Following on from a typically busy Oceans Project Georgia session yesterday, myself, two other Project Leaders and 7 Oceans Ambassadors headed off on a bit of a mystery tour ( a mystery for them at least). It turned out to be a little more adventurous than planned, when we finally managed to find a bus with space for any more passengers, got on board, paid our 50 tetri (free for the kids) and having travelled no more than 40 metres on the roundabout, got bumped by a car, and the bus driver ordered everyone off the bus as he wasn’t going any further. I have to say, that I hadn’t even noticed a bump, and the car that hit us must have long since disappeared. So there we were, in the middle of a busy roundabout, all getting off, and trying to figure out the best place to cross the traffic. It was no big deal, no one complained, no one asked for their money back, everyone just got on with it. Certainly one of the plus points of being in Georgia and not in Britain. ‘Shit happens’, as one might say, and people don’t waste energy complaining, they just move on, accidents happen, and are just a fact of life. In Britain, it feels like a competition to see who can be the most perfect, when any failures are taken as evidence of weakness, incompetency, or inadequacy on a larger scale.
Anyway, we decided that since we had nigh on crossed the nasty roundabout, it would be just as easy to walk home now. The weather was so hot for this time of year, and since it was afternoon, it was already up in the 30s and very dusty. But we got to walk past the bears at the zoo, and saw the tigers lying on their platforms, crashed out in the sun. It really is a funny place to find a zoo, bang smack in the middle of several roads, but certainly makes for an interesting walk home, especially walking home with so many experts after their time volunteering at the zoo for their International Awards.
The kids had no idea where we were going, and I purposely wanted to add a bit of mystery, just for fun. And I think they were a bit surprised to end up at ‘Ferghana’, a very nice Uzbek restaurant close to my house. The decor is fantastic, brightly painted, and it was lovely and cool inside, especially after the long walk, and the kids were excited to see some cushions were you could sit around the table and smoke the hooka pipes. We didn’t sit there though, as we had a reservation for a very special session, thanks to the wonderful Yegor. We had a lovely table and it was quite funny for me to be sat as Head of the Table, but really lovely to get to spend a bit of quality time with the guys. Ferghana very kindly gave us tea and some Uzbek cakes on the house, and we gobbled these down (they were delicious), before having some photos taken, which was quite good fun, and I guess something I will need to get used to with all the PR and media events planned for our Pacific Ocean row. It was also very funny to be referred to as ‘your the ocean rower’ when I really don’t deserve such a title as yet, and we have so much more work to do prior to that!
Feeling a bit more refreshed, I explained to the kids that they were now going to be my official tasters and testers of any products or food or whatever, that gets sent to me to try prior to the expedition. They are so smart and see things from a very different point of view to me and I love being able to involve them in the run up to the ocean row, plus its a great chance for us to practice English, Russian, and Georgian, to share cultures and traditions, and to talk about things like nutrition, health, and so on, plus have a jolly good time together. It was also great to be able to see how they would cope in a new situation, with food they had never tried, and in less familiar settings, as one of the things I was surprised about in Austria, was the lack of adventure in trying anything new, especially from the adults, even when it was exactly the same kind of ingredients they would cook with at home, but just had a different name, and even the hotel staff were surprised that all they wanted to eat was bread and chips. I have to say though, our guys were far more adventurous, more so than me in all honesty, and they never once complained or turned their noses up, and this was quite a leap for them. Not only were they trying new vegetables or foods, but this food was also dehydrated, and also very spicy, with dishes from China, India, and Thailand, things that they are not used to trying and which have tastes that are not usual to their palets.
The kids are going to put the footage together and make a little film about our tasting session, so I’ll upload in once its done, but in the meantime, here is my own review of the Fuizion freeze dried food.
Fuizion: The Blurb
This is what Fuizion have to say about themselves:
At Fuizion we have a unique approach to Freeze Dried Food. All our products are prepared and cooked by our chef who has over 20 years of experience, creating food to the highest standards and quality, giving us the flexibility to be able to produce meals that can be designed specifically for you.
In addition to our standard range of recipes we offer a completely bespoke service, working with you, we will create a range of food that is tailor made to suit your needs whether you want; gluten free, halal, vegetarian or vegan to name but a few. We can also work with you to plan your nutritional needs for any specific expedition or competition you are embarking on. We are also happy to produce dishes that remind you of home, wherever that home may be.
We use only the best quality, locally sourced (where possible) ingredients in our range of Freeze Dried Meals, giving you the highest levels of nutritional content and an average calorific value of over 650 calories per 110g serving.
