Food that you cook in and eat from bags always puts me in mind of Star Trek, the 1970s sci-fi TV series. The famous quote from Star Trek that they remind me of is when Captain Kirk and Chief Engineer Scotty encountered some strange and unusual life forms and Scotty said in his American-Scottish accent:
“ It’s life Jim, but not as we know it” *
Well, the astronaut food in foil bags is a bit like that – Its food, Jim, but not as we know it. It provides calories but none of the other pleasures of eating – smell, taste and texture. I’ve tried various different kinds and for me, they range from blandish gloop (mostly) to inedible, vile wallpaper paste. So, this year on the Challenge, it was no baggies for me.
I’m not really organised enough for home dehydration but it’s certainly something I’d like to experiment with sometime. So, I decided that my Challenge food this year should be what’s available in the supermarket and, wherever possible, to eat real food in cafes etc. Given the outrageous price of astronaut food, I don’t think that this cost any more than buying lots of food bags.
I’m going to blog at another time about lightweight food from supermarkets but some highlights this year were Ainsley Harriot spicy cous-cous, Tesco’s chorizo sausage and sachets of concentrated Heinz tomato soup. Sachets of Chinese sauce also worked well with Chinese noodles. with a few bits and pieces thrown in.
Food highlights of the Challenge were a great home-cooked meal from Janet at Ault-na-Goire (Lentil soup, Beef Casserole and rhubarb crumble), a meal in the Old Bridge Inn at Aviemore (Brown trout followed by Slow-cooked belly pork) and in the Gathering Place Bistro in Braemar (French Onion soup, Game Pie). Venison steak, fried tatties and onions with my pal Ian at Maol Bhuide was a very welcome surprise on day 1.
Dinner in Mar Lodge was as tasty as ever but, disappointingly, we ate in the kitchen rather than in the rather more impressive surroundings of the dining room. And the cake at St Drostans was super.
When you are walking, healthy eating is redefined. You need to have a balance of food groups – sugar, carbohydrate, fat and protein to give an all-day release of energy. It’s hard to overeat and you’ll burn off any fat that you consume. Therefore, my favourite daytime foods are dark chocolate and pork pies, neither of which I normally eat. Dark Chocolate with Orange from the coop is my favourite. It is available in most places and the coop’s pork pies are also OK, although Sainsbury’s Melton Mowbray pies are better.
However, the best pork pie this year was from the butchers in Edzell – it was moist and well-spiced. I also recommend the pork pies from the butchers in Ballater (which I’ve had at other times) and the venison and cranberry pies from the Braemar butchers. If you want to try local food (which I recommend) then try Forfar bridies – the Angus equivalent of a pasty. Puff pasty with steak and onions – again, the Edzell butcher had really good examples.
Turning now to the ubiquitous Challenge food, Primula cheese. Lots of people have this on biscuits or oatcakes. I’d never tried it until this year and I don’t think that I’ll buying this bland emulsion of fat, air and water again. I guess it’s cheese but it bears as much resemblance to real cheese as I do to Kylie Minogue. I prefer a chunk of tasty cheddar and I’m not convinced that it’s much heavier.
However, I’m told that Primula has other uses – rather than the expensive Gewohl foot cream, a wee bit of Primula rubbed in has the same effect.** It’s a lot cheaper and saves you carrying 2 separate tubes. Gives a whole new dimension to the idea of ‘cheesy feet’.
There is no doubt that if you want to carry as little as possible, you have to resign yourself to surviving by eating gloop and finding innovative uses for Primula cheese. I understand why people do this but it’s not for me – I’d rather carry a wee bit more and live to eat rather than eat to live.
* According to Wikipedia, this quote was never said in the series but I’m ignoring this as it would have spoiled the story
** I had thrown away my Primula before this photo was taken so have not had the opportunity to try this myself. David Williams is a Primula expert and I believe is writing on his blog (Fellbound) about the multifarious uses of this versatile spread.