Camp food has evolved since the voyageurs, and thank goodness.
They were known to eat pemmican, a protein-rich recipe of dried buffalo, berries and lard, for breakfast and lunch. Dinner was pea soup. Copious amounts of rum took the edge off the redundant meals.
Nowadays, you can find just about any meal you want, dehydrated and packed in plastic bags, from burritos to lasagna to omelets. Just boil some lake water, pour in the powdered meal and stir. Outfitters sell this trail food, as do businesses like REI, Midwest Mountaineering and Gander Outdoors.
Snack food is essential on a Boundary Waters trip. You want snacks that are easy to eat and pack a lot of calories, items that you can stow in the top of your pack and grab when you get peckish. Trail mix, aka GORP (good ol’ raisins and peanuts), is ubiquitous among canoeists and can be tricked out in myriad ways. On our trip, we ate a lot of salami and cheese for lunch, which doesn’t need immediate refrigeration because of its fat content, though the cheese got oily.
I always like to pack along something homemade, too — foods that hearken back to the voyageurs. Brad Shannon, among our travel group, packed pieces of rusk, a dense, chewy, sweet bread shaped like a small hockey puck. It is similar to the hardtack that voyageurs ate. I made pemmican with venison from a deer I shot last fall. Brad’s rusks were popular among the others for quick energy; my pemmican was not (too much lard).
(From Brad and Brooke Shannon)
• 1 c. white flour
• 1 ½ c. whole wheat flour
• ½ tsp. salt
• ½ c. honey
• 2 eggs
• 3-4 tbsp. warm water (can add more if needed)
Directions: Mix flours, salt and honey. Add eggs. Mix well. Add water until mixture holds together. Roll out. Cut into circles. The rim of a cup works well. Prick with a fork. Bake on greased baking sheet at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.
(Note: The voyageurs didn’t have the benefit of measuring tools, and I don’t use them either. You can buy beef tallow at most butchers or specialty grocers.)
• Large venison or buffalo roast
• Berries, nuts
• Beef tallow
Directions: Slice the roast thinly and dehydrate on a food dehydrator or in the oven at the lowest temp. Dehydrate the berries, too. Grind a mixture of the meat, berries and nuts in a food processor to a fine consistency. Liquefy the tallow over heat and mix into the meat-berry-nut mixture. Spread the moist “dough” onto a baking sheet, freeze for an hour and cut into bars with a pizza cutter.