Monday, March 10, 2014

Paleo car-camping

It's easier to eat paleo while camping because the store and the place that sells ice cream are far away, and the food is right here.  However, if you underpack, or think that maybe a lower number of calories is fine, you'll end up weeping unconsolably on the side of a dirt road in the middle of nowhere, too hungry to make good decisions.  Don't short yourself, especially if you're going to hike or climb or paddle.  For reference, this is food that I eat while doing field work - hiking 6-10 hours a day with a light pack, and then car camping at night.  It would also work for river rafting - although it might not meet the high culinary standards of rafters - or pack animal camping or car camping like a normal person with normal desires vis a vis digging cat holes (no) and sleeping on some sort of mattress (yes).

I do not understand how long distance backpackers feed themselves - I think y'all are basically John Muir, and that you just take two loaves of bread and a pound each of bacon and tea, and then three months later you're back, covered with welts and abscesses and less thirty pounds of muscle.  Thus, some of this stuff is heavy, and some of it requires a cooler.

If you say glamping, I will give you the look.

And for my actual regular readers, the lovely people who know me in real life and observe me eating wheat and legumes and pretty much all of the dairy, and of whom there are several who hate the idea of paleo from the depths of their souls, well...  this is how I eat when I'm working, because blood sugar crashes are a lot harder to fix out there and weeping is a bad career choice, paleo cooking blogs have the best vegetable recipes, really truly, the best, and one of you told me that acorns were edible.  I think that you can take deep breaths and control your impulses to expound on what people in the Paleolithic actually ate (spoiler, in California it was acorns) for the length of this blog post as penance for that indignity.

So, paleo camping: I give instructions for one person because C hates camping for fun, and when we do it I have to promise him bread.  Also, I camp for work, so often it is just food that exists to please me and no-one else.

Do not forget to bring
Salt (I use a 50%-50% mixture of potassium salt and regular salt, but I also drink like a million liters of water a day.)
Fat (You might think that olive oil or nut oil is the right choice here, but it's lard or clarified butter.  Oils will inevitably spill in transit, somehow.  Everything will be covered with oil.  You will have to sponge oil off of everything in your kitchen - and possibly some parts of the car, or whatever the kitchen was on top of {put the kitchen on the bottom of the things} with cold water and an improvised rag.  Bring solid fats, because even if they melt, they won't go far.)
Sponge, soap.  (So that when you don't listen to me and bring oil, you can at least clean it up effectively.  Also so you don't die of food poisoning from not washing your plate.)
Cutting board. (It can be tiny, but you want one.)
Knife that is only for food. (I carry a knife that is for cutting rope and branches and taking plant samples and whatever else.  You need a knife that is only used for food, because you eat food, and some of the things you cut with your pocket knife are not edible.  Also, some of the things you cut with a pocket knife make a pocket knife dull.  Also pocket knives are not good for chopping things with.)
Cast iron pan (Frying things in aluminum is an exercise in self-loathing)
Onion, Garlic, Ginger, Lemon (You might hit a point where you desire culinary experimentation.  Having these ingredients around will make this possible.)
Salt tabs (It is hot and you are working.  Please not to dehydrate, it will ruin your tomorrow.)

Breakfast: I fry nuts and seeds in butter or lard.  You could add dried fruit - it's quite good - and a generous sprinkling of salt.  I melt the fat, and then add a handful of almonds, stir, wait a minute, add a handful of hazelnuts, stir, wait a minute, add a handful of pumpkin seeds, stir, wait a minute, and then add a handful of sesame and flax seeds - with the dried fruit.  I sprinkle it with salt, and there, breakfast.  I suggest eating it with a spoon, because using your hands is greasy, and using a mug gives the impression that you're gargling almonds and looks pretty gross.

I also drink three cups of hot liquid that might include caffeine.  If you are addicted to caffeine, don't go cold turkey while planning to run around all day.  Also don't bring inadequate substitutes for your cherished daily ritual.  You can bring different or superior substitutes - but if you drink something handcrafted and beautiful every morning, don't lie to yourself and slam some Via packages.  Tea is fine.  Also fine; hot water with lemon and glaring.  Mint tea.  Basil tea.  Glaring.  Whatever facial expression you have is fine, as long as you are getting a jump on hydration.

