The making of mountain feasts (Part 1)

This is a two-part piece on the super basics of mountain cooking and meal planning, written and co-developed with two of AMCI Mountaineering Club’s masters of supreme outdoor cookery: Dexter Macapagal and Hadjie Tecson. I shit you not—if you climb with them, you’re walking down a bit heavier.

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I was once a firm believer that you will survive a night up in the mountains for as long as you know how to boil water and shove a pack of instant noodles in a pot. And that, if it all came down to survival, there’s always an easy-open can of Century Tuna (and under the worst circumstances, a sachet of adobo-flavored Ulalammm and carinderia-bought rice).

Dekz and his sisig + booze. Hah!

It was only in June last year during the BMC season that I was able to taste tinola cooked from scratch—up on our Naguiling campsite, thanks to a batchmate. Lo and behold, a shocking revelation: you can eat well on high altitudes. Haha!

Here are some basic notes.

  • In the mountains, food is fuel. You’ll need to survive the next 90-degree vertical or the impending 1,000-meter ascent. If you’re not loaded, you’re not going far.
  • Meal planning. It’s that fun and tedious process of writing down and prepping up for what you will eat overnight or in the next couple of days. If you want to know how simple it is, let me summarize it: 1. count how many days you’d be up climbing, 2. count how many meals you will eat for that whole duration, 3. decide what to cook, 4. list down and buy the ingredients, 5. start packing, baby!

Ah, well, yeah easier said than done.

  • It’s actually dependent on a few factors:

Spoilage rate of the food. The quick guide is chicken before pork before beef—it translates to tinola, before sinigang na baboy, before kaldereta.

I kid you not. We make room for nice things when we climb. ❤ Photo by Rio Hernandez

Availability of water. It’s a wise decision not to cook too much soup when the water source is hours away and you would have to lug 4 liters of water on your way up.

Cooking and preparation time. Consider this—you are tired and you just want to crash right after you get to the campsite. Make the food prep as painless as possible and the eating quick. Haha!

Weight and bulk. I don’t like carrying a lot of canned things. They are heavy, they pack big (I’m small and I carry a 34+10L backpack, gets?) 😀

Preferences and restrictions of group members. Allergies, vegans, vegetarians, catholic friends on a no-meat Lenten sacrifice. Ask the members of the group what they prefer before meal planning. You don’t want a hangry person on a climb.

  • Allocating rice. There’s a simple and a complicated way to do it. Haha! The simple way is via guesswork: just to pack x kilos of rice, cook it up the mountains, and bring down what’s left. NOPE. Don’t do that. Hahaha! Here’s a better formula:

A = [(N/6) x M) x 0.5] + X

N = number of persons

M = number of meals with rice

A = amount of rice

X = margin of extra rice (1/4 or 1/2 kilograms depending on the group’s appetite)

Compute: 9 persons going on an overnight camp, three meals (dinner, breakfast, packed lunch on trail)

A = [(9/6) x 3) x 0.5] + 0

A = [(1.5) x 3) x 0.5] + 0

A = [4.5 x 0.5] + 0

A = [2.25] + 0

A=2.25 kilos of rice to be brought for the climb

Or .75 kilos to be cooked per group meal

Now you ask, can we not just make an estimate? Sure you can, but computing so that you have just enough will reduce the amount of excesses you’ll have to bring down.

  • Let’s try dat shit

So, how do we execute a meal plan? Let’s assume you’re going for an overnight hike at Mt. Tapulao. You are 6 in the group, and you will cook three meals: dinner (day 1), breakfast (day 2), lunch (day 2, which you’ll have to cook in the morning and eat on trail). Nobody has food restrictions. There is a water source near the Bunkhouse (alt. campsite).

Day 1 (Dinner) Day 2 (Breakfast) Day 2 (Lunch)
Rice Rice Rice
Tinolang manok Corned beef Bistek tagalog
Coffee Scrambled eggs
Vodkaaaaa ❤ Coffee
The Shopping List
Staples For the foodangs  
Camp Tissue Chicken breasts 1/2 kilo, cut to serving pieces and pre-cooked
Rollo Sayote 2 medium pieces
Cooking oil Garlic 2 cloves
Butane Onions 2 (for tinola and bistek)
Trash bags (for group trash) Pepper leaves 1/2 cup
Patis / fish sauce 1-2 tablespoons
Chicken cubes 1
Corned beef 2 cans
Eggs 6
Beef 1/2 kilo sliced thin
Rice 2 kilos, packaged in three at .67 kilos per pack
Coffee 10 sachets
All the damn seasonings (toyo, suka, salt, pepper, allspice, cumin seed powder lalalalala) (don’t buy, steal from your mother’s kitchen)
Juice 5 sachets (depending on how long the inuman is going to be)
Smirnoff Orange / Absolut Kurant 750 ml bottles x 2 (or more)

Now that’s super basic. I’ve seen friends cook prawns with gata and kare-kare. They are mountain cooking gods.

Part 2 is coming up in a few days. 😀

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Nothing was said: The call that wasn’t made on New Year’s Eve of 2015

Written April 2016. To the girl who wore a dress and a backpack during a fake Beatles concert. Buti na lang, wala akong sinabi. 

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Sit down. I’ll tell you a story.

It was New Year’s Eve of ’15—I was smoking stick after stick after stick of Marlboro Black menthols by the departure lounge of the Taipei airport. You were two hours and forty minutes away by plane, probably getting drunk.

I wanted to dial—because that time I was ready to vomit months worth of vagaries, which I’m sure would scare the baby fats out of you. Because, uh-huh, I’m creepy like that. Nothing will be said. Not that day. I held back.

***

I’m a publicist. I say that both with pride and a shade of self-mockery. I eat my feelings for breakfast and once Olivia Poped the shit out of a bomb threat. I can make belts out of people’s spines and soap out of their enzymes.

But I don’t know what to make of your heart.

You see, I’d like to think of it as just meat. Fine—beer-fed, Grade A—but just meat. You are the really shy but smart girl who’s too afraid to comment. You don’t have abs, you may be slightly outgoing, but your demeanor  says “lame duck who will die immediately in a zombie apocalypse.”

I don’t know that to make of you.

And every time we sit across each other discussing matters of great importance, a.k.a whining about people, I’d pause for a couple of seconds and wonder how we’d do in life as partners.

We are so going to suck. But I’ll take that any day, every day.

What I’m worried about is how you’d deal with the inconveniences of being with me. For example: I usually have the car washed and vacuumed once every month, when the forgotten longganisa smell is too strong to ignore. I love my armpit hair and you’d have to love it too. I have a filthy mouth. I forget and ignore important dates like birthdays and anniversaries. I will disappear and not call for days.

I don’t have abs, so that makes us even.

You don’t deserve that.

I want you and you can have all 108 pounds of me, but no matter how light that seems, you will feel my weight pulling you down in time. Trust me, I’ve seen this.

So I made a simple resolution. Nothing will be said. Not today.

***

Listen. Everyday, since the New Year’s Eve, I look at life like it’s a shit storm—then send my hopes flying on a paper plane.

Nothing will be said.

But a lot has been written. For close to a year, I have fought this battle with just paper and never have I wanted so badly to lose. I dread it and I want it.

If I sum up the consequences of ‘you and me,’ that would summon a blizzard that would puncture the Earth. We are miles and miles apart, you and I. But I’ll send my paper plane anyway. Listen, I apologize for the trouble and for all for the mixed metaphors.

I will fail you.

You can’t depend on me.

So today, I’ll make the same resolution—nothing will be said.

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Post note: Okay na ko, friends. Hahaha!