Porter Auditions for America’s Top Chef

Porter did all the cooking on our 2,663-mile hike of the Pacific Crest Trail: hot mocha and oatmeal for breakfast, and gourmet dinners like ratatouille au rehydrated tofu, boeuf jerky stroganoff, and pan-seared wild salmon over udon in an Asian fusion sauce.  (I carried the peanut butter and crackers for lunch.) Each evening, after our twenty-plus miles of hiking, he set up his wilderness kitchen of stove, ingredients, and spice kit and went to work. In this photo in the Sierras, he’s unpacked our food from our bear-proof canister (lower right) and wears a head-net because of the mosquitos:

Porter auditions for America’s Top (Wilderness) Chef

My job as sous-chef was to stand by with water in case he set his pants on fire (happened twice). At home I do all the cooking, and his job is to decant the Malbec and watch it breathe.

Nevertheless. When he wants to cook, we have to go backpacking so he can try out his latest modifications to his latest ultralight stove. Here’s his 8 oz. stove kit, including a 1 qt. titanium pot, windscreen and stainless steel rods to hold the pot above the burner, his titanium ground protector (so as not to scorch the earth), ThermoJet alcohol burner on top of protector, and spoon to stir (the rods fit into the back of the spoon for storage):

8 oz. stove kit

Porter eats with his stirring spoon, and I have a plastic spork–a spoon with a jagged end for fork-like purposes. Mine is red lest I lose it in the dirt. But on our recent backpacking trip, I was dismayed to find my spork denuded of its jagged tines.

“I sanded them off to fit in the stove kit,” he said.


Gail attempts spaghetti with fork-less spork

Whatever, it was delicious. Porter cooked it from a pasta recipe from Backpacker Magazine, except he made substitutions for thirteen of the fourteen ingredients. He did use pasta, though. The recipe also said to “drain the pasta,” but carry a colander? Fuggedaboudit. In any case, Porter used his highly insulated pot-cozy to retain heat and cook faster at high altitudes.

Porter in his man-cave making his pot-cozy

A Top Chef who makes his own cooking accoutrements? I’d vote for him, wouldn’t you?

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24 comments on “Porter Auditions for America’s Top Chef

  1. I am laughing out loud as I read this to my manly man ‘high point’ peak grabber partner Steve. The dialogue with perfect photos are priceless; that Porter smile should help him win; and of course the benign innocence of one who could sand away your trainer fork….
    I showed Steve the cook set as that is truly Porter to the core. And; pot cozy is perfect; I think there could be a market for that.
    I will send this on to some old Outward Bound buddies; they will read with joy. One course I taught for OUtward Bound we purposefully didnt give out cooking utensils….for the experience…
    THANKS for a great vignette. Sandy

  2. Well, I like the part where Porter does all the cooking! But, if I found my spork “orkless”–there might be a new title for the book: Murder on the Pacific Trail! I can see you two are very organized–inspiring. Can’t wait to read the WHOLE THING!

  3. My first visit here since the first post *blush* but I’ve subscribed now so I won’t miss a post. This brought back a few memories of backpacking …

  4. You had me chuckling all the way through! I love Porter’s unique combo of obsessive and creative when it comes to cooking gear. I must be more than a little anal too–I am charmed by the stabilizing rods that fit into the back of a stirring spoon. He gets my vote just for that. Oh, and the grin too. 🙂

  5. Gail, sweetie, I “died laughing” when Porter sands off the edges of the fork!

    I think that humor is one of life’s greatest talents, and to have that talent is a gift without price. And YOU have it in spades, so keep going!

    I also watch the way you and Porter love each other, with so much humor and with so much patience and attention, and I want to say to you both, do you realize what a great gift you give each other every day, in the small, fleeting moments that constitute our lives.

    As I grow older and more dependent on the love of others, I hold you in the light, dear friend!

    • I tell all about how he set his pants on fire in my memoir about our hike of the Pacific Crest Trail, but picture this: pouring more colorless alcohol on invisible flames in an alcohol stove in gusty winds. !

  6. Gail,

    The thought of Porter with his pants on fire and you throwing water on him was priceless. Who knew? I thought that Porter was only on fire in the way that bad girl writers like you prefer. And no bad girl would throw water on such a fire! Now I see that Porter is a multi-faceted luminary.


  7. What a great photo of you–congrats to Dana–she caught both your beauty and energy

    I love reading about your adventures mostly because I always learn a lot, admire your collaboration and laugh.

  8. I’m endlessly fascinated by the ingenuity required for these trips through the wilderness—which is to say that the spaghetti looks amazingly yummy!! I also revisited some earlier posts and realized how beautiful life can look in the wilderness—I mean, the photos you’ve shared are not at all like the dense, skyless views of Manhattan I saw with Melissa & John last weekend i.e. no sky at all!!

  9. Hi Gail,

    Porter is such a cutie, and that plus his great cooking and all around wonderfulness is enough to excuse the usually unforgivable DE-SPORKING you experienced!

    I love your books (Hey everyone, Gail writes great fiction too!) and can’t wait for this one to come out.

    Nellie sends love and is so excited to see Auntie Gail!


    PS: Dr. Porter Storey with his pants on fire – what an image!

  10. This is high humor indeed. Albeit said husband is a liar, liar, pants on fire. Better than pants on the ground, I suppose. I could write this rhyme, Dork, dork, ruined her spork. There now, Gail, does that make you feel better?

    • Vicki, Porter once had to carry the pressure cooker for a group backpacking expedition–I’ll take the alcohol burner and spork any day!

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