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Food for explorers

Culture · 5 min read

From jelly beans to crickets

Exploring is a hungry business. You need to find the calories where you can.

During the 2018 Golden Globe Race, Susie Goodall won’t be able to take on extra provisions once she’s underway on her solo voyage around the world. She’ll have to carefully select her diet. You’d be surprised what can help your body. For example, locusts are 60% protein so great for repairing muscle. To put that in perspective, beef is only 17% to 40% protein. Jelly beans are good for energy; studies have found that cyclists shaved 5 seconds off their 10km times when they consumed jelly beans rather than sports drinks.

So what else can explorers eat? Here are a few examples from history.

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Sea biscuits

If Susie was sailing in 1492 with Christopher Columbus, she’d no doubt have a lot of Hardtack on board. A staple on Columbus’s Santa Maria as it sailed to the New World, this sea biscuit was thinly rolled and twice baked to remove any moisture. Hardtack was as tough as the sailors who ate it, they didn’t care if their sea biscuits became infested by maggots. They just ate them in the dark.

Polar picnics

Exploring is no picnic. For example, sledding through the Arctic for a week burns as much energy as seven marathons. To replace those lost calories you’d have to eat 70 slices of bread. That’s a lot of sandwiches. Arctic explorer Pen Hadow typically eats salami, nuts and chocolate drops every hour, with a slap-up meal of freeze-dried curry in the evening. If you catch an Arctic fish, make sure to cook it with blueberries. The fruit is rich in anthocyanidins, believed to protect the eyes from glare, and gallic acid, which shields the brain from stress. Helpful when a polar bear joins you for dinner.

Cheers to chia

What if you’re not in the Arctic but walking through a desert? Look out for some Chia sage. Its nutritious seeds are great for a quick energy boost. Native Americans would chew them on long journeys by foot. Endurance athletes still swear by Chia seeds for their hydrating properties. Other good foods for long distances include walnuts, wild salmon and whey. Don’t expect to find much wild salmon in the desert, however.

In space, no one can give you cream …

If there’s not a lot of food in the desert, there’s even less in space. In 1961, Yuri Gagarin squeezed meat paste and chocolate sauce out of a tube for lunch aboard Vostkok 1. Space cuisine has moved on somewhat. In 2015, Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti became the first person to brew an espresso in outer space. Hope she remembered the sugar.

Golden globe

Susie’s unlikely to enjoy such luxuries. Sailing single-handed, non-stop around the world involves intense physical hardships. Sir Robin Knox-Johnston survived for 313 days on canned food, beer and his aunt Aileen’s fruit cake. Most important, however, was a crate of whisky; “A necessity, not a luxury,” as the doughty seaman puts it.

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