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North Pole, basic cooking ideas

My brother is going away to work for a year in the North Pole, leaving in a week. Since food there is limited, he's allowed to bring basic food items (pasta, olive oil, parmesan, etc) to help him make good food up there. His co-workers gave him a bread machine as a going away gift, which is a great idea.
Background note: he is not normally a cook, eats out a lot (but he'll have no choice there but to cook at home).

Which dry & canned foods would be good for him to bring?
What are some really basic recipes (using basic ingredients) that I can send him him? For instance, he needs a recipe for a simple spagetti sauce. Ideas? He is a pasta fan (& beef fan, but that will have to be limited.) I think he will have access to fish (but not too many fresh vegs/fruits at all).
I'll be able to mail him a box (food!) every other month or so, not sure of the weight limitations yet)
Any recipes and ideas, keeping limitations in mind would be great. Thanks!

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  1. Any idea what he'll be using to cook on? And besides the bread machine will he have any small kitchen appliances?

    1 Reply
    1. re: MobyRichard

      He'll have a fridge & elect.stove, small basic. He'll also take his microwave (and coffee maker, of course! Sending him with 2 large bags of coffee for starters.)

    2. Simple spaghetti sauce (can be used for any macaroni):

      1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
      2 large cloves garlic, minced
      2 teaspoons dried basil
      2 teaspoons dried oregano
      1 28-ounce can Italian tomatoes (Pastene Kitchen Ready, or similar)
      1/2 teaspoon kosher salt & 1/2 teaspoon black pepper (or to taste)

      Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the basil, oregano, tomatoes, salt and pepper. Cover and bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium-low and simmer for 18 to 20 minutes, stirring a few times during the cooking. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
      What an adventure he's going to have!

      2 Replies
      1. re: Gio

        Thanks so much, Gio,this is exactly the kind of recipe he'll need! yes, quite the adventure - the only worrying thing, for me, is the food issue!!

        1. re: Gio

          I wonder if making something like this is much of an improvement over a decent bottled spaghetti sauce. For one thing, is he going to have olive oil, fresh garlic, the dried herbs, and good canned tomatoes? Once he makes the sauce, is he going have space to keep it in the fridge or freezer until he finishes it (one serving at a time)?

          Like it or not, he is going to have greater access to convenience foods than many basics.


        2. Take a look at what Knorr products are available in your area. They are generally reliably edible, they make soups and sauces and are dehydrated. You might also go to a camping supply store or website. They usually have large assortments of dehydrated or freeze dried foods which don't weigh alot and pack easily. Sending along some good seasonings and chili powders would be a plus. Don't forget to add some really good chocolate too. When it is dark and cold (and even when it isn't) chocolate can be a great mood elevator releasing endorphins. How about putting in some popcorn too? You might want to check out www.mountainhouse.com

          4 Replies
          1. re: Candy

            Quite right, have to select & pack the right seasonings! Yes, chocolate, what a great idea, and to think I would have forgotten that, and popcorn (great for easily making in the microwave)! Thanks so much, keep the ideas coming! Powdered milk or maybe the milk in packs that don't require refrigeration (can last in the cupboard forever)? Will go shopping with him on Sunday & will keep the dehydrated soups in mind too. Thanks, Candy.

            1. re: morebubbles

              See if you can find 'Milkman' powdered milk; it tastes significantly better, IMHO.

              1. re: MobyRichard

                From backpacking discussions, Milkman does not seem to be available in Canada. Mexican Nido (or Klim) whole dried milk may be available in Asian shops in Montreal. But I also suspect that dried milk or ulra pasteurized boxes of milk will be available in the local store.

                I'd focus on things he likes that you would not expect to find in a small town convenience store.


            2. re: Candy

              Just to add to Candy's excellent points: think dried veggies and peas and lentils too. Dried porcini mushrooms and dessicated onions will round out a tomato sauce and pull it in other directions. If he is not a cook already, all those individual spices may be daunting. How about the standard spice mixtures: Italian, poultry seasoning, curry, chili, garam masala and a good steak mixture (I like Hy's but I don't know if you can get it in the US)? Perhaps evaporated milk and also dried milk, especially for bread machine use.

            3. There is, in fact, an excellent cookbook about this: The Northern Cookbook by Eleanor Ellis. It is out of print but copies pop up regularly on used book websites such as albris.com. Here is a sample of the book: http://bertc.com/househol.htm

              Okay, that exerpt does tend to focus on some of the more exotic aspects of the book but there is a great deal of practical information that anyone, not just a hunter/adventurous chowhound can use.

