After fuel, food is the subject of most Pyrenean enquiries.
Firstly, you are really not allowed to bring in home dehydrated meat products. Don’t be tempted. Sniffer dogs love this stuff! Secondly, commercially dehydrated foods might seem attractive but they are very expensive and — bluntly — often taste horrible. On the other hand Spain and France will often provide you with a great range of natural products that have a long shelf — or pack — life when in the mountains.
As with the sourcing of fuel, the first trick is to build in time for supply. Even small supermarkets and markets can supply the things you need.
Here is a quick guide.
Pasta, rice and cous cows are all readily available and easy to prepare using the pot cozy system without utilising a lot of fuel. The weather will be warm and more often than not yoga re looking to create nice flavour combinations without the need for a lot of cooking.
Mountain cheeses last a long time in the pack, after all this is what they were designed for! Look for local hard cheeses.
In supermarkets you will always find chefs ‘rapée’ or packets of grated cheese _ usually a kind of Gruyere these. These packets last for ages and are perfect for throwing on cooked pasta.
When in the mountains you can often find cabins that sell cheese. Try it. It is usual lovely stuff
I never worry about onions but I do sometimes carry garlic which I soften in olive oil — usually I do bring this with me, decanted into a small camping container. I don’t really want to lug around bottles of olive oil!
Tomato Puree and Vegetable Puree
A tube of tomato puree can be useful. In some supermarkets you will find near it a tube that looks similar but is in fact a puree of tomato, onions, garlic and other vegetable produce. This is great stuff; snap it up if you find it.
Ham — Jambon/Jamon
This might be counter intuitive to some, but cooked ham will also keep a long time in your pack. Past, grated cheese, some torn ham and a sliced tomato will provide you with a great meal.
Mountain cooked sausages. These are usually very hard, salty and packed with energy — everything you need when hiking in warm climates. This stuff is about a thousand percent more effective than any energy bar!
Good things to carry and —again — stashed in the middle of your pack they will stay firm and fresh for longer than you might imagine. Apples are good but also consider carrying under ripe peaches, plums and so on when you can.
Buy baguettes and carry them in your pack side pocket. Pain Complet or Pain de Compagne will last longer. In supermarkets you can find flat breads or tortillas sold in packets and you’ll always ind some of this stuff in my pack.
The French and Spanish are great campers and almost anywhere you go you will find big ranges of dehydrated soups and sauces. In my experience these are always for superior to the stuff that we can buy in the UK. A vegetable of tomato soup is a grab base for a pasta meal — just add to the water you are cooking the pasta in.
Dried milk is also for some reason far superior as well.
Use these ingredients with thought and you can have great and varied meals. In a town or village this basic approach can easily be supplemented with fresh vegetables such as green beans.
Finally, a word about eating out which is nice occasionally. Lunch in the meal to hunt out. Local bars and bistros will often provide a great, home cooked, daily special. Portions are usually good.
In all kinds of ways lunch is a better bet than an evening meal. An evening meal is nice but you will find choice limited. If you like steak and chips you’ll be OK. You might find yourself getting very fed up of confit of duck — which is the tourist staple here. If you are a vegetarian then it is most likely pizza I’m afraid, although these will often be cooked in wood burning ovens.
If budget is not too much of a problem you might surprise yourself. A few years ago I was stranded in the Spanish village of Torla for a couple of days after a storm. I decided to waste time by having a proper lunch. The restaurant looked nice but still welcoming. The clientele included bank clerks and ladies out for lunch. The staff didn’t mind smelly walkers. And the food was absolutely sublime. Not cheap but a real experience.