Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Evanston: freeze (and dried)

        The freeze is outside our windows where low temperatures are expected to be below 0°F/-17.8C for the next several nights.  In an act of faith I just ordered two pairs of shorts from LL Bean.  Spring is only two weeks and a day away—for me.
        This entry is not about that freeze, but freeze dried food, one of my many culinary specialties, along with uncooked oatmeal and eating nuts.  I received an email yesterday from a sailor in the NW who is planning a summer cruise around Vancouver Island.  Knowing my freeze dried expertise, he asked for some recommendations, which I decided to share with you.
        While there are many possible sources, in the United States I buy from Campmor.  They give a 10% discount on orders of twenty or more; 15% on forty or more food items; and ship quickly.
        In New Zealand I put in an order with the Opua General Store for New Zealand’s own Backcountry Cuisine, which is my favorite brand, but available only in New Zealand, Australia and South Africa.
        For me freeze dry meals have many advantages:  light weight; simple preparation; easy clean-up; straightforward planning and provisioning.
        The clean-up advantages are often forgotten.  This can take more time, effort and water than cooking itself.  At sea I have only to rinse a big plastic measuring cup and a spoon.  In port, where I pour the boiling water into the pouch—too chancy at sea—only a spoon.  Some of you will recall that I have learned that a spoon is easier to clean than a fork, where food can stick between the prongs.
        It is important to test meals before you provision for a sail.  Some are terrible; some too spicy for a boat with limited fresh water; a few require preparation more complicated than boiling water; some will actually feed two, while many that claim to won’t.
        Before a long passage I try to find about fourteen different meals that meet my requirements and then buy six month’s worth.  The “about” is because one of my favorites noted below, Backpacker Pantry’s Santa Fe Chicken does serve two and I divide the pouch’s contents and save the other half in a zip lock bag; and I buy a few more of some I particularly like, and a few of some others, such as chicken vindaloo, which is really too spicy, to provide a little variety.  A lot of freeze dry meals taste a lot like a lot of other freeze dry meals.
        Before sailing I put two of each of the meals into a big trash bag—I don’t want to reach in and find the same thing night after night.  One sealed bag equals four week’s dinners.
        I’ve been testing for the past couple of years and around the beginning of May I’ll be ordering from the following list.   It should be remembered that these are only personal choices and that I am not a big eater.

        AA =  Alpine Aire
        BC =   Backpacker Country
        MH =  Mountain House
        NH  =  Natural High

        AA Leonardo da Fettuccine
        AA Dijon chicken 
        AA Chicken gumbo
        BP Cajon style rice and chicken
        BP Chicken salad wrap  (wrap is not supplied.  It can be     
                            eaten without)
        BP Louisiana red beans and rice
        BP Fettuccine Alfredo with chicken
        BP Santa Fe chicken
        BP Chicken vindaloo (sparingly)
        BP Pad Thai
        BP Shepherd’s potato stew with beef
        BP Beef and broccoli sir fry  
        MH Chicken fajita wrap filling (as above)
        MH Rice and chicken
        MH Noodles and chicken
        MH Sweet and sour pork with rice
        MH Beef stew
        MH New Orleans rice with shrimp and ham
        MH Spaghetti with meat sauce 
        NH Thai chicken
        NH Stroganoff and beef

        I wish Sid and his friends a fine cruise.
        And for the next fifteen days to pass.