              1. First, follow up on poster Candy's suggestions--she knows, always!)
                I would send Oreos, ginger snaps, dried apples, pistachios, sweetened condensed milk, caramels, dried mushrooms, seasoned dry bean soup mix, and maybe if you know some favorites from childhood or beyond? Citrus flavored bars/candy might hit the spot in a cold environment. Maybe meats like pepperoni/dried hams/smoked meats? Drink mixes--bloody Mary--limeade--eggnog? Don't send recipes without the ingredients to make them, that would be frustrating !

                2 Replies
                1. re: blue room

                  excellent suggestions above.

                  I would add that there are two basic categories of food to think about. The staples that he should take/have on hand and those that you can send.

                  For the former, I would add if he is not already a cook, dried or cured meats with flavor, dehydrated eggs, fire roasted canned tomatoes - because thye already have a lot of flavor, and spice mixes.

                  To send to him, think of things he wouldn't have had for awhile. I don't know what the shipping is like, but it would be nice to have cookies for instance. Pack with silicon packets if needed. Make up some new spice mixes, or send some premade sauces from TJs. When my now husband lived in France, he wanted Mexican food sent to him, because he was tired of white bean burritos with gruyere.

                  1. Thanks everyone! Great ideas, LJS and blueroom!! yay! I think I'm so nervous I'm forgetting the obvious stuff (cookies, dried fruits&nuts..) I'm not sure he'll cook up beans (even lentils!) for himself, but canned would be ok. I'll have to check out his bread recipes he intends to use to make sure he has all ingredients necessary. Agree, blueroom, only recipes WITH ingredients, it'll be challenging enough! Herb blends, good! Re mixes for drinks, only non-alcoholic beverages as alcohol is not OK where he's going.
                    inuksuk - what a terrific site! I'll definitely pass that on (he did mention blubber...)

                    1. I'm not quite sure what you mean by the North Pole. The town near Fairbanks? Some more remote community like Barrow, a company camp like the North Slope, or a research station?

                      What he cooks will depend a lot on what is supplied locally, and what you can ship. We visited a family in one of those bush communities, and the main thing they asked us to bring was a apple box full of produce - basics like carrots, celery, cabbage, that keep a while.


                      2 Replies
                      1. re: paulj

                        Well, more details about what I can ship as I go along (should I be concerned about produce shipped getting frozen before he can pick it up?) If I was going there myself, I'd definitely bring some produce! (He'll be in a place called Quaqtaq in northernmost Quebec, he says it is considered the North Pole, polar bear warnings and all that goes with it including -60 temps. etc)

                        1. re: morebubbles

                          Canadapost has a Food Mail Program, that provides subsidized shipping to communities like Quaqtaq. However, it appears that items sent from Montreal have to be non-food items. Even so, their lists of allowable foods might be instructive.



                      2. What a wonderful adventure for your brother!

                        My S/O spends a couple couple months in the arctic doing research every year - sometimes he has to cook for himself, sometimes he's on a Canadian ice breaker (which means REALLY good food, lucky guy). If your brother is going to be working outside, he's going to be burning a lot of calories, so think high carbs and protein. Also, when shipping supplies, you may be limited by both weight and volume (they can only fit so many supply boxes on a chopper), depending on how the stuff is being transported. Anyway, here's some stuff that my S/O recommends:

                        - Powdered fruit drinks (Tang, Gatorade, etc.)
                        - Dehydrated/dried fruits - apricots, prunes, raisins, pineapple, mango, papaya, apples, bananas, berries, etc.
                        - Fruit juice candies/chews and fruit leather
                        - Chocolates
                        - Hard candies - Life savers, a good mix of the Brachs' hard candies, toffees, etc.
                        - One-dish/pot mixes - the Zatarain's beans/rice mixes, reduced sodium if you can find them; ramen-ish soups, especially the Korean spicy seafood versions, etc. - look for mixes that just need water added
                        - Dried/powdered soups and stews, also bouillon powder or cubes
                        - Dry rice and beans
                        - Multi-bean soups with seasoning already added
                        - Dried/dehydrated veggies, peas, onions, mushrooms
                        - Granola bars, energy bars - both hard/crunchy and chewy
                        - Sturdy crackers and cookies - Triscuits, graham crackers, Saltines, etc.
                        - Smoked meats - salmon, trout, sausages, pate, jerky, etc.
                        - Shelf-stable cheese
                        - Shelf-stable dense/dark breads
                        - Variety of nuts, preferably already shelled
                        - Gorp, trail mix, snack mixes
                        - Instant or quick-cooking oatmeal and other breakfast cereals (Cream of Wheat, etc.)
                        - Pancake, cookie, biscuit mixes - look for the ones that just need water for prep.
                        - Granolas
                        - Coffee, tea, and hot chocolate mixes
                        - Powdered milk and eggs
                        - Seasoning mixes (Italian seasoning instead of oregano, parsley, etc.)
                        - Small containers of syrup, jam, honey, Tobasco/hot sauce, cooking oils, non-stick cooking/baking spray

                        Shopping ideas:
                        - Health-food stores
                        - Camping/backpacking/outdoors adventure stores for dehydrated meals

                        Your brother can rehydrate the dried fruits and serve them over biscuits, or rehydrate and sprinkle with granola and bake to make a semi-crunch/cobbler. Also good stirred into hot cereals.

