Great Food Doesn’t Come Easy by David Silcox
Preparing three meals a day, plus snacks and cocktail hors d’oeuvres, for six or eight hungry men, most of them somewhat larger than they should be, for two weeks or so, ain’t small potatoes. That’s a minimum of two hundred and fifty-two to three hundred and thirty-six meals in all. If the weather turns chilly, not an unlikely event in the Arctic, each man would need between three and a half and four and a half thousand calories a day, given the modicum of work we require: a few hours of paddling and, possibly portaging. The food you tote along has to provide high nutrition. It’s of little use to bring no-cal anything. You need everything you can get – protein, carbohydrates, calories, and fat. As pregnant women develop odd cravings, so shivering men in the Arctic suddenly have an urge for bread fried in bacon fat.
I have to insist, every time complaints are voiced as we contemplate the hill of supplies at the start of each journey, that good food doesn’t weigh any more than bad food; and that what we are taking is what we need for the time we are going to be gone; and that some provision has to be made against emergencies, though we pray they never arise. The only true extravagances in weight, pure and unadulterated, are those for spirits, wine, and beer, when river water might, perhaps, suffice. And we all know how we feel about that.
The few derogatory comments on the food never came at mealtimes. Usually my companions are oblivious to the effortless presentation of a meal fit for gourmets in impossible and improbable surroundings. Only Kotcheff and I, ably assisted by John Macfarlane, know what it takes to compose and write out all the menus, figure out the quantities, prepare the shopping lists for Toronto and whatever the final departure point is, gather everything together, and then go through the agonizing process of laying out all the food and organizing it into meal-by-meal packets. After that, each day has to be assembled, the packets made waterproof, and then packed into the wanigan, and the freezer box, and a list made of what is in each one. The challenge of looking for a particular item without having such a guide, would be nearly futile.
While we others merely had to worry about stuffing our kit into our own canoe packs, the pressure was on Tim and David and the Johns (Godfrey and Macfarlane) to purchase, prepare and organize all the food, pack the equipment, ensure we would have adequate medical supplies, and solve a whole raft of other logistical issues. And then arrange to move 13 or 14 large and heavy food and equipment bags and containers to and through various airports and ultimately to the river-side. All of this at a time when all these guys had high pressure day-jobs.