Today’s challenge: One pot, one burner, no fridge. The meal must be tasty, nutritious, and cheap. You will have the duration of the days hike to plan your meal and you must use as little fuel and water to prepare the meal as possible. Bonus points will be awarded to the meal that holds heat the longest.
That’s kind of what cooking dinner is like these days. Except that Zach is my only judge and meals usually earn a thumbs up, even if it is just bean stew. The trick there is to get tired and eat late; then anything that is hot tastes good.
Growing up, my parents would pack the red Suburban full of tents, sleeping bags, food boxes, coolers, kayaks and bikes. They would leave a little nook for me and my sister, Clare, to climb in and sit with our knees about six inches from our faces on our respective sides of the Car Food Bag. The Car Food Bag was separate from the camping food bags, which were more for meals rather than in transit consumption. Example: Pringles, carrot sticks, and cheese and crackers in the car food bag, whole tomatoes, loaves of bread, and smores supplies in the camping food bag.
I don’t remember ever hearing Mom and Dad hash out the meal plans before we left for a family vacation, probably because I was in the basement watching Roseanne or cutting up socks to make outfits for my troll dolls, but there was a plan. I know there was a plan because there were always enough cheese slices to last two days, which is about how long cheese can last (according to Dad, who was the only one to eat the last three, squished together, greasy pieces of cheese from the bottom of the ziploc bag). We always ate meals and had exactly what we needed to make those meals, be it olive oil, or salt and pepper, or salad greens. There was stuff in the cooler that we couldn’t eat because it was being used for dinner in three days.
“Nope, nope, nope. We are eating that with the shrimp.” Mom would say.
“Uhhh! But there isn’t any shrimp in here!” I would counter as I surveyed my options of things to snack on in the cooler.
“Ha! Course there isn’t. Hasn’t been caught yet! We’ll pick some up from a truck on the way back from the beach.”
There was the plan. Before we even left for the trip, Mom and Dad were thinking about fresh shrimp and made sure we brought everything else. Now Zach and I are camping and we have our own food box. Some people are making babies, but we are taking it slow and making a food box.
If we are camping for a week, we usually go shopping on Sunday and Thursday for fruits and veggies. Breakfast is usually oatmeal and lunch is usually a pb&j, an apple, and some chocolate. A week of dinners may look something like this:
Fresh off the grocery run, in a park with running water, on a warm evening. Spaghetti with leeks, garlic, mushrooms, broccoli and blue cheese.
In a park with running water on a warm evening. Canned four bean mix, broccoli, potatoes, carrots, silver beet (swiss chard’s cousin), garlic, leeks, s&p
Free camping in a park without running water. Stir fried veggies, ramen noodles, garlic, hot chili sauce.
Free camping in a park without running water. Garlic and leek mashed potatoes and carrots, s&p, fried egg on top
We don’t eat much meat while camping because it is expensive, needs to be refrigerated, and adds another element to clean up. We can get away with a rinse after dinner and using the pan again the next night. Our meals are simple, but always satisfying and make things like hamburgers that much more glorious when we do eat them. Speaking thereof, I think it might be time for a treat….