                        Smoked and dried meats can be added to many soups/stews.

                        Many of the multi-bean mixes can be served as left-overs baked in a dish that's been covered with drop biscuits for variety.

                        Is he going to be able to contact you regularly? If so, he can write and ask for recipes/ideas based on what he has available and you can coach him along on that end of things (and you can post here and ask for ideas, if you get stumped).

                        Good luck!

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: ElsieDee

                          Wow, that is terrific, thank you!! Very helpful. Yes, he'll be in contact by e-mail (fortunately he can take his laptop). I'm guessing he'll be sending me messages about making rice, etc, lol! Also, I'm sure I'll be limited size/weight as you mentioned. (And no ice breaker rides, unfortunately!)
                          I'll keep all your excellent advise in mind and get him to read all these good ideas as well.

                        2. Here's a company that sells to rural Alaskans. They may not ship to Canada, but it may give an idea of types of items that used up north.


                          I wonder if there is an equivalent to
                          that ships within Canada?


                          1 Reply
                          1. re: paulj

                            Thanks for all of your input, paulj. You're quite right, we should concentrate on specialty items that he cannot get in a smaller place. He spoke to someone who just came back & apparently there's a place he can order groceries from online (takes 2 weeks mind you) which is apparently a cheaper way to get food brought to him than having his family ship it. But I will keep some of the items mentioned in mind, esp. dried fruits, nuts, beans, rice, chocolate, and others. He loves fruit juice, so I think some powdered juice will do for now. Also, he'll request specialty items he can't get there other there later on I suppose!

                          2. Peanut Butter. He can even use it to make a simple oriental sauce for pasta or as a dipping sauce.

                            Prebottled Salad Dressing. Many of them can be used on pasta or as marinades.

                            Lots of dried beans. Don't take up much room to back but can be used for soups, dips (hummus) or as main courses.

                            I love the small Penzey spice blends if there is one close by.

                            1. This is the basic tomato sauce from Patricia Wells's Trattoria book. I make it often . . . couldn't be easier and you can dress it up any way you want.

                              28 oz can crushed tomatoes (San Marzano if you can find them)
                              1/4 c olive oil
                              garlic (as much as you want)
                              dried red pepper flakes (again, to taste)

                              Heat the olive oil, garlic and pepper flakes. When it's fragrant (and before the garlic scorches) add the tomatoes. Let it cook for 15 minutes or so. Serve and eat.

                              1. a rice cooker might be good if he likes rice - but if the pre-packaged rice dishes are good enough, then maybe skip it.

                                Can you send him hard salami? I would think that would keep well and lots of protien and fat.

                                1. Wow I think everyone has listed everything I was thinking.

                                  Except couscous.

                                  Easy easy to cook. 1 cup couscous... 1 cup water or stock (use those bullion cubes... salty, but good in a pinch).

                                  Boil the water, mix in the couscous. Cover. take off the heat and wait 5 minutes.

                                  Fluff up with a fork... add whatever meat/veg you like.

                                  1. Just an update for you kind people that gave your recs.! (I forwarded him a link to this discussion.)
                                    I'm about to mail the second box of goods to my brother. The first box cost me close to $100 to mail, so, stuff's gotta count! This time he's asked me to send him a few bags of my coffee blend, cookies, chocolate & whatever treats I can think of. Apparently the cookies, chocolates and other treats are a big hit (extra points for those of you that mentioned it)! He's still raving about a bag of amaretti cookies I sent. Also, he says that he thought he was taking too many of the plain dark chocolate bars, but he's used them - as a special treat he places a square of chocolate in the bottom of a cup, pours coffee on top and voila! Something special. I think that's what people crave over there. He's used the instant rice & says it's good (though it is avail. over there so I don't need to send more). He's been using his bread machine. Apparently when he gets invited to co-worker's homes for dinner, he brings bread (and chocolate!).
                                    He's here in December so he'll be able to take some more goodies with him, including a big bag of my frozen muffins -he ones he took with him lasted him 2 weeks only he says - I gave him 2 dozen large muffins! that didn't last long!
                                    Thanks everyone, I used many of your suggestions when helping him shop before his trip & subsequent boxes that I'm sending!