Without refrigeration

On my recent road/camping trip with my mom, I had to plan rather strategically about food. We brought along a little ice chest, which kept foods chilled for the first day, but I was rather reluctant to have to keep buying ice to replenish the ice chest throughout the trip, even though we were occasionally staying in hotels that provide that American staple . . . ice machines.

Usually when we go on weekend camping trips, we bring an ice chest full of marinated Korean bulgogi, sausages, butter, eggs, etc that need to be chilled, but allows us to dine in style, cooking over a campfire. Or cans of chili and soup (some of friends will never let me live down Campbell’s Restaurant Style Clam Chowder that I bought at Smart and Final for a camping trip).
On this road trip, it was more about subsistence, and less processed foods. (My mom’s been on this kick with alkali vs, acid foods.)

I had to think about foods that would keep without refrigeration, ‘dining off the grid’. It ended up being cheaper and simpler (i.e. less hassle.) We settled on:

Dried noodles (soba and angel hair)
small cans of corn
small cans of sardines in tomato sauce
Shredded nori (seaweed)
Olive oil in a glass jar
Hard boiled eggs
Hard cheese (Asiago)
Carrots, cucumbers, avocados and apples
Oatmeal (bulk)
Crackers (Albertson’s had an organic saltine cracker that conveniently prepackaged every 4 crackers in its own wrapper . . . at twice the price of regular Saltines.)
A lump of ginger (for ginger tea)
Salt, pepper and sugar
And of course, dried fruit and nuts.
(Joe exclaimed, ‘What, no dace with black beans’? [It’s a Chinatown staple.])

Hard boiled eggs and even hard cheese might be a little suspect for gastro-intenstinally conservative people to store and eat without refrigeration, but we did OK. Everything else keeps without refrigeration.

Tomato sauce sardines with chopped onion is a classic with my dad (it’s what we’d eat when we had to ‘cook’ dinner when my step-mom wasn’t around.) In Thailand, shallots are cheap. Here, they’re more expensive, but because they’re smaller than onions, you can just eat them clove by clove, instead of having to store a half-cut onion. So it was worth investing in shallots. Our dinners would be sardines, shallots, corn and nori over noodles. Sounds weird, but tasted OK, when accompanied by a salad of cucumber dressed with salt and olive oil. (My mom would even drink the water in which we had boiled the noodles as a soup, citing it as a Northen Chinese habit she grew up with!)

As it turns out, we never built a campfire, but cooked everything on my little camping gaz stove, so all our foods had to be capable of being cooked in a pot.

Breakfast would be oatmeal with nuts and dried fruit, with tea. We were going to buy ginger tea, but didn’t find any brand of ginger tea we liked, and decided that buying a lump of ginger and boiling that to make tea was a much better idea. Lunch would be more snacks of crackers, cheese, fruit and nuts.

I think we developed a good menu for this kind of camping/road trip. We didn’t fully get tired of this menu, since we did eat at restaurants once in a while. If I do this again, I should consider more variety, by adding plain canned beans (if they come in small cans), and Chinese style pork floss for easy protein. Maybe investigate miso paste for soups. Or even canned tuna, enlivened Thai style by adding lime juice, shallots, chili peppers, salt, and sliced celery. My mom also mentioned some tasty canned deviled meat product from Trader Joe’s, but we forgot to get some for the trip.

This trip was pretty economical foodwise and even sleepwise, since we camped some many nights. The nice thing is that not only do seniors qualify for a discount National Park Pass, but they get discounts on camping. I’m very lucky that my mom is very game about sleeping in a sleeping bag in a tent on the ground (even with a sleep mat)!

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