Our Readers Write
More Food for Thought
December 31, 2013
Whew! That was a close‑run thing. One day later, and this last In the Same Boat column of 2013 would have carried a different year in the dateline. But truth to tell, we find it hard to think of January 1 as the start of a new year. Our new year really begins when winter's icy grip on our home waters shows signs of loosening, which makes Lady Day — the New Year of the old Julian calendar, this ancient feast falls on March 25 — much closer to the mark.
Of course, things are different for our southern hemisphere readers. While paddlers in the northern latitudes confront a landscape whose familiar features are hidden under an icy mantle, and we often find ourselves switching on our desk lamps in mid‑afternoon, paddlers who live far to the south of the equator are reveling in long days and midsummer heat. Yet to all things, and all paddlers, there is a season. The wheel of the year keeps turning. Come Lady Day or thereabouts, we'll hear the thrum of surging water under rotting ice, and we'll know that winter's lease will soon have run its course.
In the meantime, we northerners do the best we can to keep our spirits up, helped along in no small measure by the holidays that cluster around the midwinter solstice. This is no accident. If the rivers and ponds are frozen over, and the sun has forsaken the land, you might as well stay indoors and party. So, like countless generations before us, we hang mistletoe, light Yule logs, and decorate our homes with glittering baubles. And we eat. Which is why this latest edition of "Our Readers Write" is given over entirely to food, a favorite subject of paddlers in every season. That's no surprise. On the water and off, our engines need regular refueling, and food is our fuel.
On a more pragmatic note, winter in Canoe Country is a good time to make menu plans for summer trips to come. This includes trying out new dishes to see if they're both appetizing and easy to prepare. It's a thankless job, to be sure, but someone has to do it. And paddlers have always shown themselves more than equal to the challenge. Who's to say we shouldn't also take advantage of others' efforts, however? That being the case, why not pour yourself a glass of eggnog or grab a mug of cocoa and spend a few minutes finding out what your fellow (and sister) paddlers have been up to in their own kitchens?
Today's subject is food. And we promise that you won't go hungry.
— Tamia Nelson and Farwell Forrest, In the Same Boat
A Vegetarian Bug‑Out Box? Why Not?
Thanks for your article on the bug‑out box ["The Birth of the Bug‑Out Box" – Editor]. I have my own box, and of course it includes the foods I like to consume. I've been a vegetarian for 25 years, so it has very healthy food including beans (fresh or precooked), brown rice or quinoa, dehydrated vegetables, powdered potatoes, dried fruit of all kinds, several pounds of nuts and seeds, healthy sea salt, organic spices, brown rice pasta, instant soups, green powders, vitamin B12, kelp powder, vegetarian raw energy bars, and so on.
Having a "house box" is also a good idea, and I add emergency candles, several flashlights, first‑aid kit, emergency radios, extra clothing, survival knife/tool, and hat, all kept in a great backpack, and a few gallons of water next to that. Even the Red Cross suggests having a prepared emergency kit on hand to grab, so a kit for the kayak is even simpler. There are tons of videos on YouTube regarding emergency food and bug‑out bags. Take a look!
Your bug‑out box certainly proves that a vegetarian diet needn't be boring, Rachel. And your point about the "house box" is equally well‑taken. Living as we do in New York's icy borderlands, where winter storms are fierce and frequent, and power outages are commonplace, we've long kept emergency supplies on hand. In fact, our paddling bug‑out box evolved from our emergency food stores, though now the two have merged. As you suggest, every paddler has the makings of an emergency kit as close as her gear closet and pantry. It just takes a little organization.
Peanut Allergy? Then Try SunButter and Jelly Sandwiches
Thanks for the article ["The Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich Goes Wild" – Editor]. The simplicity and versatility of this staple meal is often overlooked by people. In our family, however, we have a slightly different main ingredient. Our daughter is allergic to peanuts, so a good and tasty alternative to peanut butter is SunButter, which is made from ground‑up sunflower seeds. We wouldn't have tried it if we didn't have the peanut allergy in the family. But now that we have, I find it is a good substitute for peanut butter. The consistency is almost the same, and it is tasty, especially if you like to eat sunflower seeds.
I love to eat sunflower seeds, Jason. And I'll bet that I'd love SunButter, too. I'll give it a try. And thanks for the tip.
Peanut Butter and Jelly on Toast?
Great! But Hold the Mayo
When canoeing in Northern Wisconsin on the Bois Brule River, my niece and her husband were along, and she made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for her river lunch. She made them on toast, then ate them cold. PB&J on cold toast is like eating it on crackers, and it's her favorite.
I also knew someone who dearly liked peanut butter and mayonnaise sandwiches. I tried it, but it's not something I would have as a steady diet.
When I was a kid, my mother would sometimes spread peanut butter on hot toast for our breakfast, Ric, so your niece's lunchtime treat sounds great. But peanut butter and mayo? Not for me, thanks. Still,de gustibus non est disputandum. Or as one prim old lady of my acquaintance was fond of declaiming, "'Everyone to his own notion,' said the sailor as he spat in the ocean."
