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Food
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Vintage Cookbooks: Sierra Club book touts campfire cuisine

Thursday, July 06, 2000

By Alice Demetrius Stock

Cooking over a little stove in a crowded tent when you have to melt snow into water before you even begin to cook" may not be for everyone. As Sierra Club members, Vikki Kinmont and Claudia Axcell enjoyed that very experience. And, as cookbook authors of "Simple Foods for the Pack," they share with the rest of us their secrets for eating well even while exploring the wilderness.

The Sierra Club, with a membership of 600,000 in America and Canada, was founded in 1892 by John Muir, a Scottish-born naturalist and conservationist. Muir dedicated his life to preserving America's wilderness areas and helped create protected national parks such as Yosemite in the California Sierra Mountains.

The nonprofit organization's motto is Explore, Enjoy, Protect.

Kinmont and Axcell's collection of 175 trail-tested recipes was published by the Sierra Club in 1976, during the decade when America's culinary emphasis was on "natural" foods -- fresh, unprocessed, organic and vegetarian.

Menus for three-day and 10-day hiking trips, for example, suggest wheat cereal, dates, walnuts and hot carob milk drink for breakfast. For lunch: high-protein crackers with miso sesame butter spread, polenta cakes, five-grain soup, high-protein almond cookies or fruit leather. Supper might be chili with cornbread, cheese, butter and raspberry leaf, mint, comfrey tea.

Since hiking stresses the body, Kinmont and Axcell chose foods rich in "protein to replace muscle; liquids and salts to replace what's sweated away; fats to help keep the body warm and quick energy foods for fuel -- such as their version of peanut butter "fudge." (Mix without cooking: 1 cup crunchy peanut butter, 1/2 cup dried milk, 1/2 cup raisins, 1/4 cup sesame seeds, 1/8 cup wheat germ and up to 1/4 cup honey to hold it all together.)

Besides menus and recipes, "Simple Foods" includes helpful hints about preparing for a hike (put all dry ingredients for one recipe in a plastic bag, label and add liquids in camp) and first aid for the trail (wash an opened blister with soap and water. Dry area and apply cooking oil or an herb poultice of plaintain, comfrey or golden seal. Cover until healed). There is also a list of essential trail equipment, from pocketknife and chopsticks to camp stove and fuel.

Kinmont and Axcell's efforts have stood the test of time. A 1988 revised edition of "Simple Foods for the Pack" is still available.

Sierra Club Web sites provide membership information, notices of outings and club publications. Point your browser to pennsylvania.chapter@sierraclub.org and sierraclub.org/chapters/pa/

Sierra Cornbread

The authors suggest this versatile dish "hot from the coals served with maple syrup for breakfast, smothered in pinto beans for supper, dripping with butter and honey for dessert or cold with peanut butter or cheese for lunch." They also suggest optional additions of poppy seeds or chopped walnuts or chopped sunflower seeds.

1 1/2 cups corn meal
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup wheat germ
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar (or 2 tablespoons honey)
1/4 cup melted butter
1 1/2 cups water or milk (we used skim milk)

Blend the dry ingredients together, then stir in the liquids just until barely blended. Over-mixing results in a "heavy" product.

Pour batter into an oiled frying pan, cover and nestle into soft, gray coals, raking some up around the sides and over the top of the pan.

Bake slowly in the coals for about 30 minutes or until a wooden toothpick, pushed into the center, comes out clean.

Note: We used 1 tablespoon of lard melted in a 10-inch iron skillet. We baked the batter, uncovered, in a conventional oven at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Do not overbake.


Adapted from "Simple Foods for the Pack," Vikki Kinmont and Claudia Axcell, 1976.



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