Keeping Wayfarers Fed, Part One in Research. Wayfarers: Quest for the Cure
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Keeping Wayfarers Fed, Part One

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Among the first things that we did at our meetings was to divy up the responsibilities between us; because Dan has this image of me as a ‘great cook’, I’ve ended up in charge of figuring out what, exactly will be keeping us going – physically, at least – for our weeks in Scotland. (Note that I’m not disputing this image of me. He said it, not me.)

In keeping with our theme, the standard array of high-tech superfoods was out. I haven’t even looked into them, because I just know that I’ll find something that would be just perfect for our trip, except that it’s entirely too modern.

So instead, I Googled things like “crusades food” and “how did travellers eat medieval times” and “native flora scotland”. There were a lot of things that piqued my interest – and as I’m able to do some more research on them, I’ll be posting more – but one food was repeated time and time again: Hard tack, also known as hardtack, pilot’s bread, molar breakers, dog biscuits, and other wonderful and unfortunately descriptive names. Realizing that this was going to be one of the things we ate a lot for our trip was one of the first signs that this was, in fact, going to be a difficult journey, regardless of the distance.

For those who don’t want to look at the link above, here’s a basic recipe for hardtack:

2 cups flour
3/4 cup water
3/4 teaspoon salt

…and that’s it. No fat (as it would spoil eventually), no sugar (ditto). No flavouring at all, probably to reduce cost. You mix those ingredients, push it on a cookie sheet, and throw it in the oven. Then you cut it into squares, turn it over, and bake it again.

The result is a hard, tasteless brick of carbs – that will last for years before spoiling. And if it’s baked another two times, it’ll last even longer! It’s designed to be dipped in some sort of liquid before you eat it, mostly because those who skip this step are those who gave it the nickname “molar breakers”.

So, I made some. I had flour in my cupboard, and we had a training walk planned a few days after I discovered this, last weekend. I brought them along, and despite the abuse they took in my backpack over the course of six hours’ walking, we pulled them out and  dipped them in my iced coffee when we sat down at a Tim Horton’s. We all bit down, attempted to chew what we could, and unanimously decided that, without some changes, there was no way we’d be able to eat it. Luckily, I have some ideas already – I have a list of herbs native to Scotland, and the recipe linked above includes a note that you can add shortening to make it softer, but it cuts down on the length of time before it starts to spoil.

It’s going to be interesting, definitely. I’m not sure if it’s going to be good-interesting or bad-interesting, but interesting is a sure thing.

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