Monday, February 06, 2012

80 Days- Not Enough Chefs in the Kitchen

In 2009 I thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail and in 2010 and 2011 I was an A.T.  Ridgerunner in Maryland, which means I've eaten more than my fair share of instant mashed potatoes, peanut butter, Snicker bars, pasta sides, and such.  For the PCT, I want to try something different; I want to dehydrate my own food.
Before I start on that I had to move from Maryland to Vermont to Florida all in one month.  The Maryland to Vermont move was easy—I took down my tent, put everything in my car, and drove for a day.  The Vermont to Florida move was much more intensive.  
Our kitchen; plastic wrapped and minus cabinets and counters.
Once in Florida I took a couple of days searching through recipes online.  I was looking for recipes that didn’t rely too much on meat or dairy—I don’t want to risk dried meat or diary going rancid.  I wanted meals that weren’t tomato based (I’m not a fan).  I wanted recipes that shared a lot of ingredients to make shopping easier.  I eventually came up with a list of 15 dinners.  If I’m on trail for my planned 150 days I’ll eat each meal ten times. 
Shortly after I had my recipe list the kitchen went from dingy-don’t really want to touch anything-to striped down concrete blocks and studs.  The refrigerator was in the dinning room.  The silverware was on the back porch.  The counters had gone out with the trash.  The cups were in the guestroom.  My new dehydrator was still in its box in the dinning room where it landed after being taken off the moving truck.
Slowly, over two months, a couple holidays, a trip to Vermont, family visits, we have most of a new kitchen.  New-to-us cabinets went in a couple at a time.  A new wall was built and some old walls were rebuilt and painted.  A new light went up.  Plywood still serves as makeshift counters.  And my dehydrator is still packaged up.
Every week I check the local circulars for hiker snacks and ingredients for my meals, yet I’ve only gone food shopping twice.  I bought mostly snacks.  But I did start a collection of beans for humus, refried beans, and soups and some frozen vegetables.  I also scoped out a few discount food stores.
On Saturday night I picked one of my meals to try out:  Chickpea and Spinach Soup.  The cookbook described it as:  "an especially earthy delight."  The outcome was nothing of the sort, although I don't blame the beans.  The problems probably started when I realized I didn't have chick peas but figured I could substitute Great Northern Beans.  Then the food processor overflowed when I turned it on with one can of beans and three cups of stock, so I had to spoon out a cup.
Garnished and still not good
The recipe called for three tablespoons of fresh mint finely chopped.  I didn't have any mint, fresh or otherwise, that wasn't in the form of tea.  I have pure peppermint tea in my stash of hiker food and Candy Cane tea in the cabinet.  I put in a shy tablespoon of Candy Cane tea because I was too lazy to go up stairs and root around for the peppermint tea.  I didn't think it would matter, the other flavors in the tea always seemed so subtle but in the soup they were overpowering.  I tried a bite, choked it down, then added more garlic powder, salt, pepper, chili powder, and lemon juice.  I sampled it again.  It was just as bad.
I adjusted the other seasonings again, tasted it, and thought maybe with some parm and smooshed crackers it would be okay.  I dished it up, ate maybe five bites before dumping the whole batch of it in a plastic container and froze it.  So no dehydrator going and with one bad meal pasta sides are sounding better and better.

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