Kai on the Fly – Sep/Oct 2009

With Aunty Rata

Hi there fellow trampers and welcome to the inaugural column of “Kai on the Fly”. Yep, this column is going to be a regular feature in the newsletter for the next wee while. You may be able to get rid of it if you write enough trip reports but I think I’m probably safe until at least 2012.

I’ll endeavour not to stray into the “bang it in, boil it up and bolt it down” (H. Smith) school of cookery, as it requires no explanation. Nor will this column be an attempt to pontificate on the fine art of gourmet cooking. People have written books on that subject; go to the library if interested.

Your Aunty Rata likes to think of herself as more of an elegant assembler of ingredients to make okay kai. She reckons this is what you lot should aspire to as well. There is more to life than cooking, especially when you are out tramping. Food in the hills doesn’t need to be flash. At the end of the day whether you are at a hut or camping there is not a lot of competition from other fast food outlets.

It is possible to eat fairly well without much effort though and I’m here to help. You can help too of course – feel free to send your questions and/or favourite tramping recipes to the newsletter editor and if he feels like it he will pass them on to old Aunty Rata and if she feels like it, she may even use your material in Kai on the Fly.

No recipe this month though, just my top 10 tips on warming up for the big feed.

  1. Just because you are the trip leader doesn’t mean you cook the kai. Cooking should be a labour of love. Allocate the task to the person who loves doing it the most and sit back and enjoy the results!
  2. Pack a big, light weight plastic spoon for serving. Nobody really likes their cup returned to them with dinner dripping off it.
  3. The chopped garlic that comes in the glass container from the supermarket and is full of sugar, salt and other preservatives, additives and flavourings is just fine decanted into a film canister or some other light weight packaging. Nobody really likes peeling and finely chopping actual cloves of garlic after a hard day in the hills.
  4. Milk powder or coconut cream powders are not only light and easy to transport they are also an excellent source of protein and can be used to thicken and flavour pretty much any meal. Yes coconut cream powder is expensive but you can buy it in bulk from Moore Wilsons.
  5. The reason for lugging fresh veges into the hills is not to fill up your pack but to ensure you have an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, and they add flavour, colour and texture to your dinner. If you overcook the vege you remove all of the above. You may as well have left them in the fridge and popped a multi vitamin. It is not possible to over undercook the veges.
  6. Soups are like milk and coconut powder, light and easy to transport. They can be used as a hot drink pre-dinner, or if there is a lack of flavouring for the main meal chuck them in. Soup thickens everything and adds flavour, plus soups tend to be salty and you need to replace the salt you have sweated out all day. If you must carry extra stuff in your pack soup sachets are more edible than cards or crosswords.
  7. Before you head out make sure you are on top of your punter’s food preferences. Most of us are flexitarian but you will sometimes encounter people who can’t eat stuff for good reasons such as allergies. It makes sense to leave out ingredients that cause some of your party grief or come up with an elegant compromise such as adding the creatures after the vegos have taken their portion. Food assembly is all about problem solving!
  8. The Club website gives guidance on quantities of particular food groups to take per person. The most important is the 120g of carbohydrates per person. Except that as George Orwell pointed out not all animals are equal. If your trip consists of lots of fat stomachs you need to take more ingredients (carbs) for assembly otherwise people will be hungry. Under catering is, on balance a greater crime than over catering.
  9. Slapping together decent kai is all about the assembly process. Before you start think about your ingredients and the order in which you want to cook them. Yep, some ingredients take longer than others. Dried veges and powdered stuff generally likes to be mixed and soaked in cold water for a bit prior to heating (to allow for rehydration and maximum lump production).

The cook does not, in any circumstances, have to clean up that is what the rest of the team is for.

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