Fantastic Fieldcamp Foodstuffs

Program Note: As we travel through the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands picking up our field camps we have asked each island crew to share a tale or two of their life and adventures during this summer field season.  This entry is from our Pearl and Hermes field team: Sadie, April, and Laney.

Our Pearl and Hermes Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program crew is heading back down the island chain on the Oscar Elton Sette, reveling in the wonders of salad and ice cream and a break from food that tastes vaguely like the plastic buckets it was stored in.  That said, we landed in a camp with a bunch of great cooks, and we ate very well this season.  Dinners were our time to fuel up, wind down, and chat about topics that we’d probably steer clear of at a dinner party (seal poop, for one).

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Pearl and Hermes biologists Sadie and April relaxing over a nice camp dinner – probably talking about seal poop!

While we don’t worry too much about rationing, many of our more precious food items can be found in the solar-power charged chest freezer, and our supply of dried pastas and baking goods give many meals that ‘homemade’ feel. Dried beans are also a treat, but require a bit of planning ahead what with soaking times and all.  Anything crisp or crunchy is an utter joy despite it being rather alarming to hear a ‘crunch’ come from the mouth of a fellow camper; not to worry, just the sound of a walnut, not a tooth breaking on coral left in the dishes from our ocean washing.

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The well-stocked kitchen tent at Pearl and Hermes monk seal camp.

Cooking in the field can be a bit of an adjustment- limited space, no running water, two burners, a metal box that charades as an oven, sand everywhere, flies, and not a fresh vegetable in sight.  On the upside, pretty much everything tastes better after a long day of working outdoors, and field campers make for very forgiving and appreciative dinner guests.  We compiled winning recipes and camp hacks throughout the season from fellow seal scientists up and down the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands chain.  Need a way to use your plethora of canned chili?  Plagued by sleepless nights thanks to a dozen brown noddies tap dancing on your tent roof?  Wondering how to bake a cake without burning it to a crisp in the Coleman oven?  Some camper has probably stumbled across a solution, and we typed it up into a comical stockpile of wisdom to share and pass on to future campers.  The Fantastic Fieldcamp Foodstuffs installments speak to the general hilarity that often pervades cooking operations in a tent on a tiny island.

We’ve tacked on a sample installment from our cookbook, but be forewarned:  things that taste fabulous in the field often fall a bit flat when you return to places with things like fresh produce and kitchen knives that cut, so pursue the recipes with appropriately mitigated expectations.

Fantastic Fieldcamp Foodstuffs Installment No.04

BEST MONK SEAL CHEF!

Fieldcamp cookbook cover designed by Ilana Nimz of Lisianski camp.

Hello, lovely campers!  This gem of an installment comes from Ilana Nimz.  Aquafaba (the water from a can of chickpeas, or from homemade chickpeas) is some strange miracle liquid that can be made into about a million things, like vegan meringue.  Those crazy vegans.  Here, it aids with the leavening of a super-quick flatbread.

This meal has been field-tested and approved twice-over!  I made it the other night, doubling the flatbread recipe and making a couscous salad instead of the tomato salad because tomatoes are precious on PHR.  Enjoy!

Flatbread

(makes 4 flatbreads)

  • 1c flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/3 tsp salt
  • 1/3 tsp garlic powder or 1 tsp jarred garlic
  • 1 tbsp herbs
  • 3 tbsp chickpea water from can (the chickpeas will be used in the falafel, so nothing goes to waste!)
  • 2 tsp oil
  • 2.5 tbsp milk
  • 1/2 tsp lemon

Knead ingredients together, then spray oil and roll out/knead for a little longer. Let mix sit covered for a few mins.  Prepare the falafel, salad or dressing in the meantime. When ready, break dough into 4 segments and roll out into ovals. I used a glass ball rolling pin for this to make it extra field-camp authentic.  Put the flattened dough into a lightly oiled skillet and cover for 2 mins, then flip and cover for another 2 mins. Bubbles may form and that’s A-ok.

Happy cookin!

All monk seal work was conducted under NOAA ESA/MMPA permits 16632-01 and/or 18786.

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