On a recent overnight on trail for the 2019 “Riverman” program, I got to thinking about how great food always tastes in the bush, and mentally waxing philosophical about why that is.
There are obvious factors, like working physically hard all day and building up and appetite, or that it’s just a pavlovian effect of being on trail, in a particular setting that makes me happy.
I think there’s more to it though, and it has to do with the lack of distractions on trail or in camp. When we’re at home, its often easy to fall into the trap of making quick, easy meals. We have busy mornings, or an hour or so for lunch and that shows not just in what we eat, but how. It’s a mad dash to get food into us before the next part of the day begins. As an instructor, this even happens during courses. I have a few moments to scarf down whatever I can get my hands on, before its right back to teaching.
On trail though, besides traveling and setting up camp, there isn’t much to do besides take time to make good food, and share that food with those around you. There’s a sort of beauty to that cycle I think. Work hard physically for most of the day, then sit and refuel. It’s simple, but powerfully fulfilling, especially because I often feel I’ve earned the meals on trail. This means that often I not only take the time to prepare a good meal, but I also enjoy the process, even though at home cooking isn’t something I usually look forward to.
Food makes or breaks a trip, not only because it’s the fuel that keeps you going physically, but because the comfort of good food, especially when shared with people you’ve spent the day making miles with, is great at easing some of the difficulty that comes with being in close proximity to others for an extended period. It encourages everyone to relax, and tell bad jokes around the fire, which lets some of the tension built up during the day fade away, and prepares everyone for the next day of making miles.
If there was ever a part of living on trail I’d like to transplant into my home life, it would be that time and attention spent on good food, at least once a day. More if I can help it.