Death Valley dragon tongue jerky

Having elected a healthier and riskier form of education than classroom-based courses this term, I recently found myself traipsing through the backcountry of Death Valley with a dear friend and coworker.

Snacking on a dragon tongue in the middle of a salt marsh.

Snacking on a dragon tongue in the middle of a salt marsh.

It’s challenging to convey how deeply the experiences of the past couple of weeks have churned my inner seas. Of particular note, hiking with a home on my back through the sands, salt marshes and mountains of the California desert contrasted starkly with the disjointed experience of time to which I’m most accustomed. During the veggie oil-fueled car ride south, we had made good use of NPR’s clever Radiolab podcasts. An old episode on “unlocking the mysteries of time” remained especially high profile in my thoughts.

Between musings on the political and subjective nature of time, the episode described a plucky audience that signed up to listen to a slowed, 24-hour version of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony (aka “the 9 Beet Stretch”). The tempo of the music was basically on par with how a humpback whale might process the symphony sounds.

Although we didn’t encounter any other hikers en route in our first, week-long trek along the Valley floor, the abandoned road we followed was paralleled by a modern stretch of pavement in the not-so-squinty distance. The proximity of the GPS-guided SUVs, leathery motorcycles and military jets overhead were making an ostensible mockery of our attempt to experience the natural world by foot, map and compass. We were so, so painfully slow, and the reminders of civilization were undermining our idealized wilderness experience.

Oh, the salt pinnacles.

Oh, the salt pinnacles.

It took a good several days for the intensely tight coil of my thoughts to unwind over the shifting sands. It eventually occurred to me that just as Beethoven’s Ode to Joy could be appreciated in a form of otherworldly beauty as if heard at the pace of a whale, in the same vein, our trek permitted a synchronous glimpse at the delicious slowness of one’s own two feet and the dizzying velocity of vehicular time. To push the analogy a little further, it took a while to unhook myself from the disembodied, oil-powered version of time to which I usually subscribe (commuter-cycling and organic farming aside).

Enough rhapsodizing for now. This fiery tofu jerky turned out to be a great snack for lightweight backpacking. Any remaining hot sauce, which has a Jamaican jerk spice-inspired flavour, can be used for stir fries, soups and the like.

  Death Valley dragon tongue jerky

  • 1 block (~400g) extra firm tofu
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 Tbsp molasses
  • 1 Tbsp tamari
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp powdered cloves
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp powdered thyme
  • Sprinkle of ground pepper
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 1/2 tsp paprika

Combine all ingredients except the tofu in a blender, and puree until smooth.

Slice the tofu as thinly as possible into bite-sized squares, and lay the strips in a single layer over a wide casserole dish. Pour the sauce over all of the tofu, and turn the strips with a spatula until they are completely coated on both sides.

Dehydrate at 58°C for approximately 24 hours, or until the jerky reaches one’s preferred level of chewiness. Store in tightly sealed freezer bags.



2 thoughts on “Death Valley dragon tongue jerky

  1. This is such a beautiful post, everything from the trip, the radio program, the reflections on time, to, of course!, the tasty-sounding recipe. I’m so envious of the beautiful trek you went on!

    • Thanks for the kind message, Tiff. If we’re ever in the same country at an opportune time of year, we should absolutely go on a camping trip together.

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