Like it our not, people get very passionate about food.
What we eat is rarely based on the desire to achieve the mythical balanced diet or to obtain the exact recommended daily amount of carbohydrates or protein. It is not scientific. It more often reflects our nationality, our family history, our genes and even sometimes our politics. It’s personal. What you eat says a lot about you.
I’ve been thinking about food a lot lately. Even more than usual! My passion is real food. I like to eat food that has not been messed about with. Food that starts with basic raw materials that my great grandmother would recognise and has had nothing added that is identified by a number or a sounds like something out of a chemistry lab. Poptarts are not for me. I’ll go for sourdough toast with cultured butter and homemade jam every time.
This works well when you live on a farm, have a good sized vege patch and the time to cook from scratch. It’s not going to work quite so well on a 4WD trip through the outback. I’ve been trying to work out how to combine practical, quick and convenient with natural, homemade and nutritious. I’m not a purist, I don’t have to make everything from scratch, but I would like to know what I am eating and feel good about it. It must be possible to eat real food when camping, but it’s going to need some planning and preparation.
The gold standard has been already been set. I’m travelling with some experienced camp cooks. A meal for ten? No worries, we can knock up a tasty lamb shank stew with potatoes and pumpkin over the camp fire, followed by an amazing fruit damper. Washing up? Just the camp ovens and your plates. Beryl and Olive, you are my role models!
So will real food be possible? On the plus side I have at my disposal a fridge/freezer (camping size), a two burner gas stove, a frying pan, a cast iron camp oven, a Thermopot and my secret weapon, the vacuum sealer. All in all, it’s not a bad camp kitchen.
On the other hand, we will have to travel lean and mean. We need to keep weight in the 4WD to a minimum, to use less fuel and make it easier to drive up the sand dunes. So I can’t empty the contents of my larder into the back of the ute and be done with it. I need to choose carefully and take only as much as we need.
Another challenge is the terrain. When we are driving over corrugations everything will be shaken to within an inch of its life and if it’s not sealed will be covered in red dust. Fragile fruits and vegetables will not survive being bounced around like this.
While it’s great to have a fridge, I have to be realistic here too. It is a compact unit and any food will need to share the storage space with essential items for the driver’s 5pm chill out session, otherwise known as beer o’clock. Of course I can negotiate with the driver for a little more space if I can promise a chilli con carne at regular intervals and maybe a bacon sandwich for breakfast.
Just the essentials then. For fresh vegetables, I’m thinking pumpkin, onion, garlic, carrots and potato as staples and some lemons for flavour. They are all in the garden or my provisions store now. These vegetables are pretty hardy, but will still need to be packed in newspaper to protect them from damage as we drive. The fridge gives us a few more options. I can throw in some vacuum packed apple slices for quick desserts and some ready made meals, such as chilli, bolognese, curry and tomato pasta sauce. For meat, it’s got to be steak, bacon, and a roast for the camp oven. Cheese is essential. Perhaps a couple of cans of baked beans and chick peas. Pasta and couscous of course. Then flour, sugar, butter, dried fruit and nuts, spices, porridge oats and jam. Maybe I can get the recipe for the fruit damper? I wonder if I can vacuum pack home made bread…
I’m sure my ideas will need to be scaled down when I look at the space available, but yes, I think real food is possible. No pop tarts needed.
And we already have emergency rations taken care of, a yummy nutty fruit cake for morning/afternoon tea. Happy days!