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The Expedition Cookbook

The Expedition Cookbook. Carolyn Gunn. Chockstone Press, Denver, 1988.

192 pages, tables, appendices. $11.95 (paper).

Food is one of the most important issues during an expedition, as it is in life. Snowy days in Base Camp are measured by the time from lunch to tea to dinner, and elaborate meals, both real and imaginary, are as indispensable as Scrabble or books for passing the time. Carolyn Gunn’s The Expedition Cookbook is the comprehensive guide to expedition food planning. In addition to over eighty recipes, the book focuses on details of equipment (stoves, fuels, and utensils), camp hygiene and health concerns, purchasing, shipping, and an introduction to nutrition and altitude’s effect on nutritional need. A twenty-five-page section on suitable expedition foods and their suppliers forms the heart of the book. There are eight appendices devoted to weights, conversions, menus, and useful addresses. Gunn is meticulous and her chapters include such details as the best method of packing for overseas shipment—protect against shipping losses by packing a variety of food in each box (imagine the effect on morale if the box containing all the chocolate was lost), include packing lists, and take care that labels do not become separated from jars and cans.

The recipes show how one can use expedition-style food—dried, prepackaged and canned—in more appealing ways than the standard one-pot glop mixture. Enchiladas, pizza, chili, and lasagna all provide reassuring tastes of home, and the recipes are simple enough that noncooks should be able to follow them. I was frustrated by the lack of information about baking techniques. Many recipes recommend baking and suggest an oven temperature, but except for a single sentence in the chapter introduction, there are no details on how to bake in camp.

Gunn has been the cook and base-camp manager for several large expeditions, and perhaps has not had as much experience with expeditions unsponsored by anyone except the insolvent climbers. More detailed information on what food and equipment is available in different countries, how to cook with local food and survive on tea-house fare, and what items are worth the shipping costs would have made the book more complete. Despite these omissions, The Expedition Cookbook should be required reading for anyone contemplating an expedition.

Ruth Hubbard Volsing