Meals For 'The Mountain Between Us'—What to Eat When You're Stranded
The film's location manager and two survival experts explain what to eat and drink if you're stuck in the snowy wilderness.
In The Mountain Between Us, Idris Elba and Kate Winslet play two strangers struggling to survive after a plane crash strands them atop a remote, snow-covered mountain in Utah. Chief among their concerns is sustenance: with less than a full meal between them, the two must find food, fast.
While the underlying love story is universal, the stranding specifics are hopefully not one you'll ever relate to. But just in case, Food & Wine talked to The Mountain Between Us location manager, Robin Mounsey, as well as adventurer/survival expert Patrick Sweeney, and Ready To Go Survival Founder/CEO Roman Zrazhevskiy, for just what kind of cooking, dining, and drinking knowledge tips you'd need to survive.
Drink The Snow
"Air is quite dry at that altitude," Mounsey says, making hydration important. If you can find a creek, go for it, but since they're usually buried under snow or ice, they might be hard to reach. Fortunately, "melting snow is no problem."
You can "cook" the snow with a stove, or anything around that could amplify the sun's heat, though if those weren't in your luggage you can use your body as well. Just make sure, Sweeney warns, that you only use your body for melting while active, or else you'll be wasting precious calories needed to stay warm. He also says to aim for a gallon a day, which is "way more important than food."
Plan Your Meals
Mounsey says that ideally, you should try to conserve food supplies and ensure they last. In fact, he says even just filming on location in Canada gave the actors and crew an extra large appetite, thanks to the altitude, so if you can, save the food for the most vigorous activities on more difficult terrain.
If rationing your meals without the aid of your favorite meal planning and grocery list apps, Sweeney suggests eating in the morning, "because it gives you energy to take action during the light hours."
Find Your Food
There won't be any food growing above the timberline (where trees stop growing due to harsh conditions) aside from some difficult-to-catch animals in transit like mountain goats and wolverines. Once you make it to slightly more habitable territory, though, there should be some berries and plants, according to Sweeney, though unfortunately for vegetarians and vegans, wildlife seems like a better bet.
Depending on where you are, there may be deer, moose, wolves, lynx, bobcat, cougars, porcupines, or ptarmigan birds, which you can try to catch with snares. If all else fails, though, Zrazhevskiy says, "your best bet is to dig for grubs, ants, termites, or find woodlice in moist areas." Which may not be as hard as you think!
Cook Your Food
Once you've got your meat, don't eat it raw—as you probably already know, it's healthier cooked. You can start a fire for some campfire style grilling, but, Zrazhevskiy recommends, "the best way to prepare food for survival is by boiling it," because "you don't lose any nutrients or fats to the fire, as they will stay suspended in the water."
"I would go with lots of garlic," Mounsey also says, "paired with a full-bodied red wine to help with the gamey flavors," should you have the foresight to pack for finer mountain dining.
Like any dining experience, you'll want to do some prep beforehand. In this case, anyone about to hop on a tiny charter plane might want to bring some small, calorie-dense food along. As Mounsey points out, you can fit plenty of calorie-dense energy bars in your pocket, but if you're really worried Zrazhevskiy says the 3,600 Calorie Datrex Emergency Food Bar can't be beat. No, it's not one giant bar, but the pack contains rations that will last you for 72 hours, with, believe it or not, no preservatives. Fine mountain dining indeed.