We never compromise on taste, or quality of ingredients, all we give you is a good hearty meal that you would hardly believe was Freeze Dried.
Wherever you are in the world Fuizion Freeze Dried Food is there with you!https://www.fuizionfreezedriedfood.com
Fuizion are a relatively new company as far as I know, from the UK, and they already have some top expeditions under their belt (including the Hugo Boss Team, Felicity Aston, and Kaspersky Commonwealth Team), all of whom highly recommend them, and having tasted their food now, and can completely understand why, and they are like Olympic athletes when it comes to the freeze dried foods I have tried previously, making other brands look like babies learning to crawl. They far exceeded my expectations, and they are probably the best meals I have had in a long time. So I’m really happy that they sent us samples to try for our ocean row.
Packaging, Ease of Opening, and Preparation
On first sight, I was excited by what I saw. I liked the logo, and I liked that the packages are flat and not full of air, so they would store very easily and the material looked like it would cope well in extreme cold, hot, or wet conditions. In terms of the ocean row, it brought to light just how much room will be taken up with food for the ocean row, as we would need about three of these pouches per day, per person, that makes 4 of us girls, and though the price is really good given the exceptional quality of the contents (I don’t know how this compares to other rehydrated meals), its a bit scary to think that we would need 12 sachets per day, over 115 days approximately, which would mean 1380 meals for our enture ocean row. With each sachet costing between £6 and £7 each, that brings our budget up to £9660 (plus postage and packaging), plus we need other snacks and items to nibble on, as well as drinks. But I can imagine eating these three times a day, and there being enough variety not to get bored of them, which is a huge plus.
It also made me think about the amount of rubbish we are going to produce during the row, and how we will deal with this. One thing that I liked about the bags, is that they looked like they would rinse out very easily in the sea, and be easy to fold up and store until we reached land where we could dispose of them properly, however I don’t know how well they would break down. One major advantage that I see, is that they would actually make very good bags for potting soil and growing plants in, and I have in fact, just tried this with our left over bags from yesterday. Since they are robust, flexible, and with a few holes punch in the bottom for drainage, they actually look pretty nice as plant pots! But I suspect they would alo be good for storing things in, as they have plastic seals at the top, are flexible, but also tough.
In terms of opening them, I found it a little bit of a faff to get into them at first, as I couldn’t tear in a straight line, and this might be an issue on a boat, if you were tired, had big gloves on, or really cold hands. However, it wasn’t a major issue, and I’m sure with practice, the technique would be easily mastered, and its not that they were difficult as such, it just was a bit of a fiddle. But the kids opened them fine, and to be honest I always struggle a bit with things like that, just as I can never cut bread properly and always end up cutting uneven slices which are either too thick or too thin.
The seals were easy to use, and zip locked very eassily and seemed nice and secure, and easy to open up afterwards, and I liked that way that the bags stood up, and this made putting the boiling water in, a very simple process, even if they were not stood on a nice flat table. They were also simple to do on your own own and didn’t require anyone to hold the bag open whilst another poured in the water. This could also be done whilst others were sleeping, without making too much noise, something that might prove important as two of our rowers sleep or rest for two hours, whilst the other two are rowing.
When I’ve had other such meals, they have always had a line on the inside of the bag to show you the level of water to put in, but these didn’t seem to have that, though the instructions on the front (in English and in French) were really easy to follow, and very to the point. Most of them required 310ml of water, and pudding required less. Previous meals I have had, required more water than stated, but these were very spot on and soaked up the water readily, and didn’t leave me feeling thirsty, which will be crucial on the boat where we will be reliant on making and rationing our fresh water. Measuring out the water will be a real pain on the boat, and I think having a mark on the inside of the bag would solve this, or even a line on the outside of the packaging, as gaging how much was a bit tricky, but I think this will also come with practice. Being as this was our first time tasting Fuizion’s products, we felt it was more important to get the amount of water right in order to give them a fair test.
When you first open the bags, the contents do indeed look very dry, and its hard to imagine them ever looking like real food again, but even in their dried state, they smelt delicious and it was nice to see and to recognise every single ingredients in the sachets, especially the vegetables, and this is something I’ve never experienced in any dried food before. So a huge thumbs up on that front.