Lunch: Possibly because I eat oil fried in fat for breakfast, I don't eat a lot of lunch.  I keep snacks on me - more seeds!  Dried fruit!  Jerky!  Food bars! - both because I've gotten lost and because eating a little food breaks bad decision trees and helps encourage me to do difficult things.  (Difficult: accepting that the car is not down the road I've been walking on for 45 minutes, and I have to go limp back to where I started and find it from there.  Going and checking out that meadow even though the day is almost over and I'm tired.  Explaining how the GPS works again.)  I also carry a lot of water and some iodine tablets in case I get very lost.

Here are some suggestions, though: Sardines in olive oil with onions and mustard - make lettuce wraps or spoon into your face.  Wrap the can in plastic when you're done because it is candy for raccoons and bears.  (Are "sardines in olive oil" packed in real olive oil?  I don't know.  Hazelnut oil is a common substitute, so tell yourself it's that.)  Sometimes I make a trail mix that is basically two squares of very dark chocolate, almonds, hazelnuts, dates, and dried cherries and dried coconut.  Dates are amazing - they are the food God gave us so we could walk up hills at 5pm.  Lastly, hard boiled eggs are nice - bring salt - and so are apples and peach slices and carrots and baby tomatoes and I'm sure you can figure out how to make a lovely picnic lunch.

Supper: I eat eggs.  I eat the eggs from my egg dude that aren't pressure-washed, so they're fine at non-ideal temperatures for a few days.  Find someone who has backyard chickens, and then buy enough eggs so that you'll have 3-4 a day.  I fry them, and then I put them on pre-cooked lentils because I love lentils.  You could eat a little rice that you cook before you go - egg fried rice with garlic and ginger and a little shiitake mushroom is amazing - or roast some sweet potatoes in advance and then fry them up and put eggs on them.  I also have kale or collards - fried, yes, of course - with lemon, and sometimes tomatoes, either salted and popped directly into my mouth or sliced in half and fried.  I've also done hash browns, for those of you who eat white potatoes.  This is super good with a quick salsa - tomato, onion, cilantro - and a half an avocado and some sort of hot sauce.

Things you could do, but I don't do for various reasons (because I'm tired.  I've been walking all day.)
Make stew at home, freeze it, and then eat it on the second day because it helps keep everything else cold: an excellent idea if you happened to make stew before going out.  You could cook sausage or bacon in advance and then make stir fries (SO MUCH CHOPPING) - but be careful to use enough ice, because things chopped into stir-fry sizes go bad quickly, and chopping things for stir-fries while starving is awful.  You could also do this with other meats - you could bring steaks for all I care, and then fry some asparagus in fat and maybe make OH MY GOD, IT'S BEEN LIKE TWENTY MINUTES, I WILL EAT THE STEAK RAW.

Bring something to sip in the evenings - for me it's more mint or tulsi tea, because hydration is essential! - and maybe something to nibble on - dried figs are good, and I can't upsell dried Bing cherries enough, and of course very dark chocolate and maybe some nuts - macadamia nuts? Or even a small slice of Parmesan cheese.  The idea being that you eat very small servings of delicious things, and if you start not savoring them but instead shoveling them into your mouth, you should have another sweet potato or an egg; you are still hungry.  You may have not been hungry earlier because you were still dehydrated. For very bad days, I always have a can of broth that I drink - sometimes with an egg, sometimes not - as I baby myself back to being a functional human.

Wash your dishes before you go to bed: there are bears and raccoons, and I doubt having them lick your bowl clean is sanitary.  Also once they are at your campsite, they'll find something to eat.

S'mores: S'mores are disgusting, but it takes a while to figure that out.  I forget about once every three years.  What you want - and lord, it's not strictly paleo compliant, but you can see I don't really care - is plain mochi, cut into marshmallow-sized pieces and boiled for five minutes, and then neatly wrapped with raw bacon.  You can fry it in your pan - look, I'm not crazy about campfires either - or hold it on a stick over a campfire.  It's gooey and melty and generally amazing.

If you are with very small campers who are not sold on this whole paleo thing, you can avoid the campfire on tough nights by putting the ingredients inside a tortilla and toasting it quickly.

There.  That is how I camp, unless I am with my spouse.  On these occasions, there is a lot more bread.

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