My wife and I came across a first edition backpacking cookbook published by the Sierra Club a few weeks ago on a trip up to the White Mountains called Simple Foods for the Pack. Originally published in 1976, the latest edition is completely revised and updated (available for Kindle, too) and features over 200 natural food recipes that are tasty, nutritious, and easy to prepare at home.
My copy of the book is the first edition, old school green covered 70′s version (the one that had you cooking brown rice and lentils on the trail). If you want to do organic, whole grains and you don’t mind more extensive cooking this book could be what you want. -Sarah Kirkconnell, author of Freezer Bag Cooking
Over the next couple weeks, I plan on testing some of the recipes in this book in order to liven up my backpacking food bag, especially for longer duration trips. My goal is to improve my meal assembly skills and find a dozen or more recipes that I would look forward to eating on trips.
In addition to listing the recipes and the tweaks I make to them, I’ll include Preparation Notes and a Taste and Texture evaluation that help spell out some of the assumptions made in the book about cooking skills, gotchas that can spoil the recipe, and other things I learned in the process of perfecting or ruining these meals.
A Bit More Cooking, But Not Much
As Sarah notes above, the Simple Food for the Pack cookbook contains meals that require a little bit more cooking than you might be used to. I’m not interested in cooking very much on backpacking trips, so I will be limiting the recipes I try to ones that can be cooked in 10 minutes or less on the trail or can be prepared in advance at home in a conventional kitchen.
You’ll see that a lot of the meals in Simple Foods for the Pack can be assembled much like freezer bag meals. But instead of adding water to a ziploc baggy, they can be cooked in a single pot. While this adds some additional cooking complexity, like stirring a spoon through your dinner while it cooks, it also increases the variety of foods, flavors, and textures available to you.
I think you’ll be surprised by how simple these meals are to prepare and how good they are. Of course, many of them won’t be that good or may be too hard to cook without a bigger, more robust cookset, but that’s the point of this series: to understand whether it is possible to eat well with single pot meals and to figure out which meals are winners and which are losers.