Pyrenees: Food

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.

Carbohydrates

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.

Cheese

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

Garlic

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.

Saucisson

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!

Fresh Fruit/Tomatoes

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.

Bread

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.

Powdered Soups

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.

 

Eating Out

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.

Special Meals

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.

Comments

  1. Useful stuff Andy. I’ve a few additional suggestions which might be helpful.

    Another tasty carbohydrate available everywhere in France but little known in Britain is Ebly, whole wheat grain. Bring to the boil then keep as hot as possible for ten minutes. It has a nutty flavour and the great advantage that it doesn’t stick. 343 kcal for 100g; lots of fibre.

    As for bread, I wouldn’t recommend baguettes as they dry out very quickly, which is a complete pain. As you say, Pain Complet is not like that.

    One way of dealing with dry bread is the Spanish pan con tomate. Cut your dry bread into thick slices, rub a garlic clove on one side, followed by a tomato. Dribble olive oil over everything. Season with salt.

    Yes, lunch is the best meal if you are eating out at a restaurant. If you eat the same food in the evening it will cost 30% more. The best bet in terms of value for money is the Menu du jour.

    Amusing typo! You won’t get very far asking for cous cows in the supermarket. You might even get some funny looks! It should be couscous.

  2. Peewiglet says:

    Yum!

    I love carrying fresh local food when walking in the Pyrenees.It’s one of my favourite things about walking there :)

    As soon as possible after arrival I buy a lovely saucisson, some local cheese, as much bread as I can stuff into my pack and as many salad veggies as I have room for (cucumber, garlic, chillies & whatever else there is) and picnic at every opportunity. I’ve normally carried red wine too, but when I did the GR20 I encountered 4 French/Corsicans who were carrying pastis (plus salty nibbles) and that was such a lovely idea that that’s what I’ll take next time I’m out there in the sun. I like to drink hot chocolate for brekky whenever I’m camping, and that goes v. well with nice French breads. Steve is right about baguettes drying out fast, but they’re a treat that can sometimes be stuffed into side pockets and eaten quickly. What a great excuse for a bit of piggery *g*

    I wonder whether I can get back out there this summer. I’d really love to. Hmmmm…

  3. Peewiglet says:

    p.s. I’ve sometimes boiled eggs and carried them too (with salt, of course) when I’ve spent the night in a gite.

    • Yep, PW eggs would work well. It is surprising ow cool you can keep the inside of a pack even in that heat.

  4. Presumably “cous cows” has some tasty beef content. Hehe.

  5. Some great food ideas here, I want food to be a pleasurable experience on my upcoming Pyrenees hike so would rather carry a little extra weight than faff around rehydrating stuff. And I like the idea of a bottle of wine….

    • THe wine Platypus is worth havinga look at. Personally, I leave the wine alone until I get into a village or town :-)

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