Cuisine on the Trail

Food Preparation for the Trail
Hikers need a lot of energy on a demanding trail. I’ve read on several blogs and on sport’s websites that a hiker can expend between 3500 K cal to 7000 K cal per day. I figure my consumption will be on the lower end of that scale simply because my age and physical fitness level demand that I will be moving slower than most hikers and I will travel less miles per day. My trip is not a race. I’m not trying to set any records. My goal is very simple. I’m going to live on the Appalachian Trail for as long as it takes me to finish, even if that means a year. There are blue blazes that beg to be explored. There are cold rivers to soak one’s feet in. There are animals to watch, plants to sketch, and so many other useful activities like daydreaming under a forest canopy with dappled sunlight to accompany me, that I just don’t have time to waste trying to hurry through. I am also assigning myself algebra and Spanish homework because I find that very enjoyable, even in the middle of the 100 Mile Wilderness. There is a drawback to this revelry. Going slowly so that I fit in with the other organisms, and trying to graph functions on the trail means that I either have to forage for food or carry more than I really want to, because there are long distances between resupply points. I say pack it on and eat the weeds.

I am used to foraging for food, so much so, in fact, that my son Andy once asked me to please graze in the back yard instead of the front, so the neighbors would not see me eating our weeds. Dandelions are not weeds. Neither is chickweed, henbit, cleavers, or lamb’s quarters. How would I get through a spring without sampling the delicious shepherd’s purse? To put his mind at ease that I will not be munching on something toxic, I’m planning my meals, and the preparation is enormous. I also know, from living in Iraq during the war, that good food can boost morale and give you an edge so you can scramble over those boulders on your belly, and you can hoist yourself over an immense fallen tree. I will make delicious and nutritious meals even if I do decide to amble around the tree.

If I take nine months to complete the trail that is ≈ 272 days of meals to prepare, in advance. If I follow recommendations to eat three meals and four snacks throughout the day, I will be packing a lot of food. Thus far, I have thirteen shipping boxes that will include two full week’s meals, which my son will mail to predetermined strategic post offices along the trail.

Today I am preparing breakfast. The entrée is a not-so-nutritious pancake mix. Comfort food…
There are 28 little pouches of dry pancake batter just waiting for a packet of syrup and a sleeve of butter before getting tucked into a Ziploc. Only 244 more breakfast entrees to make. Here is my recipe:

Linda’s Trail Pancakes with Fruit*
1 cup Pioneer Baking Mix
½ tbsp. Egg Replacer
4 tbsp. Meyenburg powdered goat’s milk
Four 3-tbsp. packets of freeze-dried fruits
4 pkts. Pancake syrup
4 sleeves of butter or margarine

The dry mix goes into one small bag. Mix the dry ingredients well and divide into four portions. Bag these up into two-ounce portions, removing as much air as possible. Into a larger plastic bag, tuck one packet of dry pancake mix, one packet of freeze-dried fruit, one butter sleeve, and one syrup packet. *Makes four servings. Add an oxygen absorber and seal.

To cook this on the trail, you simply add water to the packet and squeeze the plastic bag back and forth until the batter is smooth. Clip a tiny hole in a corner of the bag and squeeze the batter onto a hot griddle. (I bought a Swedish Trangia military mess kit for this purpose) Top the batter with the fruit and turn when the bottom is browned. Voila! Pancakes on the trail… Bon appetite!
I buy Harmony House freeze-dried fruit because it is fairly priced and is delicious! The company offers free shipping on large orders and that is a plus as well. Freeze dried is better than dehydrated because it is lighter. Freeze-dried fruit can also be powdered to add nutrition to drinks or puddings.

To vary my meals, I have at least sixteen different recipes for each meal of the day. If I pack only one of each kind of entrée in my two-week’s boxes, my meals will not get boring or monotonous. My goal is to have at least three servings of fruit per day and five servings of vegetables. My snacks will be high-fat, high-calorie, and high protein.

The second breakfast entrée I prepared today has potatoes and eggs. Here it is below:

Hungry Jack Cheesy Bacon Hashbrown Quiche
¼ cup dry Hungry Jack Cheesy Hashbrown potatoes, about 0.7 ounces
1 tsp. Harmony House dehydrated chives
¼ cup Ova Easy Egg Crystals
1 tsp. Meyenberg goat milk powder
2 tbsp. Oscar Mayer real bacon bits
¼ tsp. coarse salt, ¼ tsp. coarse black pepper
¼ cup water, 1 tsp. cooking oil
2 tbsp. Thrive freeze-dried cheddar cheese shreds
(Definitely high-fat, high-calorie, and high-protein, but there are only six of these meals in the entire food preparation menu)
While taking the hiking hammock down in the mornings, the potatoes and onions can be rehydrating in water (takes about 15 minutes). Once rehydrated, use the non-stick Trangia pan to fry them in a tiny amount of oil until browned. Mix the egg crystals, powdered milk, salt and pepper and reconstitute with ¼ cup water. Center potatoes in the pan and pour egg mixture over. Allow eggs to slightly cook and add bacon. Cover and let the eggs cook until set. Sprinkle cheddar cheese shreds over and cover the pan again until the cheese starts to melt (it will be crunchy if it is not rehydrated).

I have six of these little breakfast entrees almost ready to go. Waiting on UPS to deliver the cheese!

A third breakfast recipe is much healthier than the previous two, and is just as hearty. It combines oats, spices and freeze-dried fruit. Here is the recipe below:

Old-Fashioned Apple Oats
¾ cup Quaker Old-Fashioned Oats
1 ½ cups boiling water
½ tsp. coarse salt
1 tbsp. packed brown sugar
½ cup Harmony House Freeze-dried apples
1 good shake of cinnamon

Bring water to a rolling boil. Add salt and oats. Lower the heat (with the simmer ring on the Trangia 27 3UL). Cover oats and allow to cook five minutes more, until tender, but still chewy. Add brown sugar, apples, and cinnamon. If you do not rehydrate the apples, they give a very pleasant crunch.

On this first food blog, I will apologize to my audience, in advance, for boring you with details. When I first started researching recipes for hikers, I found that many of them left out details that I wanted to know, or they didn’t tell you how to actually prepare it on the trail. For instance, I found a recipe for pinto beans (on the trail). The blogger did not say that you can heat the beans to boiling and place them in a thermos for the next six hours and supper will be ready. I thought I would use 2 liters of alcohol to cook ½ cup of beans. I will not be taking uncooked beans on the trail, but Harmony House has cooked beans which have been dehydrated, and once reconstituted and reheated, they are delicious and taste almost as good as fresh. I have a soup recipe which uses them and I will share this recipe with you later.

Thank you for reading. If you have recipes to share with me, or comments to make, please do so. Also, if you have questions, please ask.

Forty-one days until I leave for Bangor, Maine. On June 2, I will summit Mount Katahdin and begin my adventure. Glad you want to tag along.

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