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Paradise in a Pouch, packaged in Moscow

Moscow-Pullman Daily News, June 2001

Since before humans moved inside, they were carrying food outside. Now, we call it camping or backpacking. The key to hauling food is carrying as many calories per unit weight as possible. Since water contributes no calories and is almost universallly available, people discovered ways to remove the water but preserve the food.

That alone proved not much of a challenge. Civilizations have been drying food for centures. When you dehydrate and rehydrate a food, however, taste suffers. That may be OK if at war or you prefer a diet of cardboard, sawdust and salt.

THE BEST SOLUTION to the problem was the invention of the pickup truck. You could then haul whatever you wanted outside, including the refrigerator to keep it and a stove to cook it. That took care of most of us, but what about the rest of our friends afoot?

That's where Paradise Ridge's Mary Jane Butters comes in. She introduced a line of organic instant and quick preparation foods for just such enthusiasts. I've known Mary a long time but hadn't talked with her in years until a box of her new foods arrived at the door.

Butters has forged a partnership with the respected Mountain Safety Research group to market her line of Mountain Gourmet foods. She's no pup in this area, having both been a backcountry ranger herself and a very successful organic food entrepreneur with Paradise Farm Organics. Her outdoor food line was an inevitable and long overdue marriage.

I ALWAYS FIND it ironic most ardent spokespeople for wilderness think nothing of loading up on urban forumlated foods complete with non-biodegradable packaging and loads of synthetic preservatives. Then they come back to town and say we are destroying the earth.

In fairness, they had no choice until now. My hat's off to Butters for adding a good dose of guilt along with each patented pouch cook container and her economy two-meal packs. Butters took the aluminum out of the packaging (and several of her meal ingredients, too) so they can be cooked in the package. Her whole line is organic and the packaging goes back to earth faster than the meal does. Try passing that up if you have wilderness ethic.

Butters' Paradise Organics foods were very good and I expected no less from her backpacking meals. I wasn't disappointed. The food is good, hearty and quick to prepare. Cleanup is easy, and with the capability of cooking in the transport container, there is a potential to reduce overall pack weight.

BACKPACKER MAGAZINE gave 30 of her foods the prestigious Editor's Choice award in 2000 and repeated the kudos again this year to 22 more, including 11 sold in her Pouch Cook containers. This was the first time a line of outdoor foods garnered the editor's nod noted as "the best-tasting instant camp food we've sampled, plus it's nutritious, organic, vegetarian and widely available."

As for availability, anyone with a pack or the ability to read can find it. It's also available many other places in the United States and Canada. Sales are skyrocketing, too. According to MSR, outdoor gian REI reported in March of this year that sales were up 116 percent for Butters' food as compared with 21 percent for all other vendors.

Now it appears all that is left is for Butters to start supplying the standing armies of the world with something better than a "John Wayne bar" or meals ready to eat.



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