Tuesday, May 17, 2005

World Series of Birding

Twenty-four hours, one county, 99 birds, two home-cooked meals. Saturday was the annual World Series of Birding sponsored by the New Jersey Audubon Society. The idea is to see as many bird species as possible during 24 hours, all in the state of New Jersey. Participants take pledges from sponsors (so many cents per bird species seen) and contribute to NJAS or the conservation cause of their choice.

Since this is not a birding blog, I will spare you the gory details but instead focus on the food. I have learned from hard experience that a long day birding requires good food and drink. Underfueling the body leads to headaches, nausea and general debility. When I was recommended Gatorade after a near-heatstroke event, it changed my birding life. Clif Bars are also good birding food. The real clincher, though, was the day I made some chicken donburi, froze it, then brought it along for WSB. That was a couple of years ago and though it wasn’t what you might think of for breakfast, it kept me going all day without headaches or wimping out in the doldrums of the afternoon. I was sold. Freezing the food ahead of time and letting it dethaw keeps it cool and unspoiled for a long time. This is important when you’re careening all over the state, far away from reliable refrigeration.

This year’s food was a multipart event. Breakfast was chicken donburi, but made with porcini soaking water rather than dashi. It was very tasty, and the leftovers were still good earlier this evening, several days after they were originally dethawed. Maybe I’m courting salmonella, but so far I feel fine. Plus I have unused dashi ice cubes in the freezer, ready for some other dish.

The second course was a portion of beef yakisoba. Boy, that was good. Finally, we wound up for a dinner break (we must be getting old, normally we don’t stop for food on a WSB) at the Clinton Station Diner. The Lurker and Perfect Tommy had sandwich-type things (sorry for the lack of specificity, but staying awake nearly 48 hours straight really does a number on your memory), while I just ordered breakfast (at 10:00 PM!), two eggs sunnyside up and home fries. I look forward to getting back to this diner under less extreme circumstances, because everyone gave their meal high marks.

Another thing that keeps me going on long birding days (or long days at outdoor music festivals, for that matter) is grapes. A big bunch of chilled green grapes provides a perfect snack. It’s food and drink, all at once. Plus they come in manageable portions.

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