My absolute favourite thing about camping is the smell of smoke that permeates everything and lingers for a week. For an entire week after we came back into the city, I would catch whiffs of citronella and wood-fire. It had a grounding effect. This peaceful feeling contrasted greatly with the anxiety that surfaced before we started packing up the car.
This was my first time camping since becoming vegetarian. With the extra considerations that come with being a suspected hypoglycemic, my planning revolved around food. And first aid. Planning the menu and assembling an extravagant first-aid kit helped me mentally prepare for the worst. What if it rained all weekend and we couldn’t build a fire? What if I cut my finger on the first day? What if we got mauled by mosquitoes and deer flies and ticks? Luckily none of these things happened. But if they did, I had the food and first-aid kit to keep us going.
Food cooked in an open fire is really the best thing ever. Although it takes forever to get things boiling, it is well worth the wait. And it’s not just the hunger talking. Cooking over fire combines slow cooking with the taste of barbecue – slow cooking enhances flavours, and the smokey taste is just great.
What I learned on this trip, was that no matter how much you prepared, life will always throw you lemons. Or was it curve balls? But it doesn’t matter, because being in the woods without a watch, or a phone, or any electronics, for that matter, turn everyday anxieties into trifles. You realize that at the end of the day, if you’ve made it through without any major mishaps, with a dry sleeping bag to snuggle in, then nothing else matters.
The quietness of the full moon, rising over a dark lake, is magically restorative.
On food, I would like to share some of my lessons learned.
1. Sharing means caring
It is important to communicate early and often with those you are camping with what your expectations are, especially if you have special diet restrictions (like being a hypoglycemic vegetarian who needs to eat often).
A good idea is to share responsibility for food – sharing of food will inevitably happen, especially if you are friends already. So take that into account and communicate ahead of time who is bringing what, to maximize freshness of produce and eliminate duplicates. This also gives you the excuse to cook together, which is a lot of fun over the fire!
A friend of mine suggested taking a turn-based approach and assigning certain meals to certain people. This is a great idea and I imagine you will get to eat a lot of different things, plus reduce the amount of meal planning you need to do in advance. The caveat is that everybody then shares the same meal, and incorporating different diets might be challenging for some.
2. Importance of breakfast
Nobody likes to stand around in the cold, waiting for the fire to start so that you can cook eggs. I was proud of myself for having the forethought of bringing a loaf of Energizer Banana Bread to stave off the morning hunger so that I can be civilized when the others woke up. Supplemented with eggs, cherry tomatoes, toast with almond butter, and juice, I was good to hike up a mountain.
3. Making your own trail mix
I don’t know about you, but I can never find a store-bought trail mix that I could eat without leaving bits of stale sunflower seeds and yucky raisins behind. Store bought nuts also contain a bus load of sugar, oil, or salt. I say no to that, and you can too!
It might be a little more expensive to purchase raw nuts in bulk, but the result is well worth it. I dry roasted walnuts, pecans, and almonds, my favourite nuts (I love cashews too but they are just way too fatty), and mixed it together with dried cranberries and chocolate covered quinoa puffs. A handfull can fill me up and it was handy to have on the trail.
4. Plan Plan Plan!
As I mentioned in a previous post and alluded to above, in my anxiety of making sure we had enough to eat, we brought way too much produce. The most important part of planning, I realized, aside from designing a balanced menu that incorporated interchangeable ingredients, was portioning!
Not knowing what others were bringing, combined with our overcompensation, we ended up using half of our produce. With only a bit of extra planning involving portioning out the produce, we would have come back with our cooler empty!