Oats and Water

A new word hit the OED in November of 2010 – Glamping. It’s a form of luxurious camping where you’ve got all the pleasures of the outdoors without any of the trials – where your tent, for instance, happens to be an Indian tepee or a Mongolian yurt, and your campsite includes a sauna and a jacuzzi.

My formative camping experience was my Duke of Edinburgh expeditions, where you carried everything you’d need for the next 3 or 4 days on your back. Buying anything, or sleeping beneath a roof, was forbidden. Strictly speaking, they weren’t keen on you walking through towns or along roads, either. Hence, my idea of camping is the opposite of glamping. It’s a holiday from the luxuries, as well as the distractions of urban life. Unless I’m bedding down on a battered roll-mat with a bundled-up jumper for a pillow, in a campsite where the plumbing runs to two toilets and a cold tap, it doesn’t really count as camping.

IMG_4205A whole new level of asceticism was reached while I was preparing for a weekend in the Highlands of Scotland. I had to bring along my own breakfast and lunch for both days, but I couldn’t be bothered to bring anything fancy. So I brought four bags of oats. One with hot water for breakfast, and one with cold water for lunch. I was thinking chiefly of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped, where David Balfour and Alan Stewart go on the run through the heather with nothing but a bag of oats to sustain them – hot porridge when they can risk a fire, cold porridge without. I seem to remember it being called skillet, like the frying pan, but a brief search of the online text reveals I was probably making that up. The recipe is:

  1. Take 250-300g of oats, for one serving.
  2. Add water until the oats are submerged. Stir until the water goes a milky colour.
  3. Eat.

It is lightweight, compact, hydrating, extremely economical, and leaves you with a pleasant feeling of having eaten something. It gets you plenty of attention and something of a hard-man reputation from those you’re walking with. On the other hand, you have to really, really like the taste of oats. Even so, it’s a pretty grim meal. I generally eat a chunk of fruit and nut chocolate afterwards to balance the carbohydrate with some sugar. Yet it’s quite reassuring, I think, to know that if things get really tough, in life or on the trail, all I really need to survive indefinitely is access to fresh water and a really, really big bag of oats.


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