Wednesday Food: Two Wheels and a Full Pannier
I embarked on my first bike camping trip this weekend. From Chicago we cycled 45 miles north to Illinois Beach State Park on a Friday night, returning Sunday afternoon. I determined weeks ahead that I would make every effort not to rely on factory-made camping food and trail mixes.
Any adventuring sans-auto is going to require the lightest possible gear and provisions. Whether you are cycling, backpacking, snowshoeing, or climbing, weight will always be a factor. Single burner stoves are easy to rent and nesting cookware for two can be held in the palm of a hand. But if you’re going to create meals that don’t begin dehydrated, an allotment of volume and weight is inevitable. As this was a relatively short trip (though no S24O) and our gear was minimal, I indulged myself the entirety of one pannier for food, out of four, and planned a semi-elaborate list of meals.
Three cheers for:
- ‘Emergency’ meals— initially, all instant food was cast aside but at the last moment I grabbed a dehydrated meal from a previous trip. When we got into camp after midnight (due to a number of obstacles that tacked extra hours onto an already long bike ride) it was freezing, exhaustion had weakened both limb and spirit, and stomachs were empty. A bowl of chili that required nothing but hot water turned the evening around. My favorite brand.
- My mini Gerber knife— a modest folding knife. Though not intended for preparing food, it worked efficiently to peel potatoes, slice cheese, dice onion, and reassure me when biking through a bad neighborhood.
- Powdered vegan bouillon–a quality product is made from actual vegetables, is nearly weightless, and can be used for soup, noodles, or just a mug of something hot and nourishing.
- Improvisation— I had intended two thick portabello caps for soup but upon seeing that the camp site offered a fire pit with partial grill, barbecued them. Layered with a few slices of sourdough, white cheddar, and leftover spinach and plunked back on the fire, the outcome was one of the best grilled cheese sandwiches I’ve had.
- Fat Tire Amber Ale— for being present at a shitty liquor store in Northern Illinois when the next best beer options were malt liquor and Bud Light Lime.
A kick in the dirt to:
- Long boil times— in the planning stages and upon consumption potato leek soup, mushroom barley soup, and zucchini cacao absorption pasta were fantastic ideas. Add boil time for coffee and you’ve spent an entire canister of fuel. Poor planning.
- Campfire veggie dogs— there is simply not a high enough fat content for the inside to cook through without the outside charring to oblivion. Edible nonetheless.
- S’mores— were these always so damn sweet? Was milk chocolate a mistake? Ugh. At least the vegan marshmallows held up nicely to a flame.
Dear readers, what culinary successes and disasters have you found in the backcountry? Have you managed more than nuts and dehydrated foods?
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