Canoe trips have a way of breaking life down its basic components. And they don't get much more basic than food and weather -- and there's only one you can do something about.
We always talk about food being fuel and a canoe trip is where you feel that statement in action. There is a strong correlation between the quality and the quantity of the fuel you put in your "tank" and what you are able to do. On tough, slogging days, you simply run out of gas. Our uphill portion of Labrador Odyssey could see us burning up to 5,000 calories a day. We've often called our tough trips the HACC Diet: forced exercise, all you can eat and still lose weight. On some of our longer trips, members have lost 25 pounds (misplaced is a more accurate description since they usually come back).
Despite the high-tech nature of our trip, we are true traditionalists about our menu. We take real food. No freeze-dried. Nothing instant. Just real food.
In our early years of tripping, we would often skip breakfast all together. This sounds -- and is -- ludicrous and many of our newer (shorter) members have shown us the light. It is an important meal. Hot cereal is the order of the day when the temps are low, which is often the case (and our preference). Five minute Quaker oats, Red River, and Cream of Wheat are all popular. The addition of raisins, however, is a "hot button" issue that is now resolved by the individual. We also take a granola-type cereal with powdered milk. Our Quartermaster, David Peake, is famous for his pancakes, which come pre-packaged with chunks of fruit (and of course real maple syrup). He has also mastered a recipe for cornmeal -- it gives lots of energy -- after several batches that came with a 12-month/30,000 km warranty. And this year we're returning to an old favourite -- bacon. Double smoked and vacuum packed, bacon will provide us (sans one) of the fat we need to stay warm in cold weather.
It rarely changes and, remarkably, we don't get tired of it. Fresh baked bread in the centerpiece of the meal. Geoffrey Peake and Andrew Macdonald have honed their baking skills over the years. The bread gets sliced while the cheese (mainly cheddar with some guest stars over the years), Peanut Butter (PC natural chunky), jam, dried Schneider's salami, and tofu weenies, all get spread out. Geoff then sets down his bag of exotic potions and sauces (usually some hideously hot or fermented legume sauces from some unpronounceable places) and the buffet begins. During trips in warmer climes, Geoff supplies us with a crop of fresh alfalfa sprouts grown in a nylon stocking and kept on top of a pack exposed to the sun during the day. They take a couple of days to germinate and a couple more to reach the eatable stage, but they are a welcome addition to lunch. We also take bagels for the start of the trip. Occasionally, on a cold day, we will fire up some soup. The greatest treat is leftover HACC Fish Chowder (though it's unlikely there's any left). Reconstituted chowder with a hunk of fresh bread and butter is as good as it gets (see Fish
GORP, a traditional canoeing acronym (Good Old Raisins & Peanuts) is an HACC staple. We have been using one recipe for many years. The base is a Quaker Harvest Crunch to which chocolate chips, raisins, peanuts, soya nuts, cocoanut and TOASTED almonds are added. (The almonds are the secret key to a great GORP.)
The talk of "What's for Dinner?" begins around 4 p.m. We do not bag and tag dinner by the day. It depends on the weather and how we feel. The following dinners are the basic ones. They tend to be one-pot meals since they are easier to cook and keep warm.
A basmati rice-based meal with dried veggies of the chef's choice thrown in, plus roasted sunflower seeds and several tins of premium solid tuna. Real Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce a must! This can be done in a pot or cooked in our oven with melted cheese on top.
David Peake with an arctic char in spawning colours caught on the Coppermine River at the confluence of the Kendall in August 1991. (Photo - Michael Peake)
A variety of pastas, fuisili or penne, being favourites. We use our own dehydrated spaghetti sauce and add veggies.
A natural favourite since we are often traveling in incredible fishing country. Fried arctic Char fillets are head to beat. Peter Brewster has a couple of different batters, which include pancake mix and cornmeal. Yum! We have also made fish cakes but our favourite is the chowder, a creation of Brewster's first made during a cold wind bound day at Escape Rapids on the Back River. It is perhaps the best cold weather, stick-to-your-ribs meals we've ever had. He makes it with Lake Trout or Arctic Char (with some greyling thrown in) that are over 10 lbs (considered small on the Barrenlands) -- the lighter fish are best battered and fried. Print off the recipe and try it yourself
MACARONI AND CHEESE:
We tired of this meal. It was boring so we made it real again with Mrs. Peake's home recipe. You make a roux of milk, cheese and onions and seasoning as your base. The macaroni is added in a large pot and baked in our small folding Coleman Oven. A thick crust of vintage cheddar is added and baked until golden brown. Garnished with PC Peanut Sauce.
We became almost vegetarian for several years but this old time favourite is very popular -- except with our lone vegetarian member. The tinned corned beef is fried up in a pan while a big pot of real PEI potatoes bubbles way in another corner of the fire. The spuds are chopped and added to the cooking meat, which has had some seasoning and onion and peppers added. The whole mixture is carefully tended (and sampled) until a satisfying crust is obtained -- and then wolfed down.
VEGGIE CHOW MEIN:
A trip for early in the trip when our fresh veggies are chopped and cooked in a fry pan and mixed with Cantonese noodles and spices.
DESSERTS -- RICE PUDDING, CHEESECAKE, APPLE CRISP, CINNAMON BUNS, CHOCOLATE PUDDING:
Again these are all done from scratch by Geoffrey Peake -- who sometimes lets us actually try them! The fruit crisp is actually great at breakfast and the cinnamon buns are fabulous if they survive the night. (See them in our Winisk to the Bay trip