Except that she didn't say "spat." Prim old ladies can surprise you.
Dehydrating Cooked Rice at Home
Rice has an important place in backcountry menus, but regular rice takes a long time to cook — often too long. This was the premise behind Tamia's article "Rice on the Go," in which she tried several brands of commercial precooked rice sold in shelf‑stable packets, rice that you can simply heat and eat. But might there be a better alternative? There might. In fact, there is. Read on…
Another option for rice or anything else that takes a long time to cook:
I remember reading in my dehydration book (Trail Food: Drying and Cooking Food for Backpacking and Paddling by Alan S. Kesselheim) about cooking foods and then drying them, so that they only have to be reconstituted/rehydrated before using, and are very light to pack. You can do this with homemade chili, rice dishes, etc. I have not yet tried this with rice, although I have dehydrated pesto paste. Ripe roma tomatoes, dehydrated until crisp, are satisfyingly crunchy as a snack or on sandwiches, in lieu of potato chips.
A sincere fan of your column,
I'm glad you enjoyIn the Same Boat, Wendy. I'll have to try dehydrating cooked rice. I've often oven‑dried food ("Dry It On!" tells of my early experiments), and now that Lipton has discontinued Green Pea Cup‑a‑Soup I frequently make my own. (See "Making Your Own Dried Soups.") But it hadn't occurred to me to dry cooked rice. Thanks for the heads‑up.
Homemade Soup in Camp
Speaking of soup, what's not to like? It's simple and good. And it's particularly welcome on cold days in camp. Maybe that's why Tamia's recent article on the subject, "Five Easy Pièces — Homemade Soups for Camp Cooks," struck a chord with many readers, several of whom have generously shared their own tips for soup‑making:
Combine canned potato soup with a can of milk, then add a packet of smoked salmon and some frozen corn and/or peas and carrots. It makes a scrumptious soup! Also, add some dried dill or basil, if you like, for more flavoring.
Now that'sreally simple and good, Jackie. And I, too, use frozen vegetables on weekend trips. They thaw by the time you make camp in the afternoon, and you then have a base on which to build many a fine meal. (On longer trips, when frozen vegetables aren't practical, canned or dehydrated veggies fill the gap.)
V8 Juice as a Soup Base
Thanks for the Stravinsky reference.* I often make soup and use V8 Vegetable Juice as a base. If you can afford the weight to haul it in and pack out the empties, it makes for a very flavorful soup. I also recently heard a radio show in which the hosts said it was a great base for minestrone. Another idea for a tom yum‑like soup is to mix V8 and coconut milk. You can put the special spices in a recycled pill bottle.
I really appreciate your articles and often spend way too much time tracing various links to get the full dose of your humor and knowledge.
*Igor Stravinsky wrote five piano duets — "Five Easy Pieces" — for his children. – Editor.
It's good to know that you find our articles useful and interesting, Ryc. But I have to confess that the Stravinsky connection had escaped me. My title was a punning allusion to the 1970 film starring Jack Nicholson. The pieces in the Nicholson film were piano pieces, to be sure, but they weren't by Stravinsky.
Anyway, I don't know why I'd never thought of using V8 or one of its many imitators as a soup base, since I drink the stuff by the gallon in summer. It's a brilliant idea. I'm in your debt!
And as for coconut milk, Jackie Colwell also has some breaking news about that…
Shelf‑Stable Coconut Milk
I just thought I would let you in on a new product which would be great on kayak or canoe trips. It is So Delicious coconut milk, and it comes in individual shelf‑stable servings, both in regular and in chocolate flavors! It's great stuff for anyone, even lactose‑ or milk‑allergic people. It can be used to drink or to cook with, and makes great chowder, pancakes, etc. And no, I am not with the company — just an avid user.
I've not given coconut milk as much attention as it deserves, Jackie, but you and Ryc have encouraged me to add it to my shopping list. (A quick search online confirmed that So Delicious is stocked by Walmart and offered by Amazon, which is good news for any paddlers whose local HyperMart is more like a ser‑sta‑gro.)
Shelf‑Stable Condensed Milk in a Squeeze Tube
What's that? You say you're not a coconut milk fan? Then how about milk milk? Cow's milk, in other other words. There's news on this front, too. "Milk for the Long Haul," Tamia's brief discussion of ultra‑pasteurized milk, written in reply to a letter by Paul Plagge in an earlier food‑themed edition of "Our Readers Write," prompted the following tip from a reader living in Spain:
I live in Spain where we live in the country and use [ultra‑pasteurized] milk all the while, as it keeps virtually forever. However, for short or lightweight day trips we get condensed milk sold in tubes like toothpaste. The condensed milk in tubes is also sold in England by Asda. When I first used it I told people I was putting toothpaste in my tea to clean my teeth. The only problem is for people who don't take sugar, as it is sweet. Providing you screw the cap back on tightly, it will last a long time, and hot weather does not bother it. Mixed with a little water it is good on cereals or fruit.
