History of Food

History of Food

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Trail Mix - A Historically Ancient Snack - Who Knew?



Next time you are standing in the grocery aisle, contemplating a healthier snack option, take a moment to ponder upon the timeless trail mix. Yup you read that right - timeless.  Why?  Well, with today being National Trail Mix day I decided to do a little investigation.  Come to find out, trail mix is thousands of years old.

Ancient nomadic tribes used to mix up dried berries, fruits, nuts and meats together. It wasn't called Trail Mix then, but nevertheless it was just that.  Trail mix was (and is) high in energy, needs no specialized storage, and does not require cooking prior to consumption.


The history of trail mix and and gorp-type foods (nutritious, high-energy snacks composed variously of nuts, seeds, dried meats, dried fruits berries and candy) begins with the ancient nomads. These people were professionals at making easy to take on trips high-energy snacks that could handle any weather, that you didn't have to cook. Many different cultures would do this because it was the easiest way to keep storage of food for long periods of time.As time went on, so did the trail mix. Ancient travelers, explorers, pioneers, hunters, soldiers, hikers, scouts, even our very own cowboys, have enjoyed their own version of this easy to keep treat. Even today you will find various version of trail mix.

Trail mix makes an easy snack for on the go people. It's easily customized to your tastes, and the recipe can be modified to include whatever you have on hand. The key to a successful trail mix is to vary flavors, including both sweet and salty, as well as textures, including both crunchy and soft.

Later, explorers continued the use of trail mixes, for the very same reasons, taking the high-energy food with them on their travails over many a trail, mountain or ocean. Native Americans had a special spin on trail mix, which they shared with those explorers they had good relations with. Their mix was called pemmican, and consisted of dried buffalo, moose or caribou, mixed with animal fat and berries, and lasted for months. Pieces were often broken off and used to make a stew, called rubbaboo, by adding flour, water, and maple sugar.

Despite this long, storied history, two separate companies, Harmony Foods and Hadley Fruit Orchards of California, state that the name “trail mix” was invented in 1968 by surfers who mixed together peanuts and raisins to keep their energy levels up during more “gnarly surf” periods. They hold to this statement despite trail mix is also mentioned in Jack Kerouac's 1958 novel The Dharma Bums as the two main characters describe their planned meals in their preparation for a hiking trip.

Trail mix is considered an ideal snack food for hikes, because it is tasty, lightweight, easy to store, and nutritious, providing a quick boost from the carbohydrates in the dried fruit and/or granola, and sustained energy from the mono- and polyunsaturated fats in nuts.

Other names for Trail Mix includes:
  • In New Zealand, the United Kingdom
  • Iraq trail mix is known as scroggin.
  • Scroggin is also used in some places in Australia but usage has only been traced back to the 1980s.
  • Humorously referred to as studenterhavre ("student oats", in analogy of horse oats) in Denmark, studentenhaver in the Netherlands and Belgium.
  • Studentenfutter ("student feed") in Germany. Apart from being a food for hikes, it is served as a cheap snack to accompany drinks.
  • It is also known in America as GORP (Good Old Raisons and Peanuts, or Granola Oats, Raisins and Peanuts.)
Some claim the name stands for Sultanas, Carob, Raisins, Orange peel, Grains, Glucose, Imagination, Nuts; but this is likely a folk etymology. The word gorp, an alternative name for trail mix, may stand for "good old raisins and peanuts", "granola, oats, raisins, and peanuts", or "gobs of raw protein". These are all probably backronyms or folk etymology. The Oxford English Dictionary cites a 1913 reference to the verb gorp, meaning "to eat greedily.

Today’s trail mix often includes fruit, grain cereals, nuts, flavorings, chocolate or carob, coconut, pretzels, and sometimes crystallized ginger.  Want to make your own special trail mix? Here are over 80 recipes, at Cooks.com http://www.cooks.com/rec/search/0,1-0,trail_mix,FF.html  What is easy about Trail Mix is that it is portable.  It is easy to throw your favorite recipe into a ziplock bag and go.  Many local convienence stores also carry prepacked Trail Mix.  The drawback to these items are is that they often include candy, i.e. M & M's taking the place of carob.  Choose carefully and make it even better by making your own.

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