Canoe Food

Discussion in 'Back to Basics' started by shaman, Feb 19, 2016.

  1. shaman

    shaman Monkey+

    All this talk about food planning and biscuits and gravy elsewhere got my monkey brain churning. I got to remembering a long time ago, when a much younger shaman aspired to be everyone's favorite camp cook. If you could feed a bunch of people out in the sticks, you were fairly assured of getting invited on some fun trips, and that is exactly what I did. Caving, backpacking, and canoeing. Here I am circa 1986, wearing my signature T-Shirt : Camp Cook, Death from Within


    Now for the secret of my success and the reason for this thread. I originally got the idea when I was caving. Cavers had a rule: you either made the food, or you did the dishes. I hated doing dishes, so I taught myself how to cook outdoors. When I got started, the only guide I had was an old copy of The Outdoor Life 'Cyclopedia. It had a small section on outfitting a canoe party of 2 for 1 week afield. I started cooking all my meals from that list, and doing it on an open fire outside. Pretty soon, I had the idea down pat, and started entertaining at my house, trying out recipes. From that, I started getting invites to tag along on all kinds of adventures. For several years, this was my hobby.

    Anyhow, I got to remembering that, while pondering some of the recent threads, and I thought I would share the list that started it all for me. It's from the 1939 Outdoor Life 'Cyclopedia. I've taken this list and scaled it up and down as needed. In fact at one point, I had it in VisiCalc on my Apple II.


    Weight? I remember 4 people for a week came out to 110 lbs. In fact that picture of me by the canoe was just such a trip. It all packed in a duffle, and I carried it on a freighter frame. The hidden joy of that was that by the end of the trip, I had only about 5-10 lbs to carry.

    Anyhow, I thought I'd share this with you, and see what a bunch of monkey brains could do with it.
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  2. Motomom34

    Motomom34 Monkey+++

    Great list @shaman I immediately started mentally throwing ingredients together. 2 people for 1 week- I think I would make two different types of biscuits. One for lunch/dinner meals and then a breakfast biscuit that had dried fruit in it with a bit of sugar. You could definitely make chipped beef with a biscuit for one evening meal. Also my thought on the beans: since it is good to soak them overnight you could put them in a baggie in the morning and let them soak all day and they should be ready for cooking by evening meal.

    Good mental exercise, I have to think more on this.
    **I would add nutmeg or cinnamon to the list.
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  3. Garand69

    Garand69 Monkey+ Site Supporter+

    Great list! What was the method used to keep the meats good to go? I can see Country Cured Ham, the dried Beef and old fashioned Hard Salami making it, But the Bologna and Bacon would have an issue... No?

    P.S. I scored a 1942 edition on Amazon for $3.29! thanks for the heads up on the book title! A few more are there

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  4. shaman

    shaman Monkey+

    Good question. As I remember, I substituted summer sausage for the baloney and used canned bacon. Some other things I substituted were:

    For self-rising flour, I substituted flour and baking powder as separate items. If I were to do this for long-term storage, I'd break the baking powder down into its constituent parts: cream of tartar and baking soda.

    For hard tack, I substituted bisquick or homebrew pancake mix. The idea being that it was easier to store the ingredients than the end product. I cooked a lot of pancakes on the trail. Folks really dug them. I used whole wheat and buckwheat and carried sourdough starter that I could replenish overnight. After serving up a major load of pancakes every morning, I'd throw peanuts into the remaining batter and hand them out for trail food. These were serious calorie burning trips. Most folks were too full from the pancakes for lunch. Most folks gained weight on my trips.

    Which reminds me of another thing: what did I cook this all with?
    I generally carried a 6 man nested Mirro Aluminum cookset, with the addition of a cast iron griddle, and a folding camp grill. The griddle was heavy, but I found it was the best for doing up large amounts of pancakes and a whole lot of other stuff. If it was a backpacking trip, I'd substitute a lighter aluminum one.
    If it was just 2 persons, I'd use a smaller Coleman stainless cookset.

    Although, I love my Outdoor Life 'Cyclopedia, an cherish my copy, I don't suggest using it as a serious resource anymore. Over the years, I've found out a good deal of what's in there was pulled out of someone's sphincter and bears no relation to reality. Take this as a for-instance:


    Of all the wisdom it purports, the canoe list is probably the one piece I can say worked, and worked well. I got to laugh at the fags in camp pic. Try that now in a state park campground, and you'll get thrown in jail.

    For a number of years I had ready access to an unlimited amount of dry ice. As a result, I was able to bring a whole lot of bizarre stuff with me into the bush. We might be 3 or 4 days in, and I'd suddenly bring out shrimp cocktail, or chicken liver pate or surprise everyone with sirloin steaks in whiskey peppercorn sauce. I tried eggs once, with disastrous results.

    The truth with eggs was that as long as they were kept intact and cool, you could drag eggs along for up to two weeks without spoiling. You needed an egg carrier. I had several, and would divvy the eggs up among several packs.

