4 high school dorm rooms, 3 college dorm rooms, an over-sized windowless closet in Minnesota, the back of my Subaru Legacy, a Ford Transit Connect, 3 cabins at 2 different Outward Bound base camps, and a tent that could be found anywhere between northern Maine and Las Vegas depending on the season. What do these places have in common? These are the places I have lived over the last 13 years. Up until a couple months ago I had never paid rent, travelling seasonally with the birds to follow my dream job as an Outward Bound instructor.
This past December, my fiance and I decided to try something a little different and settle down... for three months... in between our New Mexico climbing trip and our return to Outward Bound in the spring. Our short stint living in a heated house with plumbing and electricity has been nothing short of splendid. It has been wonderful to have something that we can call home but has also made preparing food for Canoe Ungava possible. We currently have an entire room in our house, half of our freezer, and a shelf in the fridge designated to Canoe Ungava food prep. The food room, as we have started to call it, is filled with ingredients purchased in bulk, two dehydrators, a small scale, a food processor and blender, and about four dozen mason jars labeled with their contents and weight. It doesn't sound like much, but I don't think this project would have been possible without all the space. We certainly could not have done this in the back of our van!
Last week I quit my temporary warehouse job in order to put in full-time hours preparing, drying, and packaging food. My new-found occupation, although unpaid, is exponentially more enjoyable. I love the problem-solving, the flexible hours, and the way the house smells after making three batches of granola. For the past week, my typical day has started by checking on the trays around 6:30am, often before I even go pee, and usually ends when I put the last batch of trays into the dehydrators right before I go to bed at 9:00pm. I have 10 more days of full-time food prep before Sage and I move out of our house and go back into instructor lives and Beth begins instructing a semester course in Brazil. In 10 days, 99% of all trip planning will be put on hold until May. Luckily, I am nearing the end of what originally felt like an impossibly long list of items to prepare. My goal is to finish the bulk of the dehydrating so that all we have to do in the spring is purchase and pack the remaining foods.
Luckily I love problem-solving, because our food packout is not exactly straight forward. What is the goal? Make as much delicious food as possible that is low cost, high calorie, compact, and light weight. The constraints?
-Minimizing or eliminating the use of one-time use plastics: Hm. Easier said than done.
-Budget: $8 per person per day for food
-Weight: We will have to carry ALL of it on each of our portages. We will be starting with 40 days of food (a little over 300 lbs), and portaging begins on day 1 of our expedition.
-Space: We have four 60-litre barrels that our food needs to fit into to protect it from black bears and water, and the barrels need to fit into our 17' boats along with the rest of our gear
-A complex palette: Four mouths, each of which has eaten countless meals in the field, which essentially just means that each of us has some things that we simply won't eat: for example, instant oatmeal.
Check back next week for updates and accomplishments (and maybe a few failures) on my two weeks of full-time food prep.
A typical morning in the food room.
Eli Walker, Food Guru