Saturday, January 12, 2008

Just add water

I am not a happy camper. In my whole life, I've spent five nights sleeping under canvas (and no, I'm not including family trips to campgrounds in Italy, where the pre-erected two-bedroom tents came with fridges and stoves, and one of our fellow campers had brought his own chip pan all the way from Teesside).

My one week of Girl Guide camping involved sharing a tent in a muddy field with three girls and thirty spiders, cooking up enormous vats of rubbery scrambled eggs and building dish-draining racks out of sticks and twine (an important survival skill, that is).

And yet, somehow, I didn't aquire a taste for it.

In fact, I share The Boy's credo: "roughing it" is when you have to go outside of your hotel to find a martini--a belief strengthened by a recent trip to outdoor-stuff store REI, which sells such vital accessories as
hand-shovels for digging one's personal latrine and "Feminine Urinary Directors," not to mention all manner of bear protection products (you know the best way to protect yourself from bears? Don't go to places where bears live!).

But on my way out, I found the food section. And it wasn't loaded with trail mix and power bars. There were packages of real meals: beef stroganoff with mashed potatoes. Pasta with salmon and pesto. Jamaican chicken with rice. Paella. And desserts: French vanilla mousse with raspberries; peach crumble; chocolate brownies.

Of course I had to investigate, so I brought home a package of curry with lentils and veggies (potatoes, peas, carrots). Here's the desiccated "before":

You add water to the bag, seal the top and wait 13 minutes. And then it looks like this:

And actually, it wasn't bad. I mean, it wasn't great; it had that springy texture of reconstituted dehydrated food, and the veggies, which were pretty good raw (the peas tasted like peas, for one thing) became invisible and anonymous in the all-enveloping curry. But the sauce itself had a bold, warm, garlicky-spicy kick.

We cleaned our bowls, mopping up the last traces with garlic naan. And then we curled up on the couch, turned on the TV and decided this camping business wasn't so bad after all.

Side note: the curry has one user review on the REI site. For the record, we have not fallen victim to the same after effects. But it's perhaps not surprising, given that the meal provides 126% of one's RDA for fibre ...

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