Great & Not-So-Great Camp Meals.
Have you ever read Patrick McManus's books on camping? Beside's doing serious injury to yourself from laughing so hard, he seems to have experienced some of our camp meals. Now we try hard. We do a lot of regular meals, even roast potatos or cornbread in a Coleman oven. And any disasters just whet our appetities for bigger & better.
This is one of our 'bigger & better' attempts.
We were in Newfoundland and happened to catch lobster season. In a little fishing village appropriately named Happy Adventure, there was one dock with about 4-5 boats and a small processing plant. A little shack at the head said "Fish & Lobster For Sale." I told the lady we wanted a couple of lobsters to cook at camp that night.
"You want a couple of small lobsters?" she inquired. "No, BIG ones!" OK. And here she comes back with a pair of 2½-3 pounders. Live! Folks, a 3 pound lobster is BIG! We put the bag in the back and started off looking for a bakery and some bread. By the time we found this little grocery store that had some slaw and Italian garlic bread, the lobsters where wandering around the cabin. We named them Frick & Frack.
We set up camp that night in great anticipation. We broke out a couple of those mini-bottles of wine we had been saving, a metal cup to melt butter & lemon in, and the BIG pot.
Filled it with water and started it a-boiling. That's when we discovered a 3 lb. lobster doesn't fit into a 1 pound pot! OK, improvise. That was our biggest pot, so I had to make the lobster smaller. I held the claws back and put it in head-first. That made the lobster snap into a ball, almost taking my fingers with it. I could then break off the claws and stack them on top. That overflowed the pot. By the time I got the Coleman refired we were starved. Also meant we had to cook them one at a time.
When the first one was the appropriate color of red, we discovered problem #2. We didn't have any lobster tools! Out comes the Westy tool kit. Channel locks & pliers, a Swiss Army knife, my hunting knife and the tweezers from the 1st aid kit were pressed into service. The cole slaw was lousy, the garlic bread, heated on the Coleman in foil, was burnt on the outside, cold on the inside, and with a little of the wine in us, we sat and giggled like kids watching each other fight the meat out of that big old lobster!
Best lobster ever! Even had a huge jack rabbit hop right into the campground to watch us through the open sliding door. Probably glad we weren't into hassenphieffer!
Too many campers cook for convenience -- canned, freeze dried, burgers & hot dogs. And they don't know what they are missing!
Last edited by Capt. Mike; 08-18-2008 at 08:51 AM.
SOS -- just like Momma makes!
My wife makes a version of SOS I actually like. She makes a white sauce and uses thin-sliced dried beef along with some peas & onions plus spices. We put this over toasted English muffins.
I was returning from AK alone. She had flown home from Anchorage -- that work thing back then -- and I was meandering my way home. In camp one night, I was trying to figure out what I wanted to cook, when I spied the package of dried beef. Yea, that's it. The Admiral's SOS.
First, I didn't have any English muffins but now-stale bread will do. I also didn't have any makings for white sauce, but there was a can of chicken gravy in there. It's sorta white. No peas & onions -- oh, well, canned peas & carrots will suffice, along with some dehydrated onion bits. I also didn't have her cayenne or touch of horseradish. But I had black pepper, Tobasco and yellow mustard. Close enough, right?
I dined in style, and except for those minor substitutions and the cramps, it was just like Momma made! Ya gotta cook with watchyagot.
Addendum 6/1/06: I got hungry for my wife's SOS again and there was still a jar of the dried beef in the pantry. It was as superb as I remember it, but . . .! According to our teenager, we were committing child abuse and inhuman treatment. "What is that? Yechhh! It's got peas in it." So she goes for instant macaroni & cheese (A real Yechhh!) but finally puts some on her English Muffin -- after carefully picking out the peas -- and decided it wasn't quite as gross & disgusting as it could be.
I like my Old Man's approach. What is that? "Food, eat it. It's good for you. It prevents injuries." What injuries? "Your Momma made that. When you eat it, I don't knock you upside the head, and you don't get injured."
You know what. He did me a favor. There's so many good foods out there that don't sound or look good right off. Some of 'em sound absolutely disgusting like halibut cheeks, cod tongue, rhamkats (chicken gizzards & hearts), and squid. An old Alaska sea captain tought me Halibut cheeks are the filet mignon of fish. When I kept seeing those "Yes, we have cod tongue" signs in restaurant windows up in Newfoundland, I had to try it. Delicious, pan fried like chicken. An old Southern lady taught me about rhamkats. A pot of gizzards & hearts is cooked all day in a slow crockpot with a sauce of vinegar, butter and several seasonings. They cook down and become very tender & sweet. Then a quick grilling to dry them out and serve with a dipping sauce as appetizer. I usually figure a pound (raw weight) per person and rarely have leftovers -- and that's before the main meal. In South Africa, a friend from Mauritius that owns a restaurant fed me a squid curry and I swear you couldn't tell it from fine veal. I like calimari, too, but have to admit the dried squid in Japan leaves a lot to be desired -- more like fishy rubber bands.
Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that try anything once. I've been to 54 foreign countries and had some weird food, and most of it was actually pretty good. I'll pass on the Egyptian goat cheese and the Vietnamese fish heads, but the rest? Well I'll just eat it first and then ask, "What was that?"
best westy meal i've had was a few years ago when the local vw 'nuts' ( read: dedicated owners ) used to gather on sunday evenings at a parking lot on the main drag. most of the vw's were the beetle variety with no anti freeze or water in sight ( air cooleds )...well talking about 'how momma used to make' ... my mom had made a large batch of perogies and gave me some for the freezer... yours truly showed up at the informal vw gathering...slid open the rolling door...fired up the stove, and placed into the good old cast iron frying pan, some butter and maybe ten perogies or so out of the propane fridge. while my nostrils were being teased, out came the folding aluminum lawn chair. as we all watched the muscle car car crowd 'muscling' their way up and down the avenue, one of our crowd enjoyed a wonderful supper of butter coated perogies AND was REALLY grateful to be a ' van nut ' not a beetle nut. also i have found the knorr one cup soups to be great... hot water in a cup for 5 minutes with the contents of the knorr packet..... i have not tried them in my westy yet but hope to next year.... they were great on some fresh flax bread.... i am told of an indivudual who takes the bread machine along in the camper for freah baked bread in the morning... ( whilst hooked up to 110 of course )
Jason's Breakfast Burrito Stew:
shredded hash browns (1 bag) or 3 large potatoes cut into 1x1" squares
eggs (6, scrambled)
cheese (shredded works best, 1 8oz package)
1-2 tbsp butter or oil (can substitute water)
Onions, peppers, mushrooms
Sour cream, guacamole, hot sauce, salsa
On med-high heat in a large pot, brown the sausage about 3/4 done-ness. Add butter/oil/water, and hash browns or potatoes (add veggies when potatoes reach about 1/2 done-ness). Brown sausage and potatoes. Add the eggs and stir until done. Add the cheese, continue on med heat until cheese is melted. Can also add salsa.
Spoon into tortillas, add toppings, roll into burrito, and enjoy!
As the camping season here in Manitoba winds down, the mornings can be pretty chilly. A good way to start the day well warmed up is to make chocolate chip oatmeal.
We make it for two as follows: In a pot, put 1 cup quick-cooking oatmeal, a little salt, cinnamon to taste, 4 tablespoons of raisins, and 2 cups of water. Heat and stir until the desired consistency is reached, and spoon into two bowls. Then stir 1 tablespoon of chocolate chips into each bowl. Add milk and optionally a little brown sugar and enjoy. (calories? what calories?)
It's so good, I don't even mind cleaning the pot after.
Another wise axiom from Patrick McManus: "Never eat the green stew."
If your kid is hollering for Egg McMuffins at the Golden Arches instead of real food when you're camping, try this.
The idea behind the English Muffin sandwich wasn't bad. But the execution of making it will kill you. Start with Canadian Bacon -- at least the razor thin slice from a heartburn emporium -- doesn't have much 'camping' taste. Because it doesn't have much aroma, which is where much of the taste is. You can't tell it from cheap ham, pressed ham (if it is indeed different). Since honest-to-goodness-from-Canada Canadian bacon is twice as expensive as the fast-food version, ask yourself why they would go that route and then use a semi-recognizable lump of dough for an English Muffin?
Try bacon, paddy sausage or country ham (if you can find the latter up North). If you can't get country ham, at least go for a goodly slab of smoked or seasoned. From the deli counter, not the generic paper-thin stuff in the sandwich-makings bin at the supermarket. It's also OK to butterfly a couple of link sausages. We're trying to avoid the 'pressed meat' substitutes so commonly sold in blister packs for their 'convenience.'
For a couple of bucks you can get a set of egg rings at one of the kitchen stores just like the fast food joints use. (Except individual, not in banks of 48.) We found a set with a folding handle to reduce storage size. Pierce the yolk but please don't try to duplicate that folded sheet of canned eggs!
Next get a good brand of English muffin. Real English muffins are fried, not baked. Then open it by breaking apart with a fork, not smoothly slicing with a knife. Those little 'peaks & craters' one brand advertises do make a difference. When you toast it, do it crispy on the inside so it doesn