June 19, 2011

outdoor cooking - just try it!

i never understood why the average bushcrafter/camper/hiker is afraid of cooking... gorp, granola bars and dried fruits are good trail food, but you will get fed up with this diet in a couple of days. many live under the impression that they are cooking, but boiling water for re-hydrating food can not really be considered as such (funny thing, this never occured to me and it was pointed out by one of my youtube subscribers!).

so, why cooking outdoors? well, simply because there's no reason to eat strange things when you can eat good real food. now, please don't get it wrong: i am not questioning the "trail food" (which has it's place), i'm just saying that you can have better.

i think that the main reason for not cooking outdoors is the fear of "cooking process", which is nowadays looked upon as a more and more strange and complicated one (and that's why fast food and frozen food companies are prospering), even if it's not...

i posted several vids on bushcraft cooking on my youtube channel, and i will post some more... what i'm trying to achieve is to prove that anybody can do it and to inspire those who watch my vids to just try it.

many receipes are easy and quick to make, doesn't require special resources or exotic/perishable/heavy ingredients, are flexible enough to adapt to (almost) whatever situation/prefferences and provide you with a good, complete, nutritionally-ballanced dish.

there is a book to write on camp-cooking (as suggested by one of my youtube friends), and maybe one day i'll write it, but until then :) there are some ideas (i am assuming that you are familiar with the basic cooking, if you are not... well, you'll have to wait for my book! :D ):

- cornmeal, rice, cous-cous, packs light and compact, store well and are easy to transform in a variety of dishes, depending on what else you have with you or you can forage from the trail. beans are a good ideea, too, but it takes much longer to cook. pasta packs bulkyer and cooks slower than cous-cous, but not so much that you don't want to mess with it. regular flour is easy to transform in bread of some sort or pancakes. potatoes are great baked directly in the ashes, and you can use them for a variety of other dishes, too.

- dried or fresh vegetables are a good addition, and there are numerous plants that you can pick up from aroud the camp (obviously, only if you really know what you are doing!).

- onion and garlic are allways great tasting, high in calories food, no matter if you eat them as they are or you cook them.

- meat can be packed in many forms: jerky, pemmican, salami, sausages etc., but my personal favourite (for longer trips, as it requires some preparation) is this: cut one-bite-size different kinds of meat, deep-fry it, put it in plastic jars, pour melted, slightly salted lard to completely cover the meat and keep it for few hours in the fridge. in this form it will keep for several months even in summer temperature. also, you can get some fresh meat by fishing (don't forget about frogs!), trapping or hunting.

- fresh fruits are great, and you can cook them, too! a baked apple with honey and cinnamon is a real treat for the half-frozen winter hiker. you can bake other fruits too (bananas are great - don't forget to slit open the skin!), or you can add them to pancakes or bread. you can use dried/caned fruits, too.

- condiments are important, so don't forget about them! use whatever you like to add flavor to your food.

also, there is an important skill to master if you want to become a "bushcraft chef" - and that is how to make fire! the fine art of how to build the perfect fire for every dish is something that comes with the experience... and the only way to gain the experience is to do it! so... go out and start cooking!

June 18, 2011

a night outdoors: at 4 C under the tarp

it was cold. i was ill. it was beautiful!

that seems crazy... what can possess a person who is fighting a bad case of flu to spend the night outdoors, at just above freezing temperature, sheltered only by a tarp and a wool blanket?!?

well... it's a matter of perspective. we lost our link to nature. we are no longer able to live outside our artificial environment. we are seriously threatened by cold, heat, wind, rain, sun, wildlife... but some of us still crave for that natural kind of life. some of us still feel the call of the wilderness. some of us still get pleasure from being outdoors.

for me, a night like this is a way to enjoy the sheer beauty of nature. it is a way to find my peace. it is a way to get rid of all the stress that is generated by our modern way of living. it is both a pleasure and a necessity.

so, going out in that conditions is not crazy... going out without knowing what you are doing is! for instance, a very common misbelief is that you can freeze in your sleep... no, you can't! that's because you will wake up when you get cold, no matter how tired you are (exactly the same way that you get up at home if you need one more blanket). but (and that is really important), once you are up from being cold, do not go back to sleep until you are warm again! if you do so, this will have serious consequences, including the possibility to die (if it's cold enough). so, get up, walk around the camp, take a leak (that is to elliminate a stress hormone that is generated when exposed to cold), put more wood on your fire, drink/eat something hot, do some pushups (carefull there, you don't want to sweat), do whatever you can to feel warm and confortable again, than go back to sleep - you will wake up if you get cold again.

i posted a vid on youtube that captures some of that night, including bird-songs, camp setup, my thoughts and so on... you can see it here:

if you want to simply enjoy the birds singing and the fire, you can do so by clicking the vid above, or (much better!) by going out yourself.