I enjoy cooking and eating, but I have never much enjoyed reading about it. I have discovered, however, that when I write about food I get e-mails from some of my favorite people. So I’ll continue describing the food that I enjoy in posts frequently. This page describes my camp kitchen, completely housed in the left front pannier, and my camp cooking, which is minimalist.
A 1-liter titanium tea kettle with a folding handle and a tight lid is my cooking pot. Inside that is a ten-ounce titanium cup with a folding handle. Inside that is a four-part titanium alcohol stove: a burner, a base, a pot support, and a small grate. The grate can be used in place of the burner in order to use tea candles, solid fuel tabs or wood as fuel. (I carry a couple of tea candles and fuel tabs elsewhere, in my survival kit.) Using my spoon handle, I stuff a white cotton handkerchief into the spaces between the stove parts, cup and tea kettle to prevent rattling. Also in the kettle is a round piece of 3/8″ closed-cell foam, a pad to place a hot pot on; aluminum foil folded for use as a stove windscreen; and a disposable lighter. A 1-liter fuel bottle rides in the kitchen pannier. A titanium Sierra cup, a titanium spoon and a folding, wooden-handled, carbon steel Opinel knife complete the kitchen. I keep the spoon and knife in my handlebar bag.
The entire kit is titanium, as small and light as it gets. One change I would make is to replace the kettle with a titanium sauce pan that I own, a little bigger with a long folding handle. The kettle has enough volume for my meals, but it is narrow for the alcohol stove’s wide, vigorous flame, which wraps around the whole kettle; and the short kettle handles get red hot, so it’s tricky to remove it from the stove without burning my towel/potholder.
Two drawstring bags contain the food. One is for food that requires cooking, the other for ready-to-eat items.
For cooking I carry some rice or millet and some pasta or cous-cous; vegetables (always carrots, garlic and onions, often broccoli, celery, other stuff); olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and garlic powder in plastic bottles; tomato paste in a tube; chicken or vegetable bullion cubes; miso.
When cooking I also borrow from the ready-to-eat bag, which typically contains: olives, bread, crackers, cheese, salami, cookies, fruit preserves, salted nuts, raisins or other dried fruit, clementines; sometimes other fruit, chocolate, occasionally butter (in cool weather), cream cheese, anchovies, hard candy.
Breakfast in camp is usually small, a few cookies or raisins, bread with preserves, often nothing. Mid morning I stop for bakery fare, yoghurt, or something from a store. Lunch is either from the ready-to-eat bag or street food or something. I often have ice cream, cookies or beer in the afternoon.
In camp I set up the tent first. Unless there is a picnic table or other surface, I sit in the door of the tent protected from wind with my feet outside, start the stove on the ground between my feet, and put a half-liter of water on to boil. Then I slice onions and carrots into the water, add salt and seasoning, tomato paste or bullion cube, perhaps an anchovy or chunk of salami, then add pasta, rice or millet as it comes to a boil. Just about when it’s boiling well I put the kettle on the little piece of foam pad, on a towel, inside the tent, cover it with another towel, then cover it with my sleeping bag, where it stays hot enough to continue cooking without additional fuel. The stove fuel is spent about then. While that cooks I prepare the other dinner elements: bread, fruit, cookies, chocolate, wine, cheese, etc. I may add olive oil or olives to the dinner, or if it is soup, miso. As soon as I’m done eating I clean up the kettle with an ounce or two of water (down the hatch), wipe it dry, and reassemble the cook kit. I pack up the kitchen pannier before retiring.
SOME WORDS ABOUT STOVE FUEL
After using naphtha (Coleman fuel or white gas) stoves for decades (a brass Svea and a stainless-steel MSR Dragonfly), it didn’t take me long to prefer alcohol. Advantages: lighter weight; simplicity; silent burning (pressurized naphtha stoves roar); wider fuel availability (denatured alcohol from a hardware store, paint store, or artist’s supply store; rubbing alcohol from a drug store or barber shop; fuel additives such as Heet from an auto parts store, gas station or garage; or moonshine all work); the fuel can be carried in plastic containers, which can double as water or food containers without toxic residue; spilled alcohol will not destroy fabrics, is less toxic than petroleum fuels, and dries without leaving odor; it is not illegal to carry on airplanes and ferries. Disadvantages: no flame control—once lit it burns until the fuel is exhausted (but with practice one can charge the burner with the right amount for the task); more dangerous, since the fuel will spill if the stove is upset.
I use 96% ethanol, same as moonshine, from the liquor store (like the American brands Alcool or Everclear), which costs much more than denatured alcohol (still only about ten cents per meal), but is much easier to find and contains no toxins. Plus it is potable: at one camp I made a serviceable cocktail of ethanol, water, a tangerine squeezed in and a pinch of salt. It was disgusting but had the predictable pleasant effect.