Thursday, September 21, 2017

Mid-Hike Gourmet

There's going to be some skeptics on this one because on paper what follows seems far too basic to reach the heights of culinary delight. But perspectives change between a nice comfortable stool pulled up to the breakfast-bar in the kitchen and sitting on a rock halfway up a mountain in the shade of a Cottonwood tree after hours of hiking.

Inside The Van's pantry, which I converted from the space where my now banished microwave used to live, is, among other things, a plastic bin full of Harmony House gourmet soup and chili packs. Now normally I'm ambivalent about soups, but as I pointed out just a moment ago, 'normal' is skewed mid-way through a day-long hike.

The morning of an all-day hike I'll reach into the bin of Harmony House packs and grab one at random. (If I don't select at random I start cherry-picking and eventually end up left with a bin of perceived if-I have-to's that can dampen the morning's enthusiasm, even though they're all good if given a chance.)

Then I turn around and pull my nearly bullet-proof food-jar Thermos down from the cupboard over the sink. In my case it's the 16 oz version as the 24 oz is way too big for one person and a half-filled thermos is not very efficient at being - well - a thermos.

Besides the 16 oz version comes with an integrated folding spoon which nests into the inner cap and it's a very handy thing to have.

If I have any complaint at all it would be that they don't offer 'handed' spoons. This spoon is designed for right-handed people but when used by a left-hander; me; it tends to try to fold as I'm scraping the last of the goodness out of the thermos.

In order to get hot stuff out of it hours after it was put in it's imperative to preheat the thermos first. I get my water boiling, fill the thermos, screw the inner cap on and set a timer for 10 minutes.

When the timer goes off I start the water boiling again, which only takes a moment since it's already hot, dump the current contents of the thermos into my other kettle to be used as wash water later (No sense in wasting it!), dump the the soup pack into the thermos, fill it to just below the top (To make sure there is enough room to get the lid on!) with freshly boiling water, and screw the inner lid on, (Snug but not too tight or it will be a real bear to get loose later when the temperature inside the thermos has changed!) followed by the outer lid/cup.

Some die-hard hikers, the same ones that tear the covers off paperbacks to reduce their weight in the pack, might be tempted to leave the outer lid/cup behind, after all that 'cup' is pretty damn small and of limited use (I'll point out one use for it in a moment.) but the thermal weak point of a thermos is where the double-walls join into a single walled lip where the lids screw on. The heavy walled outer lid helps retard some of the heat loss from this area.

And there you have it. A little something hot that's going to taste divine hours from now when my legs are aching, my lungs are burning, and I still have miles to go to get back to the trailhead.

But I do have to be careful!  If I give into temptation early, like anything less than five hours after I fill the thermos, the contents will be only slightly under the boiling point and I could easily sear my taste-buds off if I'm not cautious. This is where that tiny cup comes in handy, by spilling some of the contents of the thermos into it and letting it sit a moment, the heat level will come down from life-threatening to merely painful in a reasonable amount of time. (Even with the lid off it still takes forever for the thermos contents to cool down, especially when you're hungry!)

Now the Harmony House web site claims one pack plus a couple cups of water serves 4! They don't say 4 what, but it certainly isn't 4 hikers and believe me, I'm not about to share my thermos with anyone else!!

No seriously, believe me, otherwise you might get hurt!

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