Adventure Eating

By on July 19, 2017

There’s no need to sacrifice culinary savoir faire when dining “out.”

(Photo: Bree Buckley)

JACKSON HOLE, WY – When it comes to playing outside, Kelly Halpin doesn’t mess around. A native of Jackson Hole, she’s one of the valley’s fiercest athletes hitting the trails and conquering the peaks of the Teton Range. Whether she’s lacing up her running shoes to log some miles, or gracefully scaling a rock wall, Halpin gives it her all. But she refuses to do any of this without properly fueling up. And no, that doesn’t mean wolfing down a PowerBar on her way out the door.

In a community that has a reputation for being both foodie as well as outdoorsy, it’s no surprise that locals have found creative and delicious ways to fuel their fun. Once upon a time, it was common to gobble a damp ham and cheese sandwich and candy bar, washed down with a few slugs of tepid water from a canteen. But no longer. Whether floating the Snake, traversing the Tetons or just heading out to enjoy the parks, locals have elevated their al fresco game.

“I think it’s important to eat yummy food,” Halpin said of planning what to devour on her backcountry adventures. “I know that seems obvious but rather than bringing a ton of protein bars, I’ll pack nice cheese and pastries and meats, like smoked salmon and prosciutto. Tasty food makes for happy people.”

Halpin doesn’t head into the backcountry without a couple of staples: “Bacon. I precook bacon for almost all big backcountry adventures. That and chocolate.” She says the factors that guide her meal planning include caloric density, ease of cooking and cleanup, but she’s quick to prioritize the deliciousness of the menu. “I love burritos. They are easy to make—basically make whatever you want and toss it in a wrap with hot sauce. Plus, there is no plate to clean up. I like breakfast burritos or zucchini, quinoa, cheese, and chicken. Sometimes I’ll precook meat beforehand,” she said.

(Photo: Bree Buckley)

Local nurse and foodie Stephanie Nemec says precooking meats or freezing them is an approach that allows for great food either in the backcountry or on multi-day river trips. “You can do all kinds of things. Last year when we did a river trip, I thought about buying tamales at the People’s Market and freezing them. You can add whatever sides you want, of course… black beans with onion and garlic, and a cabbage salad,” Nemec said. Efficiency is also important. “I try to overlap ingredients; if I’m using it in one dinner, I think about how else I can use it in another meal, too.”

Nemec says that when she thinks about feeding a crew in the great outdoors, great flavors and fresh food are critical. “You can do so much with fresh food. There’s no need to rely on stuff that’s heavily packaged.”

Another cooking tool on river trips, she says, is the grill. “You can toss whatever meat on the grill, and then chop up potatoes or veggies and put them in a foil packet with salt, pepper and olive oil. Cook them on the grill too, or even over a campfire. You don’t even have a dirty pot.” With plenty of room for gear, there’s more flexibility on a multi-day river trip than a backpacking trip. Multiple coolers mean sufficient space for a diversity of truly gourmet food and beverage options. Nemec advocates ensuring your favorite cocktail ingredients make it into one of the coolers, too.

(Photo: Bree Buckley)

Allison Arthur, editor of Dishing Magazine, agrees that if you’ve got space to bring a cooler on your adventure—whether in a boat or a car—that the options are essentially endless. Frosty beverages and top-shelf food is easy to take along, especially if you plan. “I’m a big fan of getting sloshies and putting them in Swell bottles so they stay cold… they really do stay frozen until you’re ready.”

Just because space isn’t a restricting factor doesn’t mean that Arthur wants to spend hours prepping and cooking at camp. “One of my main goals is trying to minimize the amount I have to do on-site. I try to do most of my prep work ahead of time.”

She often takes into consideration the unpredictable nature of noshing outside: bugs, wind, or heat. “What can I make ahead to take the pressure off while I’m out there?” she said. Easy dishes that come together quickly and are good at room temperature are her favorites.

Ultimately, Arthur says, your food should add richness to your outdoor adventures, not take time away from them. “You don’t have to sacrifice, it’s about really enjoying your time out there.” PJH

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