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Food for a Journey

Discussion in 'Research' started by IrelandBeaver, May 27, 2014.

  1. IrelandBeaver

    IrelandBeaver Scribe

    My WIP features two of my characters travelling long distances. While they do find shelter in cities and villages on occasion, they will spend most of their nights camping. I’m trying to figure out what kind of food they could possibly bring with them. I envision they would have a bread similar to hardtack. Is there anything else they could carry? Could they carry meat or cheeses? I remember reading something about Roman Soldiers having meat and cheese, but I'm not sure if that was when they were camping or on the march.
    One of my characters does carry a sling for hunting small game like rabbit. The other has ice magic, so they could theoretically freeze water vapor in the air and allow it to melt as a source of water, or they could use their magic in hunting. Both are also knowledgeable about what plants are safe to eat and which are not.
  2. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

    Not stew. (Someone had to say it.)
  3. Shreddies

    Shreddies Troubadour

    Definitely hardtack and cheese (or perhaps milk). Smoked meat would also be a must. Jerky comes to mind, or salted pork, ham, bacon, or fish, or fowl. Other dried and long lasting foods would be common for such a trek, like lentils, onions, peas, beans, and herbs. And wheat and barley for making porridge. And salt for a bit of variety.

    Eggs are also a possibility, but I don't know how long they'd stay edible. There is also fruits such as figs or dates depending on availability.

    Don't forget the wine or beer. Which might be safer than drinking the foreign water. :) (The alternative was usually a mixture of vinegar and water, called Posca by the Romans)

    And remember to bring cooking implements.

    EDIT: Romans had cheeses and meats while marching, but they were known for their efficient handling of logistics, which allowed them to transport a quality and quantity of food that would normally only be eaten at a garrison.
    Last edited: May 27, 2014
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  4. Aspasia

    Aspasia Sage

    I (in my completely inexpert opinion) would go for hard travel bread, dried/preserved meat, and hard cheese. Seems believable to me and not too fancy. All those things would travel well and not require special conditions. You could also use pemmican : Pemmican - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia though what few accounts I have read of it, it doesn't taste very nice ... XD
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  5. buyjupiter

    buyjupiter Maester

    If you are packing everything on your back in high country (rough mountainous terrain), the amount of food stuffs would be higher but in a less "pre-made" way. There is less arable land in high country and finding enough vegetation to eat would be tricky. Hunting on the other hand should be easy.

    If you are in low country (farming land, hill country) the likelihood of finding vegetation to eat would be higher but you'd be competing with the farmers/villagers/kings/nobles for hunting. You'd also be more likely to find villages where you might be able to buy surplus food for a day or two.

    That said, under no circumstances would you be taking milk along. Forget about the pasteurization for a moment...are you really going to have a band of adventurers travel with a cow? And getting back to the pasteurization, without it your characters are seriously taking their chances on coming down with something nasty.

    Eggs are not transportable when roughing it. Unless they come with a chicken attached. Or they've been hard-boiled, but still iffy on whether they'd survive a day's hike intact. If they survive all that, two-three days with *no* refrigeration would be pushing it.

    From personal out in the middle of nowhere for two weeks experience, you take dried foodstuffs. It's gonna be boring. Flour. Salt to dry what you catch (deer, trout, hare). Beans. A packet of herbs. Yeast if you were really fancy and wanted real bread. You wouldn't take dried fruit unless it wasn't growing season/in too rough of terrain for fruit trees. (Also, unless this is a really advanced version of the European Middle Ages and the travelers are wealthy, you wouldn't be taking dates because they are really expensive.)

    The biggest reason for the lack of "prepared" foodstuffs in traveling is because it takes up too much room and weighs too much when you have to carry everything on your back. Maybe you have a mule/horse to go along with you, but unless you have a wagon train you're still extremely limited in what you can carry. And if your pack horse goes with all the food on it in the middle of a mountain pass, your adventurers are toast.

    This is probably why writers settle on "stew" for a nightly meal when it's mentioned. Stew's been around forever, takes all of two ingredients and everyone can make it.
    IrelandBeaver likes this.
  6. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

    I've had a Lamb based pemmican [there were sloes and cherries in there too]. It was surprisingly tasty but you did want a drink of lemon juice [or something equally acidic] to try and get rid of the waxy/fatty taste on your tongue. But I guess it would taste a lot better if it was the only food available...
    The guy that made it said that you ate it little and often through the day to get best value from it. He also warned me that you had to get used to eating it "cos it would tear your insides out". I don't know if he meant it would give you constipation or diarrhoea but I wasn't going risk it just to find out...
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  7. Shreddies

    Shreddies Troubadour

    I imagine they can be packed in fabric or straw to prevent from breaking. I mean, farmers would have to transport their eggs somehow. And as far as going bad, eggs (provided the cuticle wasn't washed off) have a non-refrigerated shelf life of at least 30-45 days. Actually longer, but 30 days seems to be the accepted average. Refrigerating eggs is mostly a North American thing. (Ironically, American Grade-A eggs would be considered illegal over in the UK, and vice versa)

    I was thinking something more along the lines of Kefir, which is traditionally made and kept in skin bags (no refrigeration).

    On a side note: Humanity has been safely drinking clean raw milk long before Pastuer was born. And if the story is set in a pre-1800s era, it is very unlikely they'd Pasteurize their milk to begin with.

    Or it is set around the Mediterranean, or somewhere similar. Because, unless I missed something, the original poster never mentioned where the story was set in. And figs and dates have been used by Egyptian armies ever since they had armies. *shrug*

    Anyway, getting back to topic: It would narrow down your choices if you consider what kind of climate they are in, and what food is readily available to buy in markets (or from farmers) to begin with.

