Alex Roddie reviews The Wilderness Cookbook by Phoebe Smith: a wild camper’s guide to eating well.
If you’re anything like me, your idea of trail cuisine consists of dehydrated meal pouches, Cup-a-Soup, and maybe porridge. Backpackers often prioritise weight over taste when they have to carry food over mountains for days or weeks, and who can blame them? But satisfying food is an important part of being outdoors. It doesn’t have to be this way.
Phoebe Smith has written a number of outdoor books, from Extreme Sleeps: Adventures of a Wild Camper to Book of the Bothy. In her latest book, The Wilderness Cookbook, Phoebe Smith aims to save us from bland and boring food on the hill.
The Wilderness Cookbook starts with an anecdote describing how the author had always believed that all food tasted better outdoors, until a wild camp in Scotland when she found her dehydrated meal absolutely disgusting, despite her hunger and fatigue. After a few similar experiences on other trips, she made a promise to herself to “explore homemade recipes that I could make in the wilds rather than relying on pre-packaged ‘food’.”
The book includes an introduction packed with handy hints on successful camp cooking, followed by five sections: moorland, coast, mountain, riverside, and woodland. Each includes tips for making the most of that environment, followed by a selection of recipes covering breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and desserts. It’s worth noting that some of the recipes require a campfire (such as the lemon and cinnamon muffins), but others can be cooked simply on a camping stove. There’s huge variety here and plenty of delicious-sounding recipes to try.
My thoughts? While not every recipe in this book will be practical for the typical backpacker, many sound ideal for certain scenarios – such as a bothy stay with friends, or a laid-back ‘slackpacking’ trip over a night or two. And it’s certainly inspired me to vary my trail diet and give some real food a go.
The Wilderness Cookbook by Phoebe Smith is published by Bradt Travel Guides (£11.99)