Field Food

Maple syrup
Bloody Mary Mix
Hot Sauce
Trader Joe’s Junk Food
Gummy Bears
Dried Fruit
Canned Pumpkin
Wasabi Peas

Going into the field has a lot of romance attached to it, undoubtedly dating back from the great expeditions of the Victorians. They had near legendary kit–often importing all of their food and other supplies rather than relying on what they perceived as the primitive living conditions in the local communities. While many of us envy the steamer trunks, natty tweeds, and vast wealth of the early archaeologists, their colonialist outlook and general disregard for the local populations are things that our profession has been trying to shake off for a while.

When I first went to Turkey I was convinced to bring energy bars, peanut butter, coffee, chocolate and the requisite duty-free gin–weighing down my luggage considerably. I now consider this a bit ridiculous as well as unwieldy; there are grocery stores and local food is available, because, y’know, what would people eat otherwise? Now I try to discourage students from bringing more than just a couple of treats, and it’s always a real pain when they refuse to eat the local food. I’m a vegetarian at home but bringing this habit into the field is unreasonable and at times outright rude–refusing food that is shared with you is bad manners in pretty much every culture that I’ve encountered.

Still, many of us still bring a few treats with us, and the above list was compiled after I asked my fellow grads what they miss in the field. I am putting together a little package to send to my friend Allie in Antartica (I don’t think she reads my blog, so it’s safe!) and was having a hard time thinking of things to put in the box.  The only thing that I’d really want to bring these days would be coffee, but having it with me always gets my bags searched–I guess some people use it to hide the smell of drugs–so I haven’t bothered for the last couple of years.

I’m headed to Qatar for a few months this winter, so this question has been on my mind. I usually miss Thai food and tacos when I’m in the field. Maybe I’ll bring some spices and learn how to make my own tortillas.

What do you bring into the field? What would you miss the most?

Author: colleenmorgan

Dr. Colleen Morgan (ORCID 0000-0001-6907-5535) is the Lecturer in Digital Archaeology and Heritage in the Department of Archaeology at the University of York. She conducts research on digital media and archaeology, with a special focus on embodiment, avatars, genetics and bioarchaeology. She is interested in building archaeological narratives with emerging technology, including photography, video, mobile and locative devices. Through archaeological making she explores past lifeways and our current understanding of heritage, especially regarding issues of authority, authenticity, and identity.

6 thoughts on “Field Food”

  1. 2 Knives (large and small)
    1 Swing-Away Can Opener (you have canned pumpkin so there..)
    Voracious Appetite

    The first two items are not completely necessary if they are available for purchase on site but having your own knives and a swing-away (does anyone really use the other kinds of can-openers?) is close to all I need. Unless you make Antarctica, Turkey or Qatar often-visited locations, immersing yourself into their culinary traditions is not something us jealous regular folks do.. ooo to be young and an archeologist. Some people, myself included would gladly give up underused or outright unnecessary parts of ourselves (I don’t really need all these pinkies you know) to truly experience foods and beverages that we read and dream about. When in Rome.. eat, drink and be merry as the Romans do.

    Any possible way you can pack me into your luggage for your Qatar excursion? I don’t smell as good as coffee or as distinctive as juniper berries but I’m handy with tools of both the culinary and mechanical persuasion and require minimal maintenance. Should I get in line for my passport pictures now?

  2. The Irish have a fascination with bringing the sausage with them wherever they go. I don’t think it’s a taste-longing thing, more to do with nostalgia and all that.
    So I’d add the Irish sausage (aka miscellaneous meat (hopefully) in a bag) to the list.
    Have a good time in Qatar Colleen!

  3. Before making any firm decisions about bringing alcohol to the Persian Gulf — pro or con — you might want to consult this handy map:
    This map could provide justification for bringing the booze to Qatar because it’s hard to find there, or an argument for leaving it behind because it could be confiscated at the border. I’m not sure.

    Frank: Pork sausages might not go over so well. Don’t offer them to the locals.

  4. Oh I know better than to bring alcohol to Qatar – it’d be taken from me for sure. But it’s good to know the hotel doormen, who are generally good at obtaining any ol’ thing you’d want.

  5. It’s been a long time since I was on an out-of-country job, and I actually pack quite a bit of food when I’m out in the field since I try hard to eat organic or at least moderately healthy. Believe me, when a Subway Veggie Delite is the only way to get fresh vegetables, you’ll wish you had brought some produce and microwave steamer bags.

    In Belize, the food was so delicious that I actually gained weight and brought some recipes back. But I did miss pizza and Thai food, and the locally available vodka was disgusting. The only thing I brought with me for the spring field school was Clif Bars.

  6. I learned to take less and less. The food on the digs in Jordan and Egypt as well as most other digs I worked on – mostly in Europe – has been great.
    This summer I was diging a few weeks in my own country, Switzerland, but in the Alps, far away from the nearest shop. When stayig in a cabin all needed was some good dark chocolate, just in case. Of course when camping… a bit of booze for by the fire is essential. We actually had 50 l of beer brought up with the excavaton kit in a helicopter ;)
    Otherwise, enjoy the local food, as far you have access, I’d say.

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