Once the water was added, it was hard to know whether we should shake or stir them up, or just let them stand, and we tried both methods to see how it might affect the food. It was also good to feel how hot the bags were once the water was added, as this is an important factor, as I know from my mountain marathon days in Scotland. If you are cold and tired, its nice to be able to hug the bags or stick them under clothing whilst waiting for the water to get soaked up. But you don’t want to wait forever for the food to be cool enough to eat (especially if stopping quickly during a race), and you also don’t want them to get cold too quickly. I don’t know how much that has been factored into the design of the bags, but they were very hot to the touch, and seemed to cool fairly quickly. It also seemed to be very important that the water was actually boiling when added, and that they were left to stand for the required amount of time, again, things which would be perfected with practice.
Lamb Stew and Pearl Barley
I decided to try this one first, mainly because the other meals were spicy, and this wasn’t so I didn’t want the taste to be ruined by the others. I was actually disappointed when I received this sample, because I’ve never been a fan of lamb, in fact I’ve hated the taste and smell of lamb, and the oily texture, ever since I was a kid. And one of our OPG kids also hates lamb, so it was ironic that we were both won over by Fuizion foods on this very first pouch and that it was something we both enjoyed and felt would one of the best meals on the ocean row. I have to say that if I had a choice of another meat, I would still take that over lamb, but if lamb was the only option, I would still be able to eat it fairly easily. My logic being, that if the food tasted great in the comfort of Ferghana’s restaurant, surrounded by their delicious food, then for sure it would taste great out of expedition when I was hungry and tired, a massive winner on all accounts, and again, very unexpected. If I had a choice, I would even be tempted to buy these meals as ready meals if I was busy at work all day and wanted to come home to a quick and tasty meal, and I’d say there was a future here and a new branch for the convenience food market, should Fuizion ever decided to go that route as well. It would certainly be great if you were a patient in hospital and had lost your appetite, as well as a great food for giving to soldiers on deployment, as psychologically the food was comforting and tasty, whilst also knowing it was pretty nutritious too. This would make it great for patients who need a super high calorie diet but perhaps have small appetites or need encouraging to eat.
I especially liked that the water soaked right in perfectly and there were no dry or crispy pieces. The meat actually tastes like meat, had a really nice texture to it, smelt right, the potato chunks were just perfect, and it felt as if I was back in my granny’s house in england eating one of her traditional winter stews, with carrots, potatoes, gravy, pearl barley, and meat. Our kids have never tried stew before and didn’t know what pearl barley was, and all of them really enjoyed this dish. The retail price is £6.99 and I’d say that you could easily get away with this as a pub lunch, tasty and filling and perfectly satisfying on the most miserable of days at sea. https://www.fuizionfreezedriedfood.com/productitem.aspx?prodid=5c3d4675-fa06-4fb7-bec5-66710f5cd8fe
I have taken the photo of this meal from Freizion’s website, and I have to say that I don’t think this photo does justice to this food, as it looks far yummier in reality, and what’s more, the bag is designed in such a way, that you don’t lose your arm as you stick your spoon in to get the food out, which is something I’ve had issues with with other dried foods in the past, although those were still a massive improvement from the very first dried foods that you had to put in a pan, add water to, and then wait hours for!!
Kung Po Chicken with Noodles
I’ve never tried Kung Po before, and I hadn’t expected it to be spicy at all, so I figured this would be the best one to try next, and I was a little surpised to find it had a bit of a kick to it. Again, this one smelt lovely even before water was added, and it was great to make out the mange tout, carrots, and even the spring onions, and you could taste all the different layers of flavour, from sweet, ginger, all the way to the final kick of mild spices at the end. I haven’t had food with so many complex layers of flavours for a long time, and I found myself drooling throughout every pouch of food, which was a little embarassing, but I wasn’t the only ex-pat having that issue and I think we felt that we had died and gone to heaven as our senses were overwhelmed with flavours. I’d expected this to be more of a glorified pot noodle, but it was so far from that, and the chicken was simply fantastic, so a huge thumbs up from everyone again. https://www.fuizionfreezedriedfood.com/productitem.aspx?prodid=9593b2d4-82df-4b8d-bc38-c660814c261d
Thai Green Chicken Curry with Rice
Now, I’m a huge snob when it comes to Thai food, and I very much doubted this would meet by sky high expectations, but this was the pouch I was most looking forward to trying. I’d eat Thai food all day every day, given the opportunity, and I crave a trip to Thailand just so I can sit and eat all day. I’ve spent a lot of time in Thailand, and also working in a Thair restaurant in the UK which was started by Thai friends, and my uncle and his wife live in Thailand, and cook when they come to the UK. I’ve visited so many restaurants in the UK and very few have lived up to my expectations of real Thai food. So I highly expected this Fuizion meal to fail.
