When it comes to backcountry cooking and eating well, Michael Gray is the acknowledged expert chef. Dubbed the Eric Clapton of backcountry cooking, Michael is the owner and chief guide at Uncommon Adventures and author of Hey, I’d Eat This At Home! While most people who venture into the backcountry for a camping trip often struggle with having decent meals and end up with either a menu of dehydrated or canned food, Michael has been serving delicious and nutritious fresh cooked meals to his clients for more than 30 years.
I first met Michael while attending the Great Lakes Sea Kayak Symposium. I had heard of Michael and his reputation for cooking from other kayak guides. A few years later Michael presented a backcountry cooking class at the symposium. At this class, he demonstrated how to plan your meals, pre-trip preparation, packing, cookware considerations, and hygiene. It was a hands-on session where he and a few volunteers from the audience prepared a meal. The meal, pan-seared pork tenderloin in cherry red-wine peppercorn sauce, couscous salad, and chocolate cake, was delicious!
Since then we have used Michael’s cookbook for meal ideas on backcountry trips as well as at home. Our family and guests have been served these recipes on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Not something I would recommend with dehydrated meals!
Besides his collection recipes, Michaels goes into detail on selecting the right gear for your backcountry kitchen. This is especially important if you are making the jump from boiling water for dehydrated meals to graduating to real cooking. Paying attention to this chapter will save you from grief, ruined meals, and money on equipment.
Pre-trip preparation and planning is discussed at length providing even experienced outdoorsmen with keen insight from Michael’s experiences from the past 30 years. Michael has traveled around the world into some the most remote places such as Alaska, Iceland, Greenland, New Zealand, and tropical locations too.
Michael guides you through each meal with recipes and suggestions to simply planning and preparation. What’s for breakfast? How about Orange Rum Raisin French Toast or perhaps something a bit simpler like Kiki Muesli? Like most outdoorsmen, lunch is typically simple and often on the go. The chapter on Dinner or Main Courses is quite extensive. Side dishes, salads, and entrees are covered in depth. You’ll find an impressive variety of cuisines that are based on Michael’s years of guide experience. Desserts are not forgotten. In fact, Michael even touches on desert as an essential meal, especially in cold weather. Michael (tongue-in-cheek) advocates carrying chocolate as part of your first aid kit since chocolate has been known to quell angry (and hungry) mobs.
Michael’s recipes are intended to be easy to prepare, nutritious, and flavorful. Ingredients are easy to find in most any grocery store and not expensive. So, if you are tired of lugging around cans of mystery meat or eating expensive dehydrated meals, pick up a copy of Hey, I’d Eat This At Home!, by Michael Gray. Your stomach and traveling partners will undoubtedly thank you.