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A notable exception to our household’s embrace of simple-living principles is my kitchen appliance addiction — justified, in part, by a need for tools to process the produce my husband grows in his gardens. I love my Cuisinart and KitchenAid and Krups toys like a Nevada state legislator loves her guns (minus the creepy sexual innuendo). Yet, I could never understand the point of a dehydrator until recently. Where’s the joy in taking something juicy, saucy or succulent and making it chewy, leathery and wrinkled?

I’ll tell you where: in weighing it! Two cups of spaghetti sauce, for instance, can tip the scale at more than a pound. A whole pound! But spread those two cups on a silicone sheet like you’re slathering a raw pizza, pop them in the dehydrator overnight, and the next morning you’ve got marinara leather that resembles a savory fruit rollup. And it weighs only about 4 ounces. Net reduction: 12 ounces.

Who cares about 12 ounces? I will, in eight days, when I’m on day five of my weeklong, 90-mile backpacking trip through the Sierra Nevada mountains and facing the 13,000-foot Forester Pass. (Note to potential burglars: We have full-time house-sitting, two vicious dogs and the most ruthless home protection system there is: bored retiree neighbors on

I love backpacking, and I’m excited about this impending adventure, but there’s no getting around the truth that schlepping everything I need to survive on my back uphill for eight to 10 hours a day is going to be tough at times. And you know what would make it really suck? Having nothing to look forward to each evening but bland, concentrated, protein glop — which, don’t get me wrong, is fine if delicious food isn’t your thing.

But it’s mine. So, I need a way to synthesize that need with two other critical ones: calorie-dense nutrition and a pack that won’t break my back. Enter the dehydrator. Because the best part about it isn’t even the weight — it’s the magic of rehydration. Take that marinara leather, pour some boiling water over it, and your spaghetti sauce springs back to life, Lazarus-like, savor, texture and all. Dinner is reanimated!

I’m looking forward to our first campsite already. 

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