What to Bring to Festivals to Avoid Eating Fatty Energy-Sucking Food
If there’s anything that my gypsy soul loves, it is wearing big skirts and spinning beneath the moon at the Pennsic Medieval Festival. I am so happy sleeping on the ground after hours of dancing. I smell campfire smoke in my hair and I dream as drum beats filter through my tent walls.
Pennsic is not just a two-week festival with 10,000 DnD nerds armed with medieval weapons bludgeoning each other on the battlefield. It is also drum circles of people belly dancing around fires until the break of dawn. There are artisans and artists everywhere. Live music pours out of camps. There are free dance classes taught outside in tents. It is heaven in so many ways.
But like so many American festivals, the food being sold and eaten at Pennsic sucks. Really sucks, like iceberg lettuce, white pasta, white bread, greasy veggie burgers and boring pizza sucks. Even the veggie stir-fry and burritos are disappointing.
And unhealthy food extends beyond the food court and into the camps. For example, my former camp loved eating food that couldn’t be sold because it fell off the Nabisco truck. Their big party is a night where they deep-fry everything. I love them, but those food choices are weighing them down.
Enough with the problem. We can easily enjoy festivals and keep taking care of our immune systems with plant-based food and drinks. This is how I do it:
1. Step up to Radical Self-Reliance (RSR)
2. Get Creative About Delicious Simple Meals
3. Prepare for the Food Dessert
Here is what that looks like:
- Freeze meal-size portions of meals cooked the week before that will keep your cooler cold (ex: jars of lentil soup, cooked brown rice)
- Plan meals with ingredients that are hearty, heat resistant and come dry
- Go shopping
Tip: You can also freeze drinking water in yogurt containers so you have great icepacks you can refill with leftover food when the ice melts.
There are infinite ingredients that can go on healthy vegan shopping lists for camping. Here are some of my favorites:
Hearty and colorful cooler food: Dino kale, collards, romaine, carrots, red onions, cabbage, olives, pickles, jam, stuffed grape leaves, nori rice balls, corn tortillas, blueberries
Heat resistant ingredients with low-to-no cooking time: Lemons, oranges, dried fruit (raisins, papaya, mango, dates, apricots, etc), sea vegetables like toasted nori and dried wakame, dried mushrooms, powdered soy milk, quick oats, whole grain cereal, granola, matcha powder, tahini and other nut butters, tea bags, parboiled brown rice, noodles (brown rice Asian noodles, whole wheat Italian noodles, etc), millet and other quick-cooking whole grains, brown rice cakes, wasa crackers, firm bread (ex: Bavarian flaxseed bread), sun dried tomatoes, vinegars (balsamic, brown rice, umeboshi, etc), vegetable broth cubes, cashews, powdered hummus, nutritional yeast, dried herb mixes, gluten free soy sauce, sea salt, agave, marinated and pre-cooked jackfruit
Tip: Eating gluten-free and/or vegan food is a lot easier if you bring it!
Ingredients that are heat resistant until opened: pre-cooked polenta, pasta sauce, salsa, vacuum packed tofu, soy milk cartons (single serving is very convenient), canned beans, canned pineapple
- Slime-prone lettuce and other delicate vegetables (mesculun mix, etc)
- Mold-prone and easily bruised fruit (fresh raspberries, strawberries, peaches, etc)
- Mold-prone bread
- Melting hazards like chocolate
- Things that take up too much space in the cooler
- Processed snack food (it will find you, so there’s no need to bring more of it)
- Refined flour (it’s ubiquitous)
Remember: Soggy cooler food is too gross to eat. Keep food in watertight containers in the cooler. You’ll want containers for leftovers, too. Best bets for watertight containers: screw top Nalgene containers, lock-top tupperware, some yogurt containers, new plastic ziplock freezer bags doubled up.
Tip: Don’t trust ball jars or restaurant to-go containers in your cooler. Lots of them leak
Here are 7 satisfying whole food vegan meals you can cook on a camp stove in 20 minutes. You can even eat them in this order with the most perishable ingredients first:
- Pineapple fried rice (using pre-cooked frozen rice saves camp fuel) with carrots, kale stems, cabbage, raisins and cashews
- Polenta with kale and herbed tomato sauce with a dollop of refried beans. Dust with nutritional yeast
- Whole-wheat couscous with kale, olives, canned chickpeas, and soaked sun dried tomatoes or leftover salsa. Garnish with wedges of fresh lemon
- Millet with cabbage, carrot, black-eyed peas with balsamic vinegar
- Corn tortilla tacos with refried beans, salsa and romaine
- Whole-wheat pasta or brown rice pasta with olives, mushrooms, sundried tomatoes and pumpkin seeds. Garnish with tahini and fresh lemon.
- Asian glass noodle soup with vegetable broth, seaweed, carrots, shitakes and tofu
And if other people are on the camping stoves, the kitchen is crazy with party prep, or you don’t have the time to cook, here are delicious fire-free meals you can make even quicker:
- Cereal with nuts, seeds and fruit juice or soy milk
- Overnight oats in a jar with dried fruit, nuts and seeds. Swirl in nut butter
- Savory overnight oats with nori, soy sauce, crumbled tofu and carrot
- Romaine and leftover grain salad with carrots, cabbage, raisins, balsamic, almonds, lemon and dried herbs
- Whole grain crackers with tahini, pickles, olives and greens
- Rice cakes with nut butter, dried fruit and fresh orange slices
- Tortillas with leftovers
Tip: If you are craving greasy crunchy potato chips, grab a carrot or a pickle instead. So satisfying!
Delicious Healthy Drinks for Camping:
- Plain water. Always have a water bottle with you and keep sipping. If you’re thirsty it’s too late.
- Water with lemon and a dash of salt
- Matcha soy latte (Add agave if you like. Shake vigorously before adding ice)
- Juice boxes of 100% juice
- Coconut water (So good for hydration. Get some with a resealable top)
- Sun tea (bring a glass ball jar to brew in the sun). Hint: Red zinger is delicious with tequila and needs no sweetener.
- Top-shelf tequila like Casamigos, Hussongs or Fortaleza
*Drinks: Navigating a port-o-potty at night in a costume is best kept to a minimum. Beer requires too much peeing. Expensive tequila is best sipped. Drink a lot of water, of course. You’ll probably sweat most of it out from dancing.
Tip: Don’t forget to put some of your fresh ice in clean ziplock bags so you have clean ice for bonfire drink at night. Just sayin!
How to make sun tea by your tent: Bring a glass jar with a tight lid, fill with clean water, add 3-4 tea bags ball jar, let it brew in the sun for a couple hours, add ice when it’s time to drink it.
When I first became a vegetarian, my uncle John looked at me and asked “What the hell do you eat?” I didn’t really know how to answer that at the time. But now I know the answer. I eat the good shit anywhere and everywhere I go. It’s not always perfect. Sometimes it’s slightly fermented, but I’m grateful. And I remember the days when I really didn’t know what to eat beyond boxes of mac and cheese and not dogs. By choosing to love food that is not necessarily part of the Standard American Diet, I have learned so much about food every year. And I’ll tell you what. When I see some of my friends that are the same age as me now, we look like we’re a decade apart. Eating like this keeps you young, even when you dance and party ‘til dawn. Much love from my Healthy Gypsy Soul to yours. Keep dancing further into your power and smile as that good food you are eating shines right through your skin.