We went camping last week. Yes, camping. Hard for us to believe. Don was an Eagle Scout and my parents used to take my sister and I on various backpacking trips when we were too small to protest. So there is camping in both of our backgrounds. There has, however, been no camping in our lives in the past, what, 30 years? So it was a bit of a leap-of-faith for us. This was car camping, so I can already hear some of you scoffing – that’s not camping! For us, it was camping. Sleeping on the lumpy ground in a sleeping bag and tent is camping. Going in the car does mean that you can bring things that you might not if you had to carry it in on your back. Can you say cast iron? We took full advantage of this fact and loaded up the car. Don had his condiment carryall, which he carefully planned out for a week – Siracha, mustard, tahini etc. I channeled our meals on vacation in the Carribean where the resources are slim. I pre-cooked a batch of farro and brought it in a ziploc. Same with a batch of chickpeas. Ditto a double batch of home made pancake mix. We froze various proteins (chicken thighs/drumsticks bathed in garlic/olive oil/sumac, ground lamb and various sausages from Rosemont) which did double duty keeping the cooler cold and allowing us to bring a couple days worth of proteins. By the time we were ready to cook the chicken it had defrosted, but never gotten warm. I baked a big batch of chocolate chip cookies. They were good, but so were the s’mores, which we had to add bacon to…. I know bacon gets added to everything, but bacon s’mores were quite tasty. You know we were going to eat well on vacation. It was a fun challenge to cook with limited tools. Liberating in a way that I always find restrictions to be. Some of the best dishes happen when you don’t have much in the larder.
We were camping with friends, because it’s more fun that way, and they brought all sorts of more experienced camper gear. Included in that category was a wood fired toaster. This is just a little perforated disc with a couple of pieces of wire that hold your bread vertical. It was an ingenious little tool that I greatly enjoyed using. I’m sure it was part of a well-equipped camp-side kitchen in the 19th century. There were a couple of propane stoves and our friend David brought his self-fired coffee-maker. A little twist of the gizmo and his French Press coffee pot had a heating element built into the bottom. Very cool. I felt very clever for bringing pint size canning jars for drinking, because we could use them for both hot and cold beverages. But that’s about as clever as I got. It is true that everything tastes better cooked over an open flame. We pushed the picnic tables together and had a great feast. Summer is good!