This weekend I set out on a camping trip to South Mountain State Park in Maryland. I’ve never been, but it promised hikes on the Appalachian Trail, incredible views from the mountain, and a nice lake near the campsite. After doing research, reserving a site and prepping my materials, I focused on food.
My grandma, being a great cook, saw me chopping up potatoes and asked if I was planning to cook them right away. I explained that this was for the camping trip and that I was chopping them up so as to marinate with onion, olive oil, salt and pepper. She raised a concern and said the potatoes could turn brown when exposed to air, but she was curious to see if my ‘invention’ would overcome this obstacle and let me proceed.
Having never prepped potatoes for a hike I had no clue whether the potatoes would last the night. All I had to go on was a sense of adventure and belief in the best. In fact, many of us have such moments, and not necessarily limited to food. Then, I thought deeper and my ideas floated to the past, to our ancestors. Many of these individuals made up their ‘innovations’ and created the ways we cook, preserve and present food today from trial and error.
There are many projects that get scrapped and don’t pass the test, but a lucky few do get passed down to new generations. That day in the kitchen I was exploring new ways to prepare potatoes, and I’m happy to say that the potatoes didn’t brown. They ended up being cooked on an open fire on a chilly weekend in the woods, leaving everyone who indulged in them happy, warm and full. In addition, I was able to teach my grandma, who is overflowing with knowledge on cooking, a new skill.
This idea of being open to innovation, to making mistakes and embracing uncertainty applies to things beyond the kitchen. In the real life it is easy to stick to regular routines and things we’re familiar with. But, if we don’t explore and be ok with making mistakes then we won’t reach new grounds.
For me, my exploration turned to success, yet even from the success I already deduced things I can improve on. For instance, I realized that chopping the potatoes into thinner slices will help them cook faster and more evenly. I also learned that hotter spices with bolder tastes, such as curry or hot chili, are better ingredients to marinate with. Especially because hiking outdoors leaves you tired and craving comforts of home. Food is always a good reminder of home, so why not make it spicy and hot, especially if it’s cold outside. Also, I will use less potatoes as they are difficult to keep fresh, even in cold weather, and really need to be used quickly, ideally in the first night, or maximum the second, but no longer as they can go bad and start spreading bad odors in the cooler.
If any readers have tips on what to pack and prepare for hikes please let me know. Even though camping doesn’t always entail gourmet food, I believe that there is always room for delicious meals, whether at home or in the mountains. The trick with camping is to pack filling, easy to prepare, and easy to carry food. With a happy and healthy belly there is nothing we can’t accomplish.
Happy eating and exploring!