This month we feature a book that shows it's possible to enjoy nutritious and delicious vegetarian foods on backpacking trips.
Lipsmackin' Vegetarian Backpackin'
By Christine and Tim Conners
Globe Pequot Press, 2004
Christine and Tim Conners don't own collections of vintage automobiles, impressionist paintings, baseball cards or postage stamps, but they do have a generous supply of trailside specialty recipes. Their amassed treasure consists of "lightweight trail-tested vegetarian recipes for backcountry trips" provided by more than 50 contributors.
Lipsmackin' Vegetarian Backpackin' is a sequel to the Conners' successful Lipsmackin' Backpackin' that included a number of vegetarian recipes. Although this volume is totally-meat free, it is not animal-free. The authors, explicit about the work not being vegan or a health book, say, "Every recipe can be classified as at least suitable for ovo-lacto vegetarians." They have endeavored to present tasty recipes that would even tempt omnivore hikers.
To be included in this work, the recipes had to meet certain criteria demanded by the long-distance backpacker. They had to be lightweight, tasty, and nutritionally valuable, except for a few "comfort foods." They were also required to show variety with a wide range of choice, to be simple to prepare with individual servings, and to resist crushing and spoiling. Visual appeal was not a necessity.
The more-than-150 recipes are arranged in six sections: breakfast, lunch, dinner, breads, snacks, desserts, and drinks. Each recipe includes at-home preparation and "on-the trail" instructions and is accompanied by nutritional information for each serving, the name of the contributor, and comments by the contributor or the authors.
To lighten the backpacker's burden, the Conners make it unnecessary for the hiker to pack this entire book by providing a short section at the end of the book called Packable Trailside Cooking Instructions with all the recipes.
Recognizing the needs of the backpacker, breakfast recipes emphasize ease of preparation while lunch items do not require cooking. More complex preparation and cooking were reserved for dinner when the backpacker is most likely to spend more time relaxing and eating.
Because many of the recipes call for dried ingredients, the authors present two options: purchase from the vendors they list in Sources of Dried Foods and Other Ingredients or use a dehydrator at home. For those who are squeamish about doing their own dehydrating, Christine, a therapist, lightheartedly guides them through the process in an amusing but helpful section called Dehydrophobia.
The couple's sense of humor is also evident in the names selected for the recipe. For breakfast the hiker could have delights like Mule Fuel, Sasquatch Scones, Desert Gruel, or Wood Gnome Cobbler. Lunch might feature Hula Gorp, Mud, Dodie-Kakes, or Anasazi Trail Food. The dinner repast could highlight Miso Madness, Mountain Goat Quesadillas, Thanksgiving on the Hoof, Death Valley Chili, or Procrastinator's Deliverance.
Especially convenient is Measurement Conversions that include metric equivalents as weight and volume when undried items are dried. The authors, mindful of the role played by their contributors, pay tribute to them by including a paragraph about each.
Lip Smackin' Vegetarian Backpackin' is yet more proof that vegetarianism is not just for couch potato wimps. The Conners have successfully assembled a collection of recipes designed to provide the necessary energy for hikers who face rigorous challenges daily. Realizing that hikers are not gourmet cooks, the authors have gathered recipes that emphasize ease of preparation. They have not only collected the recipes, but have also subjected all of them to their own personal taste test.
Although the recipes are not all vegan, in most cases substitutions would be easy to make. The lipsmackin' recipes are guaranteed to make your next hiking trip a pleasing experience, and you won't need to lug the whole book on the trail with you.
Reviewed January 2005