    Regarding spices: I ended up with a pretty complete spice rack, but what I remember was using a lot of Tony's Creole Seasoning, garlic powder, onion powder, and curry powder, chili powder, cayenne, and black pepper. One tip: use kosher salt. It seems to be saltier than table salt and so it stretches further.
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2016
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  5. Garand69

    Garand69 Monkey+ Site Supporter+

    LOL I'll take a grain of salt with it, but for the price and being an "old book junkie" I couldn't pass it up. I have a set of Popular Mechanics Encyclopedias from the 1940's They are an awesome resource for a lot of great ideas, but yes you do find several WTF ideas as well. Folks back then didn't have computers/tvs/etc to burn up their spare time so they had more time to come up with crazy ideas along with the great ideas.

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  6. shaman

    shaman Monkey+

    OK. So let's assume you buy into this list, and you want to use it. You get yourself all the cookware and the means to cart it around. What's next:

    My suggestion is to get an account on and start searching. What you're looking for are recipes that A) you can stomach b) those around you can stomach and c) can be done with the list as it is. I recommend, because it has the capacity to file stuff in your own personal cookbook, it can also resize for any number of servings, and it will build a shopping list.

    I would go through each recipe and make careful notes on the deficiencies. For instance: there's no pasta in the original canoe list. You're going to probably want to fix some kind of pasta. How many servings is up to you. You'll have to cut something out. I'd suggest the hard tack can be converted to dried pasta. Now let's say you want some sauce to go with it. Alfredo sauce is an easy choice. You can buy the packets at the store and use them to fulfill some of our soup mix quota. Tomato Soup mix can be turned around into sphagetti sauce if you work on it. You get the idea. Hint: Tomato Soup mix + 1/3 less water + Pizza Seasoning = Sphaghetti sauce. Hint #2: Carry lots of beef bullion crystals. You can put a spoon of these in anything and it will make it more palatable.

    What you'll find is that a good number of recipes have some killer ingredient that is either hard to procure in a trail-stable form, or hard to substitute, or can only be carried canned or whatever. I tried to stay away from cans as much as possible. Cans add a lot of weight, because most of what's in the can is usually water. Try to keep as much water out of what you carry.

    I liked corn bread. I didn't have any on the list, so I gave up some of the flour and converted a portion of it to Martha White all-in-1 corn bread mix. It's really good stuff for the trail. Folks always dug corn bread. Another thing I used to use a lot of was Rice-a-Roni. In a lot of cases, I'd remove stuff from its original packaging and put it in sandwich bags or ziploc bags. If you're taking Rice-a-Roni, and you want 5 nights of it, put 5 boxes in one bag and tear off the label of one and stuff it in the sack with a measurement of what 1 night's worth is.

    The next thing I'd do is start cooking these recipes until you can do it in the dark with gloves on and can taste what's wrong with them and make adjustments on the fly. It doesn't matter if you start off at a campfire or on a stove, but make sure you're using a campfire to fix everything before you take it on the trail. Also learn to do everything with improvised utensils and no measuring devices. Know what a tablespoon and a teaspoon are in the palm of your hand. Know how many ounces, liquid and dry, your coffee cup holds, etc.

    With gloves on? I always carried baggage handler's gloves, the heaviest leather I could find. It made cooking over a campfire much easier, because I did not have to worry about burning myself. Keep them dry. Wet gloves will burn the snot out of you. Replace when they get stiff.
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  7. shaman

    shaman Monkey+

    In regards to preservation.

    I know a lot of you monkeys are worried about long term storage. Normally the stuff I carried was eaten within a month of purchase. However, I do know what would survive in my stash from trip to trip and what needed to be thrown out at the end of season.

    If you bag the dry goods in a ziploc, and squeeze all the air out before sealing most stuff in that list will last six months minimum. If you put mulitple bags in a bigger bag and seal them up, they can go a year or more. Flour and rice and beans and such would keep almost indefinately if I took a ziploc of the material and sealed it in a metal coffee can with a plastic lid. I don't know how they'd do with the new paper/foil cans.

    I found a stash of spices that were sealed up this way, and I was still able to use them 5 years after their previous camping trip. Self-rising stuff loses its ability to rise, because the baking powder deteriorates, but if you keep Cream of Tartar and Baking soda as separate ingredients, they'll last forever.

    Butter does not keep well. Margarine does a little better. However, butter flavored popcorn flavoring lasts a decade. Mix in some maple flavoring and you've got pancakes that are flavored with butter and maple syrup.

    I experimented with home made jerky. It works great, but it eventually acquires a white fuzz. The fuzz is edible, but it definitely changes the taste.

    Freeze dried peanuts go rancid. Cocktail peanuts last much longer.
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  8. AxesAreBetter

    AxesAreBetter Monkey+++

    MY go tos for packing in are jerky and rolled oats. Still working out just what I like to carry, but those are my staples. I'm gearing up to start working some of this stuff out over the next little while, see what works and what doesn't.
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