Saturday, October 13, 2012

Review: Coleman San Juan Stroganoff Meal


While shopping at the local Meijer store a few months ago I made a trip down the camping isle just for kicks and was a bit surprised to see Coleman branded meals... I mean, what type of expertise would a company who makes lanterns, tents and stoves have regarding food? A little research (e.g. reading the package) revealed that the meals were made for Coleman by Enertia Trail Foods, a company I had never heard of. Nevertheless I took the plunge and bought a meal to try out. I chose San Juan Stroganoff for two reasons: it sounded better than the other offerings and I could compare it to other beef stroganoff  backpacking meals (namely Mountain House) that I have tried and enjoyed in the past.



The meal is a convenient single-serving size and the packaging is durable; it is small and lightweight. Inside the thick outer package I found two separate thinner packages- one containing the noodles and vegetables and the other containing the sauce powder. One very nice feature of the meal packaging is the clear window on the back with graduations printed on the side to accurately measure the amount of water added. Another nice feature is the flat bottom which allowed the meal to stand upright.

Convenient flat bottom package.

The two inner packets

The directions were pretty straight forward: empty contents of noodle pack into outer package, add 12 ounces of hot water, reseal outer package, let stand for several minutes, then add the contents of the gravy package and mix thoroughly. I had no difficulty in pouring the hot water into the package and other than a brisk wind blowing the package over it was a breeze to prepare.

The clear window with graduations for measuring water

The instructions stated to add less water for a thicker consistency, but I found that the recommended 12 ounces was too much and the resulting meal was very thin. This was not the creamy sauce that most people imagine when thinking of beef stroganoff, and I would recommend 8-9 ounces of water for a better consistency. Additionally, the sauce did not seem to want to mix thoroughly and had a slightly grainy texture. I also found the texture of the vegetables and, to a lesser degree the noodles, to be quite chewy. I imagine that letting the meal sit for several more minutes might help some.

The sauce was thin

The sauce did not mix quite right

I'm not quite sure where to begin regarding the taste. The sauce had an odd flavor... it was a bit sweet, especially for a stroganoff, and I was a bit put off at first. The vegetables were about what should be expected for freeze dried (that is to say they tasted fine) but for me the celery flavor did not compliment the flavor of the rest of the meal. Overall I was not impressed with the flavor of the meal.

Convient size
Great packaging
Widely available
Relitively Inexpensive
Perfect single-serving portion size

Preperation instructions call for too much water
Food texture and taste are not to my liking

Comparison to Other Brands
I've eaten both Mountain House beef stroganoff  and the military's Long Range Patrol (LRP) beef stroganoff ration (which is likely made by Mountain House). In both of these cases I've found the preparation to be a bit easier and the taste and texture much, much better, even when prepared with too much water.  In addition I've used the Knorr/Lipton beef stroganoff  meals while camping and I also find these superior to the Coleman meal in taste but more difficult to prepare.

The Coleman San Juan Stroganoff Meal is a conveniently-sized backpacking meal in a clever package. Unfortunately the food itself misses the mark when it comes to taste and texture.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

That time of year again...

Fall is both my favorite and my least favorite time to be in the woods. I did a short outing today and I spent the entire time out reflecting on this so I thought I'd share my thoughts.

A local forest past I visited today.

The morning air is crisp and cool and the trees are ablaze in autumn splendor. The cool weather is perfect for comfortable trekking, and the pestering swarms of mosquitoes and flies of summer are gone... a welcome reprieve from the oppressiveness that sometimes accompanies summer, for sure. The animals are keeping busy: the geese are still migrating and the squirrels have been busily stashing acorns for the last two weeks.

But the afternoon winds have that familiar bite to them that foreshadows the coming winter. The songbirds have mostly abandoned the woods by now, the frogs and crickets have sequestered themselves to their hideaways for winter, and save for the occasional blue jay or crow the forest is eerily silent.

There is a peculiar species that occupies the forest each fall, however: the hunter. The animals are aware of their presence; the deer, rabbits, coons, and turkeys that I've encountered regularly for the past six months have made themselves scarce. They have done so wisely as autumn is the most dangerous time to be in the forest. The danger is not limited to animals... humans are also at risk. Unfortunately far too many "hunters" these days are not woodsmen, nor are they responsible stewards of the land, the animals or of the sport. Sadly there are tragedies every year due to these careless or irresponsible people. This year I was shot at while walking on a well-know trail on a ridgeline in a public area while wearing plenty of hunter's orange. I believe my assailant was an illegal turkey hunter (turkey hunting is prohibited in that area) who was either amazingly irresponsible or who had intentionally shot at me to avoid getting caught (maybe he thought I was DNR?) Even worse: just two weeks ago there was a tragedy a few miles from the same area -a 17 year old boy, who was sitting in some brush at dusk scouting for deer, was shot dead by some coyote "hunters." 

The purpose of this post is not to disparage hunters or hunting, for fortunately most hunters responsibly harvest game for their families in a legal and moral manner, and most trips in the forest are completed safely.  Rather, my purpose is to discuss the dichotomies associated with the autumn season. Fall is a great time to stroll through the woods and reflect on the past summer and anticipate the coming winter, to enjoy the solitude of the forest and the freshness of the autumn air. But please enjoy the forests this autumn wisely and safely whatever your activities afield may be.