Rock Reads: Food on Foot: A History of Eating on Trails and in the Wild by Demet Guzey
Reviewed by Kevin Wierzbicki
If you are a hiker or any type of outdoor adventurer, you're well aware that activities out in nature can certainly produce a serious case of the munchies, and you probably have a list of favorite foods and snacks that you like to take with you, whether you're rations are something simple like GORP or food fit for a gourmet. Here author Güzey, an Istanbul-based writer with a passion for food, especially when it's consumed in unlikely places like a mountaintop, presents a fun read both for those who are active in the outdoors and those who prefer to explore from the comfort of their living room couch. The first chapter is a whetting of the appetite for what is to follow as it reveals yummy facts like how the ancient Chinese traveled with a supply of dried snake while Tibetans traversed the mountains with bamboo sticks filled with yak butter and tea leaves that they would mix into a beverage as needed. Indigenous North Americans hoofed it along with a foodstuff called "rock tripe," which is actually lichens and that saved the lives of Arctic explorer Sir John Franklin and his men when their supply of protein-rich pemmican ran out (also in the book are a couple vintage recipes for pemmican if you want to get creative in your own kitchen.) Güzey's look at food-on-foot delves into the edibles carried by famous explorers like Roald Amundsen and Sir Edmund Hillary along with other celebrities of note like artist John Muir and lady traveler May French Sheldon who was notorious for her penchant for eating fois gras on the trail while wearing a silk dress. Worm-filled hardtack, army rations, and yes, the subject of cannibalism also crop up within the book's pages. "Food on Foot" closes with a chapter on street food, and while it is concerned primarily with historic street foods like the orchid-derived drink called "salep," it also gives a nod to modern day urban walkers with mention of food trucks. Certainly readers who enjoy food on foot will come away from this book pleasantly informed and amused and unlikely to complain the next time their trekking rations consist only of a melted candy bar or a soggy bologna sandwich.