It's a challenge to match the appetite I have when backpacking or car camping, so taste-testing three of Mountain House's new freeze-dried meals put them at a disadvantage because everything tastes better when you're camping.
I followed the instructions on the packages, which was basically remove the oxygen absorber from the pouch, add boiling water and let them stand for the appropriate amount of time to rehydrate.
To make the home-based test a little more realistic, I ate them all for breakfast. I wake up with the appetite of a bear coming out of hibernation, so it's similar to camping.
BISCUITS AND GRAVY
Who doesn't love biscuits and gravy, and who doesn't want that creamy, delectable goodness while camping without a major mess?
I was concerned the freeze-dried version would taste like library paste.
Which would it be? A hearty breakfast like Grandma's biscuits and gravy, or stuff you'd eat only on a dare?
The folks at Mountain House pulled it off. Probably not the same caliber as Grandma's, but equal to some rural greasy spoons.
I offered a bite to my wife, Shelley, for a second opinion because she's a pickier eater than I am.
"Mmm, hmm. That's pretty good," she said.
Even Dusty, my dog, started begging around the table as I ate them.
I felt pretty full after eating most of it, then realized it served two.
For $6, you get a hearty biscuits-and-gravy breakfast without having to make gravy or clean up afterward.
It comes with a small package of granola. After mixing the hot water and letting it stand, you add the granola for a little crunch, which is probably where the "crisp" comes in.
Had the apple crisp been eaten around a campfire, or as the sun set after a long day on the trail, I probably would have declared it the best thing I'd ever eaten.
"Yeah, that's good," Shelley said.
Fix apple crisp for dessert and pass it around the campfire and you will be the toast of camp.
It's a bit expensive at $7.50 per pouch, but it serves four.
FIRE ROASTED VEGETABLES
My first question was, "Why?"
I've never sat around a campfire and thought, "Sure wish I had a side of fire-roasted veggies to go with this hot dog."
Not only was I eating veggies (at breakfast, no less), they included corn, black beans, fire-roasted red and green peppers, and fire-roasted onions.
I'm not a big fan of peppers, so I figured this thing was doomed by my carnivore-leaning palate.
I took a bite. Mostly it was corn, and very similar tasting to what comes out of a Del Monte can.
It's not horrible, I decided. I took another bite, and a third. I felt an omnivore calm come over me as the anxiety over eating veggies washed away.
I offered some to Shelley.
"Yeah, that's good. I could eat that with chicken or something else at dinner," she said.
The fire-roasted veggies cost $4 and serve 2.
A VIABLE OPTION
Freeze-dried foods have come a long way since I ate them for the first time decades ago.
If you're backpacking or car camping and want an easy, no-mess meal, side or dessert, you could do a lot worse than these.
Roger Phillips: 377-6215, Twitter: @rogeroutdoor