Camping and Cooking….Ahhhhh
With the end of July and beginning of August being the most popular summer vacation weeks we thought this is the perfect time to touch on food safety when you’re camping and we’ll also give you some camping recipes that are easy and delicious.
I’ll start by saying I love camping. When I was young I remember my Nana and Grandpa taking me camping. The musty smell of that green canvas Coleman tent, my Grandpa in his undershirt and workpants, setting up the campsite. As the hammer thumped the first peg into the ground you knew this was the beginning of a week of adventure. It seemed like we traveled for hours to get to this magical place, when in fact they only took us to Musselman’s Lake in Stoufville a mere 30 minutes from where I grew up. I remember wandering the park as my grandparents worked fascinated by all the tents of various shapes and sizes. The “rich people” who had trailers and permanent sites with patios, flowers and patio lanterns. Oh how I loved those patio lanterns, even during the day you knew the promise they held for the night. The softest glowing light in a rainbow of colours and shapes. The little Tiki men, the traditional Chinese lantern shape, the tulips, sigh… how I coveted the tulip shaped lanterns. The pinks, mauves, yellows and turquoise. I was convinced my mom should buy me some so they could hang in my room year long. Camping meant eating simple, my Nana wasn’t gourmet in the kitchen at home with all the gadgets to begin with and that blue metal Coleman cooler didn’t hold much but you knew when that old green Coleman stove got fired up the food would be good regardless. I can close my eyes as I type this and smell the bacon in the cast iron pot; I can hear the sizzle and sputter as the eggs drop in beside it. The whole campground smelled of bacon as the campers came to life and prepared for another day of adventure. Lunch was on the go, that square slice of ham smeared with bright green relish on white, squished against the handle bars of my bike. If I peddled fast enough I could let go of the handlebar and take a bite… it was heaven. Dinners while camping, I honestly don’t remember, perhaps I rushed in, ate and was gone so quickly I really don’t know. But the campfires, I remember those. Everyone had a campfire, some under the glow of those beautiful patio lights, others I remember the flame dancing alone in the vast blackness of the night only occasionally revealing a glimpse of the campers around it. Hotdogs were the norm and if you has been good a marshmallow or two then off to bed, on the best nights the warmth of the sleeping bag and the hum of the insects would lull you to sleep. Life was good
Some years later my Grandparents bought a trailer and we would spend weeks at the lake. The big fridge in the new shed meant food was in good supply and small hibachi was replaced with a larger bbq. While breakfast and lunch stayed pretty much the same, dinners became memorable with steak and chops grilling, the savoury smoke mouth-watering. Always eating now under the warm glow of our patio lanterns.
Today 35 years later I love camping. We did the tent thing when the kids were little but quickly bought a tent trailer. And despite the fact we consider this roughing it we don’t go without. Many a fellow camper has complimented us on our kitchen setup. Strangely the colours haven’t changed in 35 years, green Coleman stove and blue Coleman cooler or should I say coolers because there are usually 3, add to that the small fridge in the trailer, full size Bbq and you can begin to see… we eat well when we camp.
On average we camp for over 30 days between May and October and more often then not there are at least 3 other families camping too. The first trip a celebration of summers arrival and the last, usually a turkey dinner surrounded by good friends for Thanksgiving. The secret of successful cooking when camping is good tools. Invest in good coolers! http://campingwithgus.com/2011/04/03/camping-tips-pick-camping-cooler. My pots are cast iron with the exception of the huge pot we deep-fry the turkey in. My utensils are good quality and long handled so they easily transition from Bbq to open fire. Good long oven mitts…you need these when cooking with cast and many a night they have saved my arms from the fire when late night snacking.
More important then what you’re cooking with is the food you’re cooking with. Has it been safely prepared and stored? I won’t pretend to know all the secrets but http://www.inspection.gc.ca/food/consumer-centre/food-safety-tips/food-handling/picnicking-hiking-camping/eng/1329169559628/1329169688727 is the best link I have found for tips on safe food storage, handling and preparation. Nothing is worth putting your family at risk, so take the time and do it right!
As I mentioned we average 30 days of camping a year but the lengths and destinations vary. Last summer had us adventuring through Eastern Canada for just over 3 weeks; Thanksgiving was a short and sweet 3 days stay. But one thing never changes, the importance of food. From the cooler in the truck as we pull out of the driveway to sustain us enroute to the picnic tables pulled together sitting 17, food is an integral part of the festivities and part of creating the memories… Who doesn’t have a camping memory including food? I spend many a night before baking, chopping, marinating and such, in order to have convenience and efficiency while away. My ènroute`cooler is brimming with Dingo Farms jerky and cured meats chopped and sliced, in an assortment of flavours to satisfy everyone. Assorted cheeses and chopped veggies complete the package along with icy water to help keep things cool. But this isn’t just for the drive, this combination works amazing for other on the go activities like hiking and canoeing. If room is an issue (the kids never want to carry too much) a Ziploc bag with Dingo farms jerky and a bottle of water and the kids are set to go with no worries about food safety. I love that! Breakfast most days has to be a quick fix… who wants to wait around while mom cooks when there are adventures to be had. Dinners are well planned in advanced yummy Dingo Farms meat. Steaks, my favourite kebabs, marinated pork with humus and pita. Can’t forget the amazing burgers and if we are lucky some fresh fish. Dinners are a chance to slowdown and share the day. The laughs and giggles. The special finds and secret trails. This is what memories are made of! But what I love, my favourite part of camping is the camp fire. This is where the families gather, a communal fire with the promise of more good food and tales from the day and a story… I am famous for my stories. Bigfoot, aliens and spooky tales based on the local folklore are always favourites, the best stories are supported by camp rangers and have had quirky hints placed around the camp ground days prior to the telling of the dreaded tale. As the tales unfold we comfort ourselves with food naturally. Smores, peanut butter cones and mini apple pies are favourites with the kids the adults crave a savoury fix. Jalapeños stuffed with cheese and bacon, taco bit or bacon, parm, jalapeno dip top the list of must haves. Everyone retires peacefully content and the soft lull of the insects takes you to sleep. These are the times that memories are made of… all the effort to organize and pack are worth it. Even as I type this I am bombarded by memories both from my childhood and as an adult with my own kids. These adventures not only shape your kids they shape you, remind you the importance of slowing down. Slow down!
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