My friends, Eric and I have just emerged victorious from the craziest cooking adventure of our lives, with five solid months of healthy and delicious, dehydrated, vacuum sealed food!
A bit on why we would do this to ourselves. I have digestive issues and can’t handle carbohydrates very well. Unfortunately, carbohydrates are what people tend to eat while backpacking. A month before we were due to start, I was feeling anxious about how I would eat and if my stomach would hurt constantly. It felt entirely possible that my stomach would either make the trip something I just had to get through, or kick me off of it all together.
And so, we decided to try to cook, dehydrate, and vacuum seal enough paleo dinners to last our entire thru-hike. Common internet knowledge was either completely silent or disparaging of this idea. Mostly we were told we didn’t have enough time. We didn’t listen. We went to Sam’s.
This is what we dehydrated:
- 25 lbs of chicken—from a can. In the past we’ve dehydrated fresh chicken we cooked ourselves and were less than impressed with its texture once rehydrated. The pressure cooking of canned chicken apparently helps with this.
- 25 lbs of tuna—also from a can.
- 24 lbs chili—made with ground beef, onions, tomatoes and lots of spice.
- 4 lbs shrimp
- 70 1-cup servings of bone broth
- 120 eggs
- 20 lbs of root vegetable bark—carrots and sweet potatoes mashed with some lemon juice and a bit of honey.
- 14 lbs pumpkin/apple bark—similar to above, but with cinnamon. It’s more of a dessert or breakfast.
- 10 lbs miscellaneous vegetables—bell peppers, broccoli, spinach, tomatoes
- 24 lbs salsa and tomato paste
- 39 lbs fruit—some whole dried fruit and some fruit leathers (strawberry/blueberry and strawberry/mango/pineapple/peach). We also dehydrated many, many jars of applesauce..
- 1 angel food cake—clearly not good for my stomach, but I’m gambling that all the exercise will improve my ability to handle carbs, and everyone needs desert sometimes.
From those items, plus an arsenal of spices and powdered parmesan cheese, we can put together various iterations of four different dinner meals:
- Tuna with vegetables
- Chicken with vegetables
- Chili or shrimp with vegetables
- Eggs with vegetables
So for example, one dinner might be tuna with broccoli, cayenne pepper, oregano, marjoram, and parmesan. Or we might do Indian-style chicken with sweet potato mash, curry, cumin, and garam masala. We also have a lot of salsa and eggs. Spices help a lot, so we use lots of spices. The fruit we plan to pair with dried coconut for breakfast or angel food cake for dessert.
In addition to our dehydrated meals, we have a lot of Mountain House freeze dried dinners. So including those, we can make five different meals for dinner.
For our resupply boxes, we’re working with five day weeks, two of them in each resupply box—so, ten days of food per box. We rotate our five types of meals. For every ten day period, we’ll have each of those meals twice.
These boxes also include some snacks like candy bars (for Eric) and hot fries (for me), my medicine, and occasional extras like Nutella, ghee or broth powder.
It really was quite a feat. The dehydrator was running constantly for two solid weeks, day and night, and there was always something either pre-cooking, or needing to be chopped, or ready to come out of the dehydrator and stored away in the freezer. We really put my parents’ kitchen to the test, and stuffed the freezer to its limit (thank you!!).
Making and packaging this food is what made me finally start to realize: it’s happening. I keep realizing it, really, each time more profoundly. It was a little alarming to see all the boxes laid out, stuffed with food I’d be eating, supposedly, in three or four months time, in Vermont or New Hampshire. It’s surreal.
But it also all smells and looks delicious. I actually wouldn’t mind eating some of it now. I think the physical and mental nourishment these meals will provide will be very well worth the effort it took ahead of time.
Check out the video Eric made recapping our food adventure. I’ll handle written updates of our hike here, but he plans to make and post video updates like this on our facebook page The Overlanders.