« Previous  
 Next »

Mexican Night on the Barrens

07/19/02 12:00AM By Willem Lange
 MP3   Download MP3 

(Host) Commentator Willem Lange has been getting ready for a canoe trip to the Arctic, and salutes the creativity that his wife is putting into the food preparation.

(Lange) Mother's really into it this week. Every horizontal space in the dining room and kitchen is crammed with baskets of dried and preserved food -- every basket a separate meal. Whenever the Geriatric Adventure Society plans one of its mock heroic epics in northern New England, she sends us off with the finest cuisine in our sleds: beef and bean stew bourguignon; barbecued chops; and complementary wines.

The Arctic Division of the Society will leave shortly for three weeks' canoeing in the Barren Lands of Canada. The expedition will, of course, carry all its own food, which presents our cuisini re with several big problems: How to feed six hungry men enough calories to sustain life; how to make the load light enough so even aging canoeists can move it from place to place; how to vary the cuisine so each meal is a pleasant little surprise, instead of more of the same old thing; and, since firewood in the Barrens is an unexpected accident, how to use a minimum of heat to make each meal palatable. This is where the Mormons come in.

The Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints recommends that households of its members keep on hand a food supply for the family for a year, against the event of cataclysm. Frozen food keeps all right, until the cataclysm occurs. Canned food is okay, but very bulky and heavy. Even freeze-dried food tends to deteriorate and oxidize. So some entrepreneurs out in Salt Lake City are packing freeze-dried food in nitrogen gas to retard spoilage. It's available in #10 cans. Several cases arrived in our front hall a few days ago - green beans, carrots, peas, potatoes, tomatoes, powdered applesauce, and textured vegetable protein (which resembles turtle droppings).

There are boxes and bags stacked everywhere. From the smell, I can tell we're in for many treats. But imagining how we're going to carry all this stuff -- not just down the river and over the portages, but through the airports -- boggles the mind. Scanning the menu notes that Mother has prepared, I see that we are to have six different suppers. I can envision a typical supper scenario.

In late afternoon (there is no darkness), we pull into shore. Clouds of mosquitoes surround our heads, making rational thought and activity almost impossible. We've found some driftwood during the day, so we'll bake this evening, and dine a l Mexican: rice with kidney beans, chili powder, beef-flavored vegetable protein, and freeze-dried corn. It won't surprise me to find that Mother has included paper serapes and a Spanish phrase book.

And so it will go, day after day -- Tang, oatmeal, prunes, sardines, gorp, smoked oysters, cheese, and peach cobbler. Who could ask for anything more? She's even including three days' extra rations in case we get stuck somewhere. And I know which meals I'm going to save for emergencies: the freeze-dried New England boiled dinner!

This is Willem Lange up in Etna, New Hampshire, and I gotta get back to work.

Willem Lange is a contractor, writer and storyteller who lives in Etna, New Hampshire.
comments powered by Disqus
Supported By
Become an Underwriter | Find an Underwiter