Archive for July, 2011


Keeping Wayfarers Fed, Part One

   Posted by: Andrew    in Research

Among the first things that we did at our meetings was to divy up the responsibilities between us; because Dan has this image of me as a ‘great cook’, I’ve ended up in charge of figuring out what, exactly will be keeping us going – physically, at least – for our weeks in Scotland. (Note that I’m not disputing this image of me. He said it, not me.)

In keeping with our theme, the standard array of high-tech superfoods was out. I haven’t even looked into them, because I just know that I’ll find something that would be just perfect for our trip, except that it’s entirely too modern.

So instead, I Googled things like “crusades food” and “how did travellers eat medieval times” and “native flora scotland”. There were a lot of things that piqued my interest – and as I’m able to do some more research on them, I’ll be posting more – but one food was repeated time and time again: Hard tack, also known as hardtack, pilot’s bread, molar breakers, dog biscuits, and other wonderful and unfortunately descriptive names. Realizing that this was going to be one of the things we ate a lot for our trip was one of the first signs that this was, in fact, going to be a difficult journey, regardless of the distance.

For those who don’t want to look at the link above, here’s a basic recipe for hardtack:

2 cups flour
3/4 cup water
3/4 teaspoon salt

…and that’s it. No fat (as it would spoil eventually), no sugar (ditto). No flavouring at all, probably to reduce cost. You mix those ingredients, push it on a cookie sheet, and throw it in the oven. Then you cut it into squares, turn it over, and bake it again.

The result is a hard, tasteless brick of carbs – that will last for years before spoiling. And if it’s baked another two times, it’ll last even longer! It’s designed to be dipped in some sort of liquid before you eat it, mostly because those who skip this step are those who gave it the nickname “molar breakers”.

So, I made some. I had flour in my cupboard, and we had a training walk planned a few days after I discovered this, last weekend. I brought them along, and despite the abuse they took in my backpack over the course of six hours’ walking, we pulled them out and  dipped them in my iced coffee when we sat down at a Tim Horton’s. We all bit down, attempted to chew what we could, and unanimously decided that, without some changes, there was no way we’d be able to eat it. Luckily, I have some ideas already – I have a list of herbs native to Scotland, and the recipe linked above includes a note that you can add shortening to make it softer, but it cuts down on the length of time before it starts to spoil.

It’s going to be interesting, definitely. I’m not sure if it’s going to be good-interesting or bad-interesting, but interesting is a sure thing.


Chapter One

   Posted by: Dan    in News

It all started in a tavern, as all great adventures start.

One might also say that it started three weeks earlier, when Paul walked the eighteen kilometres downtown from his house, reminding me of my own love of walking: the pride, the challenge, and the glorious ache that lingered for days after a proper walk.

Or, perhaps, a week after that, when I walked twelve kilometres from work to Paul and Sean’s house and first had the idea of a walk across Scotland.  I remember texting my brother Andrew, knowing he enjoyed the same challenges I did and that I would be seeing him the next day.  I gave him a brief run-down at my cousin’s house less than twenty-four hours after the initial concept ran through my head, and that could be another beginning as I gained my first companion.

Ten days later was another start, when four of us gathered at the mall near my house: Adam, Sean and Paul had all been given a very brief idea of what I wanted to do, but they had wisely refrained from committing.  I wrote up a two-page proposal and let each of them read their copy before saying anything.  We stood at a railing on the second floor, looking down at the people milling about below.  The mall was busy for a Tuesday night, and I felt like I was in a job interview.  We spent almost four hours talking about the walk that evening, brainstorming dozens – hundreds – of things to include.

But it was two days after that, meeting at the traditional pub Rose and Crown on Yonge Street, when we all committed.  The four of us there, and my absent brother – Drew was not yet with us – all agreed to set aside our modern comforts and conveniences, our friends and families, for two weeks of walking through the British Isles.

At the time the trip was different than it is now, but all things evolve.  This is the first post on this ‘blog of ours; the first of what will undoubtedly be hundreds, between the six of us.  If you are new here and reading this post, welcome and thanks for finding us.  If you are already familiar with our quest, thanks for digging through our archives to find this.

It is July 15, 2011.  In October 2012, less than fifteen months hence, we will be in another part of the world, braving weather and weariness in the pursuit of the cure for a disease that has plagued us as dragons plague the heroes of print and picture.  This ‘blog, every word you read here, will chronicle our journey from office clerks, engineers, security guards, students and barbacks to the adventurers who will end their trip at the wall of Edinburgh Castle.