Volunteer Leader Gayle Marechal at Work in the Sawtooth Wilderness, ID (2007)

One of the most daunting tasks a new Wilderness Volunteers trip leader faces is menu planning. Among the many questions a new leader faces regarding food and menu planning are how much food to buy, what types of meals to prepare, how to keep food fresh, how to provide variety, should meals be vegetarian friendly, and the list goes on.

To help with this aspect of leadership, WV is launching “The Kitchen Corner,” a new monthly blog post led by volunteer leader Gayle Marechal which will provide answers to these questions and more and include tried-and-true recipes for you to use in the backcountry. We hope that you find what is posted here helpful and encourage you to submit comments, questions, and your own favorite recipes and cooking tips in the months to come. (It’s worth adding that, among other things, Gayle makes the best blueberry pancakes you’ll ever eat in the backcountry!)

The first installment of “The Kitchen Corner” has particular relevance for New Years Day revelers, though it comes a few weeks belated. But anytime is a good time for a party, right?

Here’s Gayle:

“I recognize that each leader, whether new or old, approaches menu planning and food issues on WV trips differently. I hope to give you the benefit of my years of experience as a WV trip leader and let you know what has worked for me over time.”

“A tradition in the South is to eat black-eyed peas on New Years Day to ensure good luck for the year – a tradition which dates back many centuries. Southern black-eyed peas are typically prepared with some type of meat (salt pork, bacon, ham) and onion for flavor. Originally from Texas, my wife Bunny and I have embraced this tradition but have added a few “Texan touches” to make our own version of this New Years dish. Serve the peas with corn bread for a healthy and filling meal or as a side dish.”

Bunny’s Black-Eyed Peas

1 lb. dried black-eyed peas or 2 lbs fresh (often available around New Years)
4 slices bacon, cut into small pieces
2 stalks celery cut into ¼ in. slices
1 small bell pepper, diced
1 small onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 15 oz can of diced tomatoes
Olive oil
2-3 qts. water

Put water and bacon in a large pan and bring to boil. Sort and wash the black-eyed peas (if using dried; not necessary if using fresh) and put in water to begin cooking. Sauté the celery, bell pepper, onion, and garlic in a bit of olive oil until soft, and then put them in the pan with the peas. Sautéing the vegetables is the secret to adding the extra zest to this dish. Add the tomatoes, juices and all. Season to taste with salt and pepper and simmer covered over low heat until the peas are soft. Add water as necessary to keep the mixture as soupy as you want. Note: fresh black-eyed peas will cook much quicker than dried, and cornbread recipes are available upon request.