Food for thought

Lunch on working days tends to be a sandwich, or something cold grabbed from the fridge, so the idea of hot lunch on the hill is always appealing. But I hate the usual dehydrated stuff. Yes, it’s lighter, but you’ve got to carry more water, and the end result for me is usually almost – but not quite – totally unlike the picture on the packet. So, I’m a great fan of the Look What We Found! range of packet “ready meals”. Great tasting, great local ingredients, and minimal faff. Better still, for some, they have a wide range of gluten-free meals.

There are a couple of drawbacks, though. If you ‘boil in the bag’, the ink can leach out of the labels making the water less palatable for a brew. They suggest soaking off the labels first, but the idea of unlabelled food packets seems a bit like playing Russian Roulette with unlabelled food tins: “Today’s surprise breakfast is… Whiskas!” (or maybe worse, tinned peaches…)

The other catch is the calorie content. The Rose Veal and Wild Mushroom Stroganoff sounds delicious, but you’ll only pick up 231 Kcals from a 300g pack. My favourite, the Gloucester Old Spot Meatballs are a better bet at 354 Kcals, but with either you’ll really want to pack some more carbs in as well. Wayfarer food (which PTC is a recent convert to) is usually in the high 300s for an identically sized pack. For extra carbs, I find Naan bread is suitably indestructible, but haven’t found a way to easily heat it…

Under the food pack in the photo you can see a corner of a self-heating pack poking out. LWWF used to sell these too, but I’ve just used the last of my batch and can’t find them on their shiny new website. Basically, a plastic bag with a chemical pouch inside: Pop the sealed food pouch in the bag, add a small amount of water, and it sets off a strongly exothermic reaction. Leave it for about 10 mins, then remove and eat hot(-ish) tasty food. For best results wait at least 10 mins, keep the pack well insulated while it’s doing its magic, and give the pouch a quick stir to even out any cold spots. The pack takes a while to cool, so you could also remove the pouch and use as a hand/pocket warmer. While these are fine for hot meals on a day walk, I’d pack a stove for anything longer.

I have a love-hate relationship with sporks. Yes, they’re a design classic, and there are buckets of the blasted things on the counter in every outdoors shop. But… actually, all I want is a spoon: I’ve taken sporks everywhere, and never used the fork/knife end at all (apart from poking holes in things that didn’t need holes poking in them).  And worse, as a spoon, they are just too short to allow you get to the very bottom of a pack without getting tomatoey fingers. It seems there’s a longer one available, so I went to ask the friendly staff in Marches Outdoors if they had one. They didn’t, but L’s eyes lit up on seeing this one in pink. At least it hasn’t got unicorns on it.