I have done a lot of camping. And, with camping comes a special kind of cooking.
Sometimes you cook over a campfire. Or you may have a small traveling Hibachi. Or a propane fueled campfire stove. Or, if you get really lucky, the campsite provides grills.
(We are not talking about cooking over a cute little electric stove in an RV. That’s cheating and you know it.)
While such outdoor cooking should, all things being equal, be just like grilling out in your back yard, it isn’t.
Not by a long shot.
Because, unlike cooking on your own turf - where your kitchen and your sink and your pantry are handy - when you cook on a camping trip you are cooking “on the go”.
And cooking “on the go” means being prepared.
When you are not sufficiently prepared you wind up with such delicacies as: Invisible Bacon, Shingle Steak, and Charcoal Pizza.
Never heard of any of these?
Allow me to illuminate you with my camping recipes:
Invisible bacon: On our first camping trip as newlyweds, my husband and I brought all the food we would need to cook over the campfire. Including some lovely bacon.
Unfortunately we forgot to pack any pans.
How to cook the bacon?
“You can wrap a baked potato in aluminum foil and put it in the fire to cook. Let's do that with the bacon!”
We did. After 6 minutes we peeled open the foil to reveal..... Nothing. The bacon had been completely consumed by the heat. Leaving behind only a few ashes and some grease.
Shingle steak: One of my favorites.
When we bought our first house it needed a new roof. When we tore off the old roof, it included the original cedar “shake” shingles. Being thrifty, we saved this wood and thought it would be a good idea to take it with us when camping, thus saving us from having to buy firewood.
This turned out to be a colossally bad idea. Little did we know that 1917 cedar shingles are covered in creosote. For those of you not familiar with creosote, it is not tasty. It is not savory. It is, in fact, toxic.
The steaks we cooked over this fire would have to work hard to rise to the description “inedible”.
Charcoal pizza: We often camp with another veteran camping family.
On one occasion the wife was eager to try out a recipe for campfire pizza that she found in a camping magazine. She layered “pop open” biscuit dough and pizza sauce and cheese and pepperoni into a Dutch oven, covered it, and put it into the fire.
Then she got to the part of the recipe that said "bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes".
I don't know if you are aware of this but campfires A) don't have thermostats and B) get MUCH hotter than 400 degrees.
We opened the Dutch oven to find a sauce covered charcoal briquette.
The cheese was almost edible and, being desperate (and starving) we scraped it, and some of the sauce, off for the evening’s sustenance.
Even when you are properly prepared, cooking on a camping trip can be an adventure.
One time I got to make Sloppy Joes in the pouring rain – the secret to this is bringing frozen Sloppy Joe filling that you made the night before, putting it into a saucepan, getting the fire going just before the rain starts, covering the saucepan, and ducking into the tent to stay dry while the filling starts to thaw and, hopefully, heat up to a temperature beyond tepid. You then are in a race between the time it takes to heat the filling and the time it takes for the rain to put the fire out. Leave the tent every two minutes to stir.
Another adventure are “almost cooked” pancakes. You make these with a small nonstick skillet or griddle on the propane camp stove. I call them “almost cooked” because, as with the Sloppy Joes, it is a race between the batter cooking all the way through and the camp stove running out of fuel. My score so far: pancakes 2, camp stove 5.
Of course, if you want to take the easy route, you just stick to hamburgers, hot dogs and brats.
But where is the adventure in that?