Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Foods that travel well and don't need a fridge

Many folks work or go to school and would like to bring their own homemade meals with them. They may prefer the quality of their own foods, the nutrition, the enjoyment we get from feeding ourselves or just don't care to spend extra money on eating out. Sometimes there is no refrigerator or acceptable heating source (see note below) around for them to use while they are working or in class. This is by no means meant to be the final word but does offer some ideas for people who run into this issue. So, here are some food ideas for people with no fridge or heat source!

Energy bars, will keep all day unrefrigerated without any problem. But, just as you would with any food don't leave it in high-heat area or sunlight (in a car during summer for instance).

Salads' ingredients mostly grow in the sun so a few hours in a container aren't going to cause any problem. The thing that goes wrong when left to sit for too long is dressed salads. This isn't the lettuce or carrots or whathaveyou going bad, this is the salt-oil-acid combination in the dressing accelerating the decay of the salad ingredients. The way to deal with this is to pack dressing separate and only dress what you intend to eat. There are a million sorts of salads you can make and that's a conservative number.

To get the best nutrition out of a salad that will transport with you like this, it is helpful if you keep the components in larger pieces. This means that you might prefer chopping less, and shredding less. It also means that you might choose fewer things that you might need to shred, such as raw beets. The more you cut up your produce and let it sit around, the more it oxidizes and loses living energy. Avoid buying pre-shredded produce such as carrots. But, if you want a salad with shredded beets, arugula, raisins and walnuts and you are going to work and you know it will sit around for a few hours. Make it anyway! It will still be good for you, it will still be delicious, just hold the dressing off until you are ready to eat.

One salad that does very well if you dress it in the morning and let it hang out for a a few hours is kale. Raw kale is very tough and tends to tenderize and become more flavorful after it has had time to cure. Try this kale salad! Consider other tough greens for similar uses as well, such as collards or mustard. Another fantastic leafy relative that holds up well is cabbage which can be used in salads or you may consider creating a coleslaw that doesn't use mayo or dairy. Consider a nutcheese, sundried tomato sort of direction, perhaps a tahini... many possibilities. Have a little bit of live sauerkraut!

Some people are worried their food will go bad too quickly, so check this idea out.. Sauerkraut is fermented cabbage, nut cheese is fermented nut-cream, cheese is cultured milk. Leafy greens just sitting in a container don't have the conditions to ferment and will hold up ok as long as the environment is damp. Cooked meat, kept warm and allowed to sit for a while tends to grow the kinds of things that like that environment and which we should avoid. Point here is that good food and bad food is kind of a fuzzy line anyway and lots of the things we love to eat are some kind of controlled rotting process. Knowing a little bit about how this works can help us decide how to create and transport the best foods for these situations.

A lot of your quicker degradation of food quality or ferment has to do with having a lot of sugar mixed with other things, warm and sitting in the sun... I was once told a story about how to make some very quick, cheap moonshine; It involved taking some old donuts at the end of the workday and putting them in a clear plastic bag with some water; Hang this arrangement over a tree limb and wait. Strain it out after about a week and you'll get at least drunk from the contents... probably have some other unpleasant effects.

Soups often keep very well at room temperatures and many of them are very tasty that way as well. Some soups, such as gazpacho and many raw soups are only to be eaten at room temp or even cold. Which of these might work depends upon your tastes as well as the type of soup. Consider a raw carrot ginger soup; this one is very good, but you'll need to reduce the recipe by about 3-4 depending on how much you want to eat. Or yell at me and I'll get to rewriting.

Besides soups, consider stews and chilis. Here's a link with a whole bunch of raw soups http://www.rawbc.org/raw_soups.html or try googling "raw soup recipe" there are more soup recipes than you could make in a lifetime and most raw soups will hold up at room temp for a few hours.

Fruits come in endless variety and are prewrapped to stay fresh (apple, orange, mango, cherry, dried- raisins, figs, dates). If you get tired of one, there is a whole bioregion more of fruits you may not have even tried yet. There are also some vegetables such as carrots, celery, marinated
vegetables in all sorts of sauces, avocados, coconuts, all of which can be eaten on the go. How about some hemp seeds, to toss onto one of those salads you were going to bring? You could pack an apple, some almonds, celery and some soup you had for dinner.

I like to have a steel knife, fork and spoon with me when I'm going to places where I expect to want to eat. These open up all kinds of possibilities like: avocado, olives and a banana. Those three instruments allow you to open, scoop out and mash all sorts of things so you can have a lot of foods fresh anywhere! If you carry a bowl with some coconut oil, cacao, hemp seed, agave already mixed up you could break that out and add a mango or a banana, or both and you would have one of the most delicious, sustaining meals you could dream of in the time it takes to peel the fruit. Check out this fruit mash recipe. Ever just eat whole cacao beans dipped in honey? A few of these and some almonds ooooh! Macadamias! Its fantastic and will keep you going through the middle part of a day without weighing you down; have with an avocado, but be sure to have some leafy greens or fresh fruit later.

Often a good stir-fry or steamed vegetable dish from dinner can be tossed with some brown rice, maybe make some dressing and eat at room temp and still be quite tasty. You could also add some nuts and grated carrot to give it a little bit of a fresher note; hold the dressing until you are ready to eat.

I also find that hummus travels well, bring only a portion though as it will lose freshness going back and forth. Bean dips and other similar foods too. The issue I see many people run into with things like hummus is that they eat it with pita or cornchips and then they feel heavy. Try bringing along some washed lettuce leaves to eat with it instead; try something hardy, romaine perhaps. Have with a few olives, perhaps some carrot spears, maybe a fresh tomato. I like to carry a little bit of sea salt with me for occasions like this, but if you have some good olives you're already there!

Hope you enjoy these suggestions. Please leave a note if you have some other ideas and I'm sure soon more will come to mind.


*Another possibility if you like warm soups and stews, try getting a thermos or, for cooling only, they make little mini coolers that are just enough space for a lunch.

Note: If you don't know what "acceptable heating" means, I am referring to the microwave, the machine that emits enough high frequency radiation to heat-up frozen TV dinners or transmit telecom data into outer space... Don't heat your food with these things. Don't even stand in the same room with them when they are on. Ever notice how they mess with radio transmission? That is because they are emitting radiation. They damage the chemical constitution of foods causing oxidation, loss of nutrients and the rendering of various components of our meals into toxic waste.. Eat something cold or get a hotplate, find a window and wrap your food in a black blanket! Leave the microwave out of your life!

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