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Hard to recognize outdoors’ vittles these days

The Wenatchee World, August 2, 2001
by Reg Morgan

It's been more than 40 years since I threw on the Trapper Nelson and headed either for Barclay or Malachite lakes or the Necklace Valley.

The one thing I remember backpacking then was preparing vittles. My folks were not outdoor-oriented so all my education was either through the Boy Scouts or the school of hard knocks.

On my first Scout hike, I couldn't get a fire started from the small tree I had just chopped down, so i ate my bacon raw. When I told my parents, they were ready to call the local mortician.

Once I got my feet on the ground, preparing food for a hike came easier. All the groceries went into a shoe box. For breakfast, eggs were cracked, yolks and whites going into an empty mayonnaise jar. There was no question about that first breakfast on the trail, scrambled eggs. Rounding out the meal were fried bacon or Spam and cocoa.

Lunch was Velveeta or Spam and crackers and Kool Aid.

Dinner was a fried hamburger, flavored by an occasional free-fall into the ashes, or fish, seasoned the same way.

For dessert there was Amazo pudding, one of the first instants, boiled in a small metal pot of water, then set in a creed with a rock covering the lid, to cool.

Fast-forward half a century.

Recently Mountain Safety Research (MSR) began distributing Mountain Gourmet, a line of organic, vegetarian food. Founder Mary Jane Butters is a former backcountry ranger for the U.S. Forest Service and carpenter turned organic food empress.

MSR carries 30 offerings from Butters, who offers a 50-item "Pouch Cook" product line of nutritious dishes in small portions, packaged in lightweight brown paper bags.

The bags become the bowl an can be burned after each use, much unlike the aluminum liner in some previous products that must be carried out as waste.

With family and friends showing interest in backpacking, I acquired some samples.

"Mountain Gourmet Santa Fe Pasta," was m-m-m-m delicious. It is cooked by adding three quarters of a cup of boiling water, stirring, folding the top down, then letting it set for seven minutes. A final stir and you're ready to eat.

A few days later we whipped up a batch of "Organic Blueberry Blondies" in the comfort of our kitchen and the controlled heat of our electric range. They were delicious and even furnished a few nibbles for a midnight snack.

Boiling water in the kitchen is a lot different than doing the same on a Primus stove at 5,000 feet, during a howling blizzard, all while dead-tired after a long day on the trail.

It would make a good product to cook on the Coleman stove the next time the power goes out.


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