather.  Just a hint, don’t make anything that takes a long time for a kid under 14.  He was 9 at the time.  His “Is it done yet?” gave the old “Are we there yet?” a run for its money.  The fruit leather was very good and when we dipped it in melted chocolate, it was terrific.

GORP is the trail food most people think of when or if they ever think of trail food.  GORP stands for Good Old Raisins and Peanuts.  Now, you can find commercially made trail mixes (as GORP is now known) in every convenience store across the country.  Back then, I made my own.  I made my own because I didn’t like raisins or peanuts.  I threw my favorite nuts: cashews, walnuts, pecans; my favorite seeds: sesame, sunflower, pumpkin; and my favorite non-melting chocolate:  what else? M&Ms; along with toasted dry coconut and threw it all in a plastic bag.   A couple of handfuls of that would keep anyone going.

I knew a guy a long time ago who had been an avid hiker nearly all his life.  I knew him when he was reaching the last stages of his life, but he was still going strong on the trails.  We were out on a trail maintenance hike with several others and it was time to rest and snack.  He was foraging through his day pack, moving around some small tools, flashlights, and I saw him put aside a bag of about a dozen small dog biscuits.  Puzzled, I asked where his dog was.  “I don’t have one.”  Then why the dog biscuits?  “Those are for me.  Everyone of my packs has a baggie with dog biscuits.  It’s my emergency rations.  If it’ll keep a dog alive, it’ll keep me alive.  And I’m never tempted to eat it.”  Made sense.  I’ve never done it.


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