Thursday, April 28, 2011

Camp Cooking

It's always a relief to finish your cook duty. To wash up that last pan and pack away the kitchen onto the truck. With 25 hungry climbers on the truck, it will be another month before you have to do it all again.

Making empanadas in Cocharmo

Everyone is required to do kitchen duty, where 2 people have to cook dinner and breakfast for 2 days. So with 25 climbers it should take another 23 days before you are due to cook again.
I find it challenging to cook for a dinner party of 8 people with a well set up kitchen. Cooking for 25 people on a very limited kitchen on a micro budget requires a few extra skills they don't teach in French cooking school.

Marese showing cutting technique for Pumpkin Soup
As the day approaches, Roger, our leader, will hand you the equivalent of $US 1 per person per day to purchase your food. Back home that would buy lunch for the two of us. Now that you have your $50, you have to find somewhere to spend it. First problem is to find the supermarket, or even find a town with a supermarket. Then hope that the supermarket actually has some fresh vegetables that you recognise. This usally happens on a drive day and you have 1 hour to shop.
Now one hour is not a lot of time as in that time you must find the supermarket and do a quick scout around to see what they have. Then design your menu based on what ingredients you have found, making sure you will keep to budget - we usally go over and put some of our own cash into the budget - grab all the ingredients and get through the checkout, all without speaking the local language. Once purchased, store all your ingredients back into the truck, which can mean packing them into every nook and cranny and hope nobody steps on your fresh vegetables.
Now that you have done the cook duty shop, you have to turn around and go back to the supermarket so you can get food for your personal lunches. When you have that done, then you can use any spare time to grab a coffee and tasty treat or fnd some internet access to check Facebook, upload photos and update the blog. We have this down to a fine art and have managed to do all these things and be back on the truck in one hour.
Cooking in the rain.
As we can bush camp for many days, you may need to shop 5 days in advance and hope your fresh vegetables don't go rotten in the meantime. Then there will also be 5 days of other people's cook duty food stuffed in the truck before yours.
Now you may be saying that $US 1 is a bit tight to cook dinner and breakfast per person. There is also store's food which is looked after by Ee Fu and Rich. The truck has supplies of rice, pasta, beans, lentils, flour, sugar and limited dried herbs. So it's smart to design your menu to use as much as possible of these 'free' foods in your menu. Hence we have the 'sweet rice' breakfast. There is a bit of a collective groan when we are having sweet rice again for breakfast. Rice overcooked 'til it's like porridge, with milk powder and sugar. Typically when sweet rice is on the menu we grab our private stash of museli and a can of fruit and abstain.
Some of the young guys on the trip have  limited cooking experience, so they are in the deep end when cooking for 25. As I don't want to starve, I usally try to give them a hand with selecting the ingredents and cooking.
Argentinan BBQ for extra $2 per person.
With the budget, meat is normally off the menu, but occasionaly after a long period camping in the bush we will have a special dinner, Everone chips in an extra few dollars to buy some meat for a BBQ. In Argentina, it only took an extra $2 for us to cook a huge BBQ with steaks and sausages and heaps of vegetables.
I find drive day cook duty the most stressful as you don't have much time to prepare. Normally when on cook duty, we take the afternoon off from climbing to do our truck security and start to prepare dinner so we can have it ready around 8-ish. On a drive day we may be driving to 7 or sometimes as late as 11 pm. Then you have to unpack the kitchen and start cooking, maybe on the side of the road or in a quarry or truck mechanic's yard. When you have finished cooking, you have to put up your tent and get your personal kit organised. However, everyones knows this is an extra chore, and everyone usually helps out on these cook dutys and someone will put up your tent.

Nick cooking my bread on the wheelbarrow fire. Turned out excellent.
All up there have been some excellent dinners, pumpkin soup with freshly baked bread, empanadas, stir fries. I do enjoy the cook duty, but am also very glad when I put away that final pot and have another 23 days off.

Marese tasting the Pumpkin Soup
Watch our video below to get more of an idea about our cooking duty.


Martin & Marese

No comments:

Post a Comment