“A spaghetti bolognaise toasted sandwich? Are you serious?”. I knew they were. Having spent the past 3 weeks travelling and camping with Aussie friends Jules and Flave, two traits were clear: they don’t joke about food, or waste it. “Just the meat sauce, right? You don’t mean the cold spaghetti too?”. “The whole lot mate! Waste not, want not. They’re wicked with a cheeky glass of red. Have a go, you mug!”
So it was that I had my first spag bol jaffle (that’s Aussie for toastie), at the end of a long day’s driving in the north Queensland bush, starving hungry (always helps), in the dark (ditto), with the obligatory Aussie red in hand, by a camp fire, under a starry sky. I’ll concede the situation probably had a lot to do with it, but the jaffle was fantastic – I burned my lips and dropped molten-lava hot bolognaise sauce down my trousers, but as a camping delicacy and use-up recipe, it was stellar. I had a second.
This and other unconventional self-catered meals on that Queensland trip made me more experimental in my approach to hill food. When you’re snowshoeing in the alps, or hillwalking more generally in summer or winter, you need to pack a picnic. Food doesn’t just stave off hunger: it can give us energy, warm us up, lift our morale, or even help celebrate an achievement. In an emergency, it could be a life-saver.
To cover all these bases, of course you need calories, but you also need something that provides comfort and pleasure. Food for me is more than mere fuel.
Ban Boring Lunches
For most of us, the mainstay of a hiking picnic is the sandwich. To be honest, I find them a bit boring. Leading the famous Tour du Mt Blanc round the massif from Chamonix in summer, packed lunches are usually provided. The inevitability of the daily ham and cheese sandwich becomes a standing joke with groups. It’s not just the monotony; white bread plus protein day in day out isn’t brilliant nutritionally. I also find it gives me a temporary energy dip.
When I’m making my own packed lunches, I prefer to think inside the box – a Tupperware with a well-fitting and secure lid. This opens up a whole world of interesting fork-food, and carbohydrates other than bread. Rice salad is a personal favourite, revved up with anything you fancy or have lying around – beans, chopped peppers, chillies, bacon bits, etc. Whack in something zingy like curry powder, chilli sauce or Tabasco and you’ve got a lunch that’s easy to graze on over the course of the day, and gives me a lift rather than a weight in my belly.
If this sounds like a lot of work, it really doesn’t have to be. The night before’s leftovers can work a treat, especially fried rice or a curry. One time when I was strapped for time and ingredients, a just spooned some leftover lentil curry and rice into a plain tortilla wrap, dolloped some yoghurt and Tabasco sauce on there and headed out the door. Far from being the make-do-and-mend tucker I had expected, it was the best hill fodder I had all week.
Keep It Festive
As most of my scheduled snowshoe tours take place January to March, leftover festive fayre can feature heavily. For high-octane nibblable sweet yumminess, Christmas cake and Christmas pudding take some beating. The heavier and fruitier it is, the better. Not so much “eating the rainbow” as eating the food groups – so whilst it’s laced with sugar, the proteins, fat and fibre from the nuts, butter and dried fruit in there help the sugars get absorbed more slowly, ensuring that the energy stays with you whilst the hunger stays away.
If it’s homemade though, be careful of any alcohol content!