Now it's mealtime. Challenge Number Two confronts you: How will you use your hard‑won bounty? Here are some ideas:
Creamy Instant Oatmeal Empty one or two single‑serving packets of instant oatmeal into a bowl. Stir in one or two packets of coffee creamer. Pour the required amount of boiling water over the oatmeal, stir again, let sit for a minute or two, and then add your favorite sweetener from your stock of condiment packets — jelly, honey, and maple syrup are all good candidates — along with some dried fruit.
Maple‑Scented Fruit If you've harvested wild fruit — don't be greedy; be sure to leave some for the local wildlife! — put it in a cup and drizzle a packet of maple syrup over it. The finishing touch? Top with a little crunchy granola, if you have it.
Peanut Butter and Jelly Crackers If you have a few peanut butter and jelly combo packs, lunch doesn't get any easier. Just squeeze dabs of each onto crackers. This works as a midmorning bonk buster, too.
Lemon Rice Pilaf Make a pot of your favorite rice, adding powdered vegetable or chicken broth to the cooking water. Then, once the rice is tender, stir in a generous handful of nuts, plus a couple of packets of lemon juice.
Thousand Island Salad Dressing Blend together one packet of mayonnaise and one of ketchup. And if you like your salad dressing sweet and chunky, also mix in a packet of sweet relish. This is great with iceberg lettuce, by the way. Few leafy greens travel well, but iceberg is the happy exception to this rule, and it's wonderfully refreshing after a hot day on the water.
Tartar Sauce With Fish or Meat Salad Empty a shelf‑stable packet of tuna or salmon — or a can of deviled meat — into a bowl. Stir in a packet of mayo and one of sweet relish. Eat as is, make into a sandwich, spread on crackers, or roll up in a tortilla.
Catch of the Day If the fish are biting (and if they're safe to eat, which is not the case in my corner of Canoe Country, I'm sorry to say), prepare your catch any way you like — poaching, sautéing, frying, or baking — and then serve with one or more dipping sauces from the following list: cocktail sauce, lemon juice, or tartar sauce. And what if you crave cocktail sauce but don't have any? Don't give up. You can make a passable substitute from horseradish sauce and ketchup packets.
Teriyaki Pasta Boil up some pasta, and while it's cooking, combine one packet of soy sauce, one of sugar or honey, and one of vinegar — or mix a packet of sweet and sour sauce with one of soy sauce. Once the pasta is ready (al dente), drain off all but a few tablespoons of the cooking water. Now stir your extempore sauce into the pasta until it's evenly coated. Add some peanuts, too, along with some thin slices of bell pepper and onion, if you have them.
Dressy Pasta Start with pasta, draining off all but a couple of tablespoons of water, as before. Now empty a packet or two of salad dressing onto the hot pasta, before tossing it gently to distribute the dressing. I like hot pasta with either Italian or blue cheese dressing, but ranch dressing isn't bad, either.
Chicken Salsa Mix drained canned chicken with a packet of mayo and one of salsa. Roll up in tortillas, or use as a dip with tortilla chips. A hint: If you're also making soup for dinner, drain the chicken juices into the pot. Waste not, want not, right?
Beef BBQ Satays Skewer thin slices of beef and place them on a plate, before squeezing several packets of barbecue sauce over the meat, using the edge of a packet to spread the sauce evenly. Now roast over hot coals as described in my article on making satays. Eat the meat right off the skewers, wrap the slices in tortillas, capture them between slices of bread, or add to rice.
Quick Potato Salad Drain the water from a 15‑ounce can of sliced potatoes, then empty the potatoes into a pot or large bowl. Stir in one or two packets of mayo, along with one packet of relish or mustard. Chop a small onion and a stick of celery (if you have them) and add them to the pot, too. Season with salt and pepper from packets.
Vinegar Chips Empty Pringles chips into a bag or pot and drizzle a packet of malt vinegar over them. Shake the chips to distribute the vinegar. Why Pringles? Because they come in a protective tube and aren't easily crushed. You can use other brands of chips, of course, but you'll need to pack them very carefully.
That should be enough to get you started. But it's only a beginning. And once you've rung the changes with a variety of these happy byproducts of restaurant portion control, I'm sure you'll agree that there's no end to their versatility.