All the best,
I'm intrigued, Derek, though I'm one of those people who doesn't take sugar in her tea. That said, I can see plenty of other uses for condensed milk in a tube, and (another) quick search online revealed that Amazon sells La Lechera in a squeeze bottle. There was also a hint they may be stocking Nestlé condensed milk in tubes at some future date. So it looks like there'll soon be another addition to my bug‑out box. Thanks!
Skillet Brownies Redefined, or
Chocolaty Pancakes Made With Egg Substitute
Tamia's … er … mixed results when experimenting with packaged brownie mix, as reported in "Secrets From the Test Kitchen — Skillet Brownies," inspired one reader to send her an encouraging letter:
Think of skillet brownies kind of like pancakes. Make them a little thin and pour them on the skillet like pancake batter.
I use an egg substitute for pancakes. I had a youth in my Venture Crew who was a vegan, so we changed the way we cooked on canoe trips. And I've outfitted more vegan trips [since then]. I started doing more bannock. For pancakes I add egg substitute to my bannock mix. I am sure it will work the same way for brownies. I am told that the egg substitute is actually a potato product. It converts my biscuity bannock into fluffy pancakes.
I find it very hard to resist brownies, Kenny, and your letter will likely get me heading back to theIn the Same Boat Test Kitchen before much longer.
Coffee — It's in the Bag
One reader was moved to write by Tamia's "Camp Coffee — It's the Taster's Choice," and he has a suggestion that may resonate with paddlers who like coffee but don't like the fuss and bother of making it:
I'm not a coffee aficionado so I'll probably catch a little flack, but I discovered Folger's coffee bags (like tea bags) at Publix when shopping for a two‑night kayak trip on Florida's Peace River. Why didn't anyone come up with this before? They pack easily, too. We just boiled the water in our mugs and let the coffee bags steep for a couple of minutes, and that did the job.
You won't catch any flack from me, Greg, though somebodydid think of coffee bags before. I can remember seeing them in outfitters' catalogs as far back as the '70s. Now, however, they seem to have gone mainstream. And that's not all. Some evolutionary offshoots — they're usually labeled "coffee pods" or "coffee capsules" — have also been adapted for use in a bewildering variety of single‑ and multiple‑cup coffee makers, a few of which should work in camps not blessed with current bushes. Wikipedia even has an article about them. It's essential reading for all coffee‑lovers.
And that's it for the old year. Greg gets the last word. Because no matter how you brew it, a steaming cup of coffee is mighty welcome on a cold winter morning. Though you might prefer tea, of course. Or cocoa. Or even Postum. Like the lady said, "Everyone to his (or her) own notion…." Just as long as whatever ends up in the mug is hot. Because winter's going to be with us for a while yet.
But spring will return to Canoe Country. You have our guarantee on that. We'll have more of our readers' letters for you in April, too, and by then the new year will be well under way, no matter which calendar you fancy. In the meantime, draw up your camp menu, try some new recipes in your very own Test Kitchen, and get ready for the days when the waters run free again. And whenever you can spare a minute, drop us a line. Comment, criticism, or helpful hint — each is welcome. It is "Our Readers Write," after all!
Referenced Articles From In the Same Boat
- "The Birth of the Bug‑Out Box"
- "The Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich Goes Wild"
- "Heat‑and‑Eat — Rice on the Go"
- "Secrets From the Test Kitchen — Skillet Brownies"
- "Camp Coffee — It's the Taster's Choice"
Plus a letter from an earlier "Readers Write" and a few related columns:
- "Milk for the Long Haul" (Tamia replies to a letter from Paul Plagge)
- "Alternatives for Paddlers With Nut Allergies"
- "Gifts From the Home Farm: Eggs, Milk, and Butter"
- "Soup's On!"
- "Dry It On! Wringing the Water Out of Your Favorite Foods"
- "Homemade Soup to Go"
- "Bean Soup for Everyone!"
- "Make Mine Mulligatawny"
- "Java Jive: The Ch'i of Coffee"
- "At Last! Camp Coffee Worth Getting Up For"
- "Backcountry Menus to Go"
- "Navigating Through Ten Years of "Alimentary My, Dear""
Along with an article from Wikipedia:
Then, if you enjoy knowing what's on other paddlers' minds — we certainly do! — be sure to check out the "Our Readers Write" archive, a Paddling.net index with links to all 52 earlier editions of this regular feature from In the Same Boat.
A little fine print: Although we often ask, just to be sure, we'll assume that it's OK to reprint any letter you send us, unless you tell us otherwise. (Just put "Not for Publication" at the head of your letter. That's all it takes.) We will never publish your e‑mail address unless you specifically ask us to, however. We also edit letters occasionally for length or clarity, and we add links to articles or other resources wherever and whenever appropriate.
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