    You mentioned they know which plants are safe to eat, but are they experienced travelers, or farmers, or just scholarly city folk? Are they native to the region, or foreigners passing through?

    Also, do they have horses to carry supplies for them, or are they going on foot?
    Last edited: May 28, 2014
  8. Queshire

    Queshire Auror

    Don't mean to distract from the topic but on the topic of food what sort of rations would be taken on ships? More specifically an airship that travels between floating over a sea of clouds, but I don't think there'd be a big difference due to that.
  9. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

    I used to be into nautical history. salt beef, salt pork, hardtack (dried bread), peas, beans, and flour to make a kind of bread pudding. Cheese as well. Sometimes apples or some other fruit that would last a while. For beverages, rum and water. Mariners knew the day of the week by the fare offered.
  10. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

    Don't forget citrus fruits. Lime juice was often added to drinking water to ward off scurvy.
  11. Addison

    Addison Auror

    If I remember such texts on old days (they're lost somewhere in the attic) the best way that travelers kept meats from rotting was either smoking them or salting them.

    Another idea for the food is look closely at your characters' route and the characters themselves. Is either one a hunter? Or experienced with farming or vegetation. That way they could replenish their stock as they go.

    As for the bread, hardtack was most commonly used on boats for trans-Atlantic journeys. It was softened by dipping it in water or tea. For travels like what you're describing they could start with fresh bread and they'd let it grow stale. As stale slices could be used like plates and eaten the same way as hard tack.
  12. IrelandBeaver

    IrelandBeaver Scribe

    As I stated in my first post, they do carry slings for hunting. Their culture utilizes slings for hunting, defense against animals and for cover during war. So they could take out a rabbit but I cannot see a slinger killing anything the size of a deer. Also, one of them can use ice based magic. After I made my first post, I considered the magic user could use ice to hunt (perhaps as an ice javelin) or could freeze a small section of water to catch fish.

    Neither are farmers, but because they are trained as healers, they do know which plants and fruits are edible. However, this knowledge only covers plants native to their region, which they have been taught to identify from a young age. However, they will be leaving the borders of their kingdom, which will result in less familiar plants the further they go.
  13. IrelandBeaver

    IrelandBeaver Scribe

    To answer your questions, the setting of this kingdom is more midwestern US. The kingdom is landlocked and the nearest ocean is nearly 500 miles away. Fruits such as dates other exotic fruits are usually imported and are typically purchased by the wealthy. There are a number of wild plants that produce berries that can be eaten. There are also a few trees that bear fruit, mainly apple or paw paw, or nuts, as well as maple.

    The two characters are cousins who are being have been trained as healers by their grandfather, so they have received training on which plants are said to remedy specific ailments. Also, most people in the region are taught which plants are edible or not, but this is usually done by parents. They know about the plants in the kingdom they live, but they travel through other kingdoms, and are less knowledgable about the local plant life.

    And they do not have any animals to carry their supplies, only what they can carry with them.
  14. Shreddies

    Shreddies Troubadour

    Sounds interesting.

    If that's the case, they probably would take smoked meat, or salt-cured meat if salt is cheap enough. Hardtack biscuits. Cheese. Apples (there are a few varieties that last quite a while on the shelf). Herbs. And possibly some wheat for making porridge.

    Or the old camping staple, Beans! :D

    Most of these wouldn't require much, if any, preparation to eat. Which would cut down on cooking equipment they'd need to carry. A pot or spit at most.
    Last edited: May 31, 2014
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  15. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

    To refine this, then: how far could you travel on a pound of these? (Since all of them last long enough to not be a limiting factor there, except maybe the cheese.)
  16. Shreddies

    Shreddies Troubadour

    I'm pretty sure you burn around 500 calories per hour if you're hiking. Give or take depending on body weight and weight carried. And according to the Instruction Manual for Life (Google :) ), the calorie count per pound are:

    Cheese: 1700 (Swiss), 1800 (Cheddar), 1350 (Mozzarella). Some other cheeses have about half the calories.
    Cured Salt Pork: 2300
    Hardtack: Around 75 per biscuit depending on recipe and size of biscuit.
    Apple: 80 per medium sized apple (150 grams), three apples per pound.
    Whole Grain Wheat: Around 1500

    A pound of each, minus hardtack (I can't find out how much each biscuit weighs :( ), would give you around 5840 calories. So, about ten hours with four pounds of food?
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2014
  17. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

    I doubt it's that much. An hour of vigorous weight lifting is 500 calories burned. That's far more exertion than common hiking.
  18. Shreddies

    Shreddies Troubadour

    I thought so too, but I checked a few health sites and resources and, for a 180 pound male, a 60 minute hike (cross country) seems to average 500 calories. Though, if it's just walking at a moderate pace then it's half that.

    Would the travelers be sticking to roads for the journey or trekking through brush and across mountains and valleys?
  19. IrelandBeaver

    IrelandBeaver Scribe

    For my story, the characters travel both on roads and off roads. There are mountains, but those are to the east and my characters will not encounter them. The region these kingdoms reside is relatively flat. There are some hills, with the size of the hills increasing in the east, along with the occasional bog. Of the roads in the story, a few are well-kept and connect major cites, while others are simply paths that have been worn down over the years by others. There is also the possibility of traveling by river.
  20. Tirjasdyn

    Tirjasdyn Scribe

    How medieval is this? Nuts and dried fruit may be an option. It's easier to carry lighter food. Hard tack is just water and flour cooked, no leavening, maybe salt added. Water is more of an issue with walking than eating.

    Will they hunt and fish? Fishing can be more successful than hunting. Fish can be smoked and dried if they have the time or just cooked it will keep for a few days.

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