There were several questions about this hike that went unanswered even as I flew into Tel Aviv. One of them was: What do hikers eat on the Israel National Trail? I know what we eat when hiking in the US: Ramen noodles, Minute Rice, sliced pepperoni, cheese, protein bars, etc... but this isn't the kind of trail where friends and family can just send you a box full of yummy food. I would have to learn what works and what doesn't and buy my food along the way.
First, a note about dietary restrictions: I have NONE. I am an opportunistic omnivore. That means that I will gladly enjoy any and every bit of food that comes my way. I do not discriminate and I am thankful for every bit of it.
When my trusty hiking buddy Nightmare and I first went to a 'supermarket' (really a glorified convenience store with 5-6 tightly packed aisles full of stuff), I really had no idea what to buy. He, on the other hand, had already been in Israel for more than a month and knew what he liked to carry. "First things first," he said, "we need pita bread and hummus."
This seemed like a good idea. I had eaten and enjoyed hummus many times before. I kinda always thought it should be kept refrigerated. "Nonsense," says Nightmare, "it will last for days!" Turned out to be true. Actually, the pita bread (which is made fresh and without preservatives) will go bad before the hummus does. The problem with it, as one southbound hiker warned me, is that you will get sick of it. Fast. That was also true. I needed something more.
Ahhh... Tahini. This is something that seemingly every hiker in Israel carries and they all claim to make it 'the best'.
Tahini is a goopy brown liquid made from sesame seeds that comes in a plastic carton. You pour it into a cup or pot and add some water. Add a pinch of salt and stir it for a long time and it actually thickens up - perfect for dipping or spreading on bread. You can dip anything in tahini and it will taste good. Most Israelis add a bit of lemon juice to it but hikers can't realistically carry that so we go without. Still tastes good.
From there we branched off into egg noodles (that cook pretty quickly) and individual packs of tomato sauce. We can usually find Knorr sides that look like lentils and rice and sometimes we get soup mixes to which we add tons of little yellow 'soup nuts' for some crunch.
Snack-wise, we eat lots of chocolate wafers and cookie-type biscuits.
We found a granola mix that we like called 'Energy' which proudly proclaims 'Live life extreme!' on the label. We love dates and Israel has some of the best dates in the world. Juicy, fat, sweet dates.... so yummy.
Oh! And Boomba. Lots and lots of Boomba. Boomba is like a 'cheese puff'-type snack but it tastes like peanut butter, not cheese. Like cheese puffs, it is made of styrofoam.
Other than that, we take what we can get. We share food with other hikers and they share with us. Sometimes we luck into a family out camping who may offer us fresh fruits and vegetables.
We even ran into a hiker from Boston (Sweet Tea AT '06) who was just on a day hike and loaded us up with all kinds of goodies - AND he packed out our trash for us!
Of course, my buddy Chuck Wolfe would be upset if I didn't mention coffee. Every morning I heat up some water and pour some strong instant coffee into it. Or I pour some into a Nalgene bottle 1/4 filled with cold water and shake it up. It's good either way. Sometimes Israeli hikers will cook up finely ground Turkish coffee. That is a particular delight.
Are these the kinds of things you eat on the trail? Leave me a comment either way!