Dehydrophobia is the intense and irrational fear of using a food dehydrator. Some of you may suffer secretly from it or know others who do.

This phobia came to my attention after the publication of "Lipsmackin' Backpackin': Lightweight, Trail-Tested Recipes for Backcountry Trips." The book, written for the long distance backpacker, often calls for the use of a dehydrator. Although many backpackers recognize the value of dehydration, there was a small contingent that freaked. "Freaked" is a strong word, but that's exactly what happened!

The reaction by these few was so strong that I, as a professional therapist, couldn't help but wonder if there wasn't something more sinister lying beneath the surface. What would cause such a strong response? I pondered this for many weeks, until one day it occurred to me: these people were consumed by fear, a fear so gripping and debilitating that it might forever keep them from discovering the joy and fulfillment of dehydration. They were suffering from dehydrophobia!

If you are a suffering from dehydrophobia, take heart. There is hope. By following my step-by-step, 4-week program, you can overcome this fear.

Week 1 - Educate yourself.

The following are the answers to frequently asked questions by dehydrophobics.

What is a dehydrator? A dehydrator is a big, ugly device that takes up all your counter space and stinks up your house. Its purpose is to dry your food in a slow, even fashion in order to reduce weight, maintain taste, and increase shelf life. People have been drying food since the dawn of civilization. Despite how it may feel, you are not boldly going where no man has ever gone before. You don't necessarily need something fancy; Tim and I bought ours at a garage sale and developed and tested all the dehydrated recipes in "Lipsmackin' Backpackin'" with it.

Will it burn down my house? If your dehydrator is operating properly, it shouldn't burn your food much less your house. It is supposed to work similar to a crock-pot, with a slow, even operation that, in most cases, doesn't require precise timing. Even a basic oven can be used to dry some foods, by keeping it at its lowest temperature setting with the door slightly ajar for air circulation. A good dehydrator, though, is superior to an oven in that it has more drying surface area, a built-in fan, and mesh trays which allow for better air circulation.

I'm an important person. Why would I waste my time dehydrating? As a long distance hiker you have special needs. Those needs include: reducing your pack weight, having nutritious and tasty food to sustain you physically and emotionally, and keeping your food costs reasonable. Commercially available freeze-dried food often tastes odd, and the packages typically contain awkward portions. Dehydration, on the other hand, preserves the taste of your food and allows you to enjoy on the trail many of your favorite meals from home, with portions customized to your preference.

Do dehydrators come in fashion colors? Sorry. No.

Week 2 - Positive affirmations.

Now you are ready for week two! Begin each morning with a deep, cleansing breath. Inhale. Exhale. Perfect! Now repeat the following affirmations six times in front of your mirror each day for the next week: My dehydrator is my friend. I like to dehydrate. My dehydrator loves me.

Week 3 - Making the purchase.

Now it's time to buy! For many of you, being near a real dehydrator may be so anxiety provoking that you will need to make this purchase either via catalog or over the web. When your dehydrator arrives, place it in your living room. Each day, as you walk past, repeat the affirmations (see Week 2) while progressively moving closer to it. On the last day of Week 3, take a deep, cleansing breath and touch the box.

Week 4 - Dehydrating.

This will be most challenging. Find yourself a support buddy. Together, remove the dehydrator from the box and place it in the kitchen. If you panic, repeat your affirmations (see Week 2). Next pour yourself a hot bubble bath, get in, and read your dehydrator instructions (this can be done with or without your support buddy).

Now plug in your dehydrator and carefully place one frozen pea on a dehydrator tray. With the help of your support person, close the door and switch your dehydrator on. Try not to think about what's really happening. Have a cup of herbal tea, and talk about anything but the pea. After the first hour, take a deep breath and examine the pea. Assure yourself that your pea is doing fine. It's not in pain, just loosing a little water. Try not to over-identify with the pea. Remember: peas are not people, they are just peas.

After about three hours, have your support person help you remove your pea from the dehydrator. Study it. Touch it. Maybe toss it back and forth between the two of you. Now place it in a small zip-top bag along with a teaspoon of hot water. Seal it shut and watch what happens. It's coming back to life. Your pea is alive again! You did it!

Now move onto other things. Live on the edge, and dry a whole bag of peas. Dry a jar of spaghetti sauce. For a special treat, dry your kids' peanut butter sandwiches. Be creative! And always remember… your dehydrator is your friend.

© 2003 Christine and Tim Conners - from Lipsmackin' Vegetarian Backpackin'
use without the author's written permission is prohibited.

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