Wilderness Survival Skills: Survival Cooking

Tom Brown Jr. shares his wilderness survival skills with MOTHER readers. This issue covers survival cooking in the wilderness.

| July/August 1982

Learn survival cooking in the part VI installment of At Home in the Wilderness. 

Tom Brown, Jr. was brought up in the ways of the woods by a displaced Apache named Stalking Wolf. Today, he is one of our country's leading outdoors experts, author of the Tracker and The Search, and head of one of the largest tracking and wilderness survival schools in the U.S. (write Tom Brown, Jr. , Dept. TMEN, New Jersey). Tom has agreed to do a series of special features for MOTHER, articles that will help us all learn how to survive in the wilds. With the Tracker's guidance, we can become more at home in the wilderness. 

After supplying him- or herself with shelter, water, and warmth, the survivalist must give attention to the search for nourishment. However, even after locating food, folks who find themselves unexpectedly stranded in the wilderness aren't likely to have much in the way of supplies or cooking equipment. For that reason, I'm going to devote this article to describing survival cooking techniques that require no ready-made tools or other manufactured gear. The only implements mentioned in this piece will be those you can easily make yourself, and the rudimentary skills used to fashion them should be within the capabilities of almost anyone.

Naturally, the first thing to consider when survival cooking becomes necessary is how best to prepare the meal with the materials at hand. Stewing is probably the most useful all-round cooking method because it's simple, a stew can be saved—and added to—from one meal to the next (many pioneers and early settlers kept a pot bubbling on the fire all year long), and the various combinations of food can provide plenty of nutrition. Unfortunately, making a stew does require a cooking vessel of some kind. Pit cooking is a good second choice, but it is both time- and effort-intensive. Spitroasting and frying are adequate, too . . . but not as desirable as the first two options, because much of the nutritional value of the food is often lost in such preparations.


Fire is one of humankind's most important tools, and its value is magnified in a survival situation (see MOTHER EARTH NEWS NO. 73, page 78, for tips on starting a fire without matches). Not only does it provide warmth for the body and heat for cooking, but it can also serve as a means of carving, bending, and forming implements that are necessary for wilderness living: And since, when faced with an unexpected emergency, many people are likely to lack even a pocketknife, fire must often be relied on to make the cooking utensils that are essential to assuring long-term subsistence.

With the help of fire, a simple cooking container—a pot, a cup, or a spoon—can be made in the wilderness. Your first task is to find a suitable log or branch. Simply look around the area until you locate a chunk of wood that's neither punky nor rotten, but big enough to be made into a practicable container. A piece of timber that'll hold a quart or two of liquid and solids when its center has been burnt out to form a bowl will make a good stew pot.

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