On opening the bag, it smelt like Thailand, and I could sense every spice, when the water was added, it smelt even more amazing, and on taste it didn’t fail. It tasted like an authentic green curry, and I was in heaven! The only problem was that I think we may have added a little too much water to this one, or perhaps the water was not quite hot enough, because though the flavours and complexity was there, there was some water that hadn’t absorbed and it was a little watery, but I suspect that was us and not the food itself. It was also cold quickly, so again I suspect it was because we didn’t bring the water to boiling point. Taste wise it was spot on, and I’d happily eat it every meal of our ocean row. The spice was also spot on, exactly as a Thai Green curry should be, and I especially enjoyed the mange tout which were so delicious and crispy, and had a texture as if they had been freshly picked for the dish. Totally scrummy and these kind of peas I have really missed since living in Georgia. Again, the chicken was to die for, beautiful quality and texture and tasted amazing. The retail price of this meal is £6.99 and worth every penny: https://www.fuizionfreezedriedfood.com/productitem.aspx?prodid=7a4cb1d5-cb18-49bb-a2d7-11a9567bad5b
Chicken Jalfrezi with Rice
I’ve never tasted this dish before, but I suspected it would be very spicy, and I wasn’t wrong! The initial taste was so delicious, and again my mouth was watering the entire time, and for the first time since I don’t know when. I especially loved the ripe juicy tomatoes, the texture, the chicken, the balance of flavours, and if there was one pouch which was the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory of meals, then this would be the one, and by far my absolute favourite. Followed by a big fat wham in the face of spices, that made your mouth burn, and not something you would expect from something that was freeze dried. Nose running and eyes streaming a little, I felt compelled to eat more, and was secretly quite happy that it was too spicy for the teenagers, and myself and the 4 year old in our party seemed to both favour this one, though she had no reaction whatsoever to the spices, which was quite a surprise, and probably wouldn’t have been one that we would pick for a child, being that it was so spicy, but she absolutely loved it as did I, and we finished it off, as the teenagers all ran off to the bar to get big glasses of water and tissues for their eyes and noses. When I was in India, I had a big problem with food, as even though I loved the taste of it, I would often get hiccoughs after a couple of mouth fulls and physically just couldn’t eat much, even though I was really hungry. That would be my only concern with taking this one on expedition, although I do know that on many expeditions, to the arctic or to the sea, your taste buds get dumbed down, and in that case, this might just be the ultimate expedition meal. Though I couldn’t eat this one every day, and I would need to drink a lot of water, and would probably struggle to eat more than a few spoonfulls because of the spice, I would probably take this one on expedition as a once every so often treat. I loved the flavours, but if I was in a hurry or stacking in the calories, I’d struggle to eat through it, but it would be the equivalent of a lovely evening with friends and a beer at a local Indian restaurant psychologically and I think it would really lift my spirits and would excite me all day if I knew I was having it for dinner that night. In fact I could easily develop a craving for this one. The retail price is £6.75 https://www.fuizionfreezedriedfood.com/productitem.aspx?prodid=429caf3d-bde8-48c0-8888-ebf2ad413fbc
Chocolate and Orange Rice Pudding
Unfortunately, one of our party was a Vegetarian, so even though she enjoyed the smells of the other meals, she wasn’t able to taste them, and I know that she was super excited to try this one, and was really happy to see that Fuizion also do tailor made food for vegetarians, vegans, as well as foods which is gluten free, or halal. As an athlete who has dietary preferences, I think Fuizion are absolutely fantastic on that front, as I remember the days when there were only two options of dried food available; mince, or chicken supreme, and if you were veggie then you just got pasta and a chunk of cheese, and as an outdoor pursuits instructor, it was often difficult to find foods that accommodated the need, especially when expedition planning, and often led to extra expense, inconvenience, weight, or friction amongst the team, as well as difficulties when it came to cooking in one pot, or meeting people’s likes and dislikes. I know freeze dried food has come a long way since then, but it always seemed ironic to me, that I would eat really healthy and train hard for our mountain marathons or whatever, only for all of that to be undone by the poor nutritional quality of the rehydrates or other meals. So I think Fuizion are onto a real winner here, and this is a great boost for their brand, especially that they will even tailor-make meals for the team or individual. Food is probably one of the most important elements of an expedition, its crucial psychologically, physically, and socially and is the one time where you should become rejuvenated and recharged, regardless of whether its just a quick break, or whether you are done for the day. And when you lose your appetite on expedition, its a poor situation, because without food you can’t replace lost calories or store up energy for the next session, and this can mean not just success or failure, but also life and death. It always seemed to me that these things were overlooked by food manufacturers, and I’m really excited to see that Fuizion has cracked this, especially in terms of their selection of meals.
Unfortunately, I think we messed up a bit in the preparation of the pudding as the water did not fully absorb into the rice, and it was a bit crackly and not like rice pudding at all. Again, I think this was a problem our end, and even though it didn’t fully absorb, it didn’t seem to matter, as it totally delicious and was the favourite of everyone. The texture and taste of the chocolate was just divine, with a hint of orange, and even though our rice was crispy and stuck together in lumps, it kind of added to the texture and taste and was like having rice crispies in chocolate sauce. So even though we messed up a bit, it didn’t matter, and I could easily have eaten my way through several pouches of that. And if I just had some strawberries, it would have been like a chocolate fondue, perfect for dipping. So another success, even though we didn’t have the water hot enough. This one retails at £5.80 and was certainly good value for money. https://www.fuizionfreezedriedfood.com/productitem.aspx?prodid=22da9aeb-dd29-48e6-b629-f2394618a05d
And Now the Important Stuff
I’ve had a fair bit of experience when it comes to freeze dried food over the years, and in the past I’ve always awaited the side effects of eating them. Just as I did this time: farting, constipation, stomach ache, intense thirst, indigestion, etc, etc. But I’m happy to report that there were no side effects at all, and that I really wasn’t expecting. They might seem like little inconveniences in every day life, but believe me, when you are on expedition, carrying a load, and bending and squishing your stomach whilst walking or climbing uphill or whatever, you want to know that you won’t get side effects, as they can really make you quite miserable when you have everything else to contend with. These factors will be just as crucial on a rowing boat. We will be resting for two hours and rowing for two hours, and I don’t want my rowing efforts to be hampered by pain or indigestion. We also have no toilet, and will be going over the side of the boat in the rain and spray, and diarrhoea or constipation would be hugely inconvenient, as would wind when you live in close proximity to three other girls! Being thirsty or them containing too much sugar or salt (we are all careful of our intake in our training, so to eat foods with this during the row would play havoc with our metabolisms and also through sweating). To be thirsty on the row will be a nightmare, as we will have to use the water maker and will have limited rations each day, and will also be in the full glare of the sun all day, and losing salts through sweating, if we are eating food that ends up dehydrating us, and not being able to replace this fluid, then we will end up feeling sick, having a dry mouth, and headaches, as well as feeling quite miserable and then falling out with each other, as well as being constipated. So food is of huge importance.
Being with the kids was really great for talking through the importance of hydration, and also for dispelling any myths they have. Rather interestingly they thought that the food was made to be spicy, because in Georgia people eat spices when they want to lose weight. This is quite different to what I heard were considered as hot or cold foods in the urban and rural slums of India, and also that things like Papaya were considered hot foods and should not be eaten in pregnancy because they would cause miscarriage. SO that was very interesting to find out about some of Georgia’s old wives tales, and also to educate the children on different things, particularly on the importance of the different food groups, and also that the last thing we want to do on expedition is to be losing weight, in fact quite the opposite as we will be burning off calories all the time, and if we lose all our fat then we will start to use up our muscles for energy, and will be more likely to get pressure sores from friction of rowing.
But we all had a lovely afternoon, learnt a lot, talked a lot about the ocean row, and finished the day off with some of Ferghana’s amazing cheese cake, the only place in Georgia where you can get real cheese cake! And the first time that our kids had tried it, though they were a little worried that it would be an actual cake made from cheese. But they all seemed to enjoy it, and today they had both coffee cheese cake and orange cheese cake o offer, and I’m happy to report that the coffee cake was just as yummy as the orange cheese cake I tried last time!
So a massive thank you to Fuizion for letting us sample some of their amazing foods, to Ferghana for allowing us to use their premises and for spoiling us with tea and Uzbek treats, and also to my young tasters who were brave, didn’t complain once, and who were so much fun to hang out with. Can’t wait to see the video they made of our session, and will be sure to upload it when I have it.
Final Verdict: Fuizion Freeze Dried Food – total winner for anyone going on expedition, highly recommended by our entire group from age 4, up to me as the oldest, from several countries, and taste backgrounds.