I’ve been writing a lot of articles about food lately. Not just any kind of food, but the food stuffs you take backpacking. I write about the lightweight, durable, funky, unique, dehydrated, rehydrated, salty, weird stuff with the long-shelf life. Why? Because I’ve been there and done that.
Now, looking back on all my experiences and mistakes, I have a theory.
Backpackers would make the best Chopped contestants.
Whaaaaaat? You say. Please, a bunch of dirtbags in the woods have no business on a culinary art show like…Yeah, yeah. I get it. But let me break it down for you.
We are expert knife wielders
What’s the first thing every rookie on Chopped does? They slip up with the knife. It’s a big ordeal. They grab the plastic gloves, duct tape their hands, waste precious time, bleed all over the place, and then they spill a drop on their plate and its unsafe to eat.
All the backpackers I know are experts with a blade. They’ll gut a fish, clear a trail, whittle perfect art while sitting across from you at the camp fire. A knife mishap in the backcountry could be life threatening. So, we’ve made sure to be the best at it.
We have mastered that perfect smoky flavor
No commentary required. Just enjoy this photo.
We have very strong attention to detail
Have you ever accidentally poured potato pearls into your cereal instead of dehydrated milk? Yeah, you won’t make that mistake twice.
We know how to make masterpieces with the simplest ingredients
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve successfully managed to eat nothing but cheese and jerky for a full weekend before. I’m blessed by my 22-year-old metabolism. But on those long backpacking trips where you just can’t look at another piece of summer sausage, you teach yourself how to be creative.
Want some cheesy flavor? Boom. Nutritional yeast.
Tired of the same old flavors? Boom. We make our own lightweight spice kits.
We are calm in times of chaos
Twenty minutes to make sure your soufflé cooks all the way through? Please, how about twenty minutes to get off this ridgeline before we all die and get electrocuted by that incoming storm. Yeah, calm.
We are excellent at time management
Have you ever dissolved yeast in water with flour, poured it into a plastic bag and carabiner-ed it on to the outside of your backpack? By the end of a hot day of hiking, you will have a perfect pizza dough prepped and ready to go.
I think this says something about our time management.
We are familiar with weird foods
“Oh no, my cricket chips crumbled into a mess in my bag. What ever will I do?”
Boom. Now its pre-seasoned breading for tonight’s fish dinner.
Necessity is the mother of all inventions
My cousin once left for a six month backcountry expedition through the Patagonian wilderness. His food came in drops that he would have to go find. During one such occasion, the boxes were mixed up and his team accidentally received a re-supply of spices instead of actual food. They ended up splitting single nuts between each other to survive until the next drop.
He started using bouillon cubes for the first time, and now equates those meaty blocks to what you may find at a michelin star restaurant. He came home and immediately recreated one of the dishes for his wife. It wasn’t what he remembered.
Will we be excellent Chopped contestants? Most definitely. Will we actually make great food? I can’t really attest to that.