‘Everybody needs beauty as well as bread,’ says John Muir, ‘places to play in and pray in where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to the body and soul.’
The beauty of the outdoors does indeed bring much sustenance, but one cannot live on beauty – or bread – alone. In fact, one requires a balanced, calorie-rich diet if one hopes to venture out into the wilderness. For most people this presents its challenges, but I will argue that eating vegan in the outdoors is a cinch. As a case study, I will discuss my culinary selections from my recent 14-day, 200-kilometre circuit of Stewart Island. I had to carry all of the food and gear I would need for 14 days, and so space and weight were at a premium.
(Disclaimer: The following are my own culinary selections and I do not speak for all vegans. I hope that other vegans could come up with more creative meal choices.)
Vegan cuisine in the outdoors is simple and consists of three staples: porridge, peanut butter, and pasta. Everything else is filler.
I make my porridge with equal parts oatmeal and ground up brown rice and barley. The result is a meal full of complex carbohydrates and is quite calorie-rich. I add raisins and soymilk (mixed from a dried powder). I love this porridge mixture and eat it even when city-bound (albeit with fresh, chilled soymilk).
Peanut butter is full of energy and calories and is perfect for lunch. Eating plain peanut butter is a bit bland, however. My favourite lunch consisted of Clif bars dipped in peanut butter – yum! Clif bars are gloriously vegan and organic and are excellent energy bars. I also ate whole wheat crackers for lunch as they are also high in calories and dietary fibre. Lastly, for quick snacks on the trail, I brought along One Square Meal bars, which are perfectly balanced nutritionally. (Note: OSM bars contain honey, and some vegans do not eat honey. I respect this forbearance, although I am too heterodox to adhere to such dietary strictures).
For dinner, whole wheat pasta was the mainstay. With my food dehydrator, I dried a large batch of vegan marinara sauce. Don’t worry, it tastes better than it looks. The marinara sauce was easily reconstituted into a steaming bowl of pasta – a special treat in the bush:
There were few other treats in the bush. I had eaten to excess during the Thanksgiving holiday, and had a number of pounds to burn off. I didn’t bring any junk food with me, not even any dark chocolate. In fact, my only culinary indulgence was dried peaches. These were surprisingly tasty, and having fruit in the wild is always a delight.
And that was my diet for 13 nights and 14 days – porridge, peanut butter, pasta, and peaches. I found it to be beautiful in its simplicity. And all of this culinary restraint paid off: after 14 days and 200km of tramping, my extra weight melted away. I still had heaps of physical stamina each day to carry my pack, and plenty of mental energy to combat Stewart Island’s infamous mud. For pictures, follow this link.
Um, ok I admire you more now than ever. As i’m typing the smell of cooked bacon is permeating my kitchen. I don’t mean to gross anyone out or anything because I believe that we are all entitled to make our own choices as to what we put in our bodies but dang Roachy, how could I give up my savory bacon? I love to see what it was you sustained yourself on while on the island but I think i’ll have to find a diet that better suits my meat lovin’, bacon cookin self.
Thanks for your comment, Melinda. I’m impressed that you’re simultaneously typing and cooking! 🙂
My first thought is a quote from Gary Francione: “If you think that being vegan is difficult, imagine how difficult it is for animals that you are not vegan.”
I’ll agree that we are all entitled to make our own choices as to what we put in our bodies. But even if one loves bacon, this isn’t a practical food to bring backpacking. Meat is heavy and it doesn’t keep well – especially over the course of 14 days. I think bacon is a poor energy food. Bacon is full of saturated fat and is high in cholesterol. Also, bacon – like all cured meats – contains nitrites that are very harmful to ingest. Nitrites are traced to a number of cancers and diseases. See this link: http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/f-w00/nitrosamine.html. Even if bacon tastes good, taste is fleeting. Cancer is not.
Awesome blog Jim. Thanks for sharing.
As a vegan and a minimalist, I find this blog post inspiring and entertaining. I could definitely live off such a diet for that amount of time: I love how eating these kinds of foods really makes you feel healthy. Vegans understand what I’m talking about when I say I really feel healthy–match that full-in-the-lungs health and the great outdoors and you’ve got yourself a great time on hand.
I mentioned your blog in a recent post on my new blog, Apartment Green Living Tips. Veganism is one of the things I mention as a green lifestyle choice. I look forward to reading more of your content on The Solution.
Do animals get a choice about you harvesting their body parts?
Well put, Aaron. I have been toying with the idea of an entry on the blog about the myth of personal dietary choices. Because everything we do has political, practical, and philosophical implications, what we eat is never just a personal decision. It is a decision that effects others – animals and humans – greatly.