Camping Cuisine: The Taste of Summer


“S’more please,” grin my little girl and boy through chocolate laced smiles. Gooey and smelling very much of scorched marshmallow, they hold grubby little hands out in supplication, an unconscious observance of the sacred summer campfire dessert.756px-Smores_1

There is nothing that will take you back to the simple pleasures of childhood, and of life, than the primordial delights of campfire dining under an umbrella of stars.

The view from below.

It all sounds pretty idyllic but in reality cooking can be a challenge at any time let alone when you have minimal to no water, the very barest of essential cookware, and the only fire the one you have to build.

Exploring Whiskeytown Lake

My husband and I experienced this firsthand when we went camping with our three small children aged 7, 4, and 8 months. We knew it would be a challenge, but the lure of spending our days in a happy rhythm of eating, swimming and sleeping was just too enticing to resist.

We thought quite a bit about how we would feed our family from a grill and cooler. We thought about it, made lists, made menus. We filled our cooler at the last store we found before leaving civilization. Our goal was to really embrace camp cooking and make its limitations into an asset.

Eating by the fire, finger foods, smoky meats, gooey smores, all the traditional foods that make camping so fun, we chose to celebrate in the simplest possible ways. Of course there was grilled corn. We had the requisite beans albeit spiced up with onions, bacon, and manzanilla olives.

Dogs love camping.

But most of our dinners were of the simplest common denominator: a tortilla topped with slices of grilled tri-tip and avocado doused in salsa. Washed down with a beer, this was actually one of the most satisfying dinners possibly ever. The fact that all it took was a knife and cutting board added exponentially to its merit. Hot dogs, of course, were a must. Again, hand held. No dishes. Smores roasted on found twigs, whittled with care. Breakfast and lunches were so simple and again, were the same over and over. Yogurts and fruit, crackers, olives, and cheese. Some salami. Canned fish. Food items easily kept and easily taken. Simple repasts for lazy afternoons spent outdoors.

My husband’s famous Santa Maria Style tri-tip.

Yes, it was minimal and yes, at times I questioned my sanity for camping with three small children and a dog. But then, isn’t that what life is all about? Those memories? Those times we can kick free of our normal routines and reconnect with a more timeless one? Eat and live more simply for a few days.

Last swim of the day.

So don’t be afraid and get out there before summer has passed. Plan on getting dirty and eating with your hands. Plan on rediscovering just how endless those stars are miles away from city lights. Plan on not knowing what time it is and for that to be wonderful. And, most especially, plan on getting chocolate all over your face.

“Yes,” I replied, “you may have s’more.”





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