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[pct-l] Re: food (vegetarian)

>For those that have hiked the trail eating vegetarian, how were your energy
>levels?  Did you feel like you needed more?  I'm working on a menu for next
>year and my partner is worried about protein.  We've only seen a few menus
>listed in hiker's journals.
>                thanks,   laurie


  It has been 22 years since I did my hike, but I think the information is
still relavent.  At that time, there was not a lot of information for a
vegetarian, or, at least, it was scattered and hard to come by.  "Normal"
people treated a vegetarian like a wierdo, even in California.  The only
vegetarian restaurants existing were near college campuses, and the fare was
generally bland and banal.  Likewise, packaged foods were hard to come by,
found only in overpriced health food stores, and were almost always not
practical for use on the trail, as they required too much cooking (beans were
raw, not pre-cooked).  The Bible of the vegetarian movement was "Diet for a
Small Planet", which was written by a radical (for that time) nutritionist,
Frances Moore Lappe, who emphasized (over-empasized actually) the role of
protein in the vegetarian diet; she discusses the structure of protein in
non-meat foods and how the amino acids can be combined to form a "complete"
protein, similiar to meat.  I don't know if her theories have held up with time
and the book has gone through a few revisions, none of which I have read. 
There is much more emphasis on carbohydrates and fat these days than on
protein.  However, I used her theories to create my own menu.  Since the
recipies she gave in the book were horrible, I was left to my own devices. 
Luckily, I was already a decent cook, thanks to my mother.  I have been a
professional cook (not chef), am a gourmet cook these days and do about 75% of
the cooking in my own family because I love to work with food so much.
  I had the experience of several other long wilderness trips previous to the
PCT to have a fair idea of what I needed to accomplish.  My menu tended to be
a bit extreme on those trips so I wanted to correct that, since I knew it was
going to be hard to eat the same thing for 5 months.  On a canoe trip in
Canada, for about 50% of my diet, I had actually sprouted a variety of beans
which I ate raw and cooked, being much easier to cook than raw beans.  If you
think it sounds horrible, you are totally correct: it was, and I still smile
when I think of how, about halfway through the trip, we capsized the canoe,
soaking ALL of the beans I was carrying and how 3 days later, I had a huge ball
of sprouts which took up all the room in my pack and which was a huge source of
amusement for my companions and I before I sunk the whole mess in a deep lake. 
I wisely have never tried that again.  On the Appalachian Trail, I went totally
non-cook with my food, carrying only a very meager 1 pound per day selection,
which consisted of granola, gorp, "healthy" chocolate bars and peanut butter. 
Coupled with the fact that I had only a tarp instead of a tent and very little
extraneous gear, I was unwittingly one of the first ultralight hikers around
(1974), and could quite easily carry 20 days worth of food.  Of course, this
was a terrible thing I had done to myself, and I was always hungry, but I
supplemented it in towns with what little money I had and somehow carried on. 
  For the PCT (which I immediately assumed would be more difficult and taxing),
I stuck with granola and gorp for the first part of the day as I seemed capable
of eating like this everyday with no problem.  This was more or less true in
the initial phases of the journey, but as time went on, I craved more variety
and was left to supplement from stores along the way.  I decided to go with 1
and 1/2 pounds of food a day, giving myself a 50% increase over what I ate on
the AT.  This was still not enough food, and I lost weight until northern
California when the warm nights arrived, thus alleviating the need for calories
to fight the nightime cold.  For the evening meals, I decided to go with a
5-day cycle of meals, which meant I developed 5 meals that I enjoyed and
rotated so as to give myself some variety.  If I remember correctly, these
meals were Macaroni and cheese, Rice pilafs, Lentil and Green Pea soups, Chili
and Pancakes (my favorite).  As I did not care for Kraft Macaroni and Cheese,
all of these meals I made and packaged myself except the pancakes, which were a
wonderful mix from Walnut Acres.  I carried oil to add much needed fat.  I used
brown sugar with the pancakes.  As I did not carry a spatula, I became an
expert at flipping the pancakes in my panlid; I was the evening entertainment
in camp especially on those luckily rare occasions when my pancake missed the
pan on descent!  I also carried some hot chocolate and popcorn for bedtime
snack.  The popcorn was extremely popular and I made many wonderful (for me)
trades for other's goodies.
  Though I took care to make sure my diet was well rounded in terms of protein
and fats, it is hard to say how successfull I actually was.  The cravings one
has on the long march are very strong, and like every other through-hiker, I
would pig out whenever I got the chance, whether that was in town or through
the generosity of other hikers and tourists.  I can say that I am sure that I
did not lack for energy from my diet; those times when I felt rundown and
lackluster were more likely from a lack of mental energy and enthusiasm, since
I tend to be very affected by my own mind.  I have done many long trips since
that hike, though none as long as 5 months, and I have done everything from no
planning whatsoever while buying everything in the store (up the Continental
Divide in Canada) through very meticulous meal planning for winter journeys
with little hope of getting more supplies (the Iditarod Trail here).  The one
thing all these trips had in common was that I and my partners were never
carrying enough food to satisfy our cravings and hunger; it may simply be that
it is impossible, food is such an important thing on the trail.
  This spring, my teenage son and I went for a 5 day trip through Grand Canyon,
and, just like the old days, I kept the meals very simple and was on the light
side for the amount of food we needed.  I did it this way mainly because I was
the one who was going to have to carry it all, food and cooking gear, so this
was really more like carrying 10 days of food for one.  We were hungry, of
course,  but we had planned to pig out in Las Vegas when we were done, which
is what we did.  Now 5 days is very different than 5 months, but there is an
essential grain of truth for me and it is that any long hike is merely a bunch
of short sections pieced together and that if you look after the sections, then 
the whole will naturally come together.  Thus, when I go on my next long hike,
I will do it something like what follows.  I will peruse every store and source
that I can to find as much variety of meals as possible.  This includes
breakfast and lunch, so that even if all I eat are granola and gorp, they will
at least be a different kind of granola and gorp every day for a several day
cycle.  Suppers will be based on all the different meals I can find that I have
tried and like, with a emphasis on my favorites.  I will make only the meals
that I cannot find (everything I had on the PCT is now available and probably
tastes better and is more nutritious than what I made) and they will be special
meals, something very delicious that will be looked forward to with much
pleasure.  I imagine that this dinner cycle will now be more like 10 day
cycles.  I will strictly enforce my weight limit per day (still 1 and 1/2
pounds I think) but will allow a treat like good red wine for the evening. 
Since my money situation is much better than it was when I did the trail, I
will budget a lot of funds just for eating well in towns along the way, to make
up for what I have lacked day to day.  I will eat in restaurants more than I
did, though this might be difficult as I am a very demanding eater and I will
not eat in a restaurant where the food is not as good as I can cook myself. 
I would plan on buying part of my trail food along the way, so that if my
tastes change along the way, I can change also; believe me, there is a lot more
available today in even the most basic stores than there was in 1975.  And yes,
I will probably carry pancakes and popcorn: I never did finish my research into
the self-flipping pancake.  ;-)


P.S. By the way, for pure truthfulness, though I have followed a vegetarian
diet (including eggs and dairy, not vegan) for 25 years now, I occasionally
have seafood, and on very rare occasions, poultry and even meat, in small
quantities.  For instance, in France a couple of months ago, I was curious to
try cassoulet (which at the very least has sausage and duck) and fois gras
(duck liver).  These were all to satisfy a curious mind, not to satisfy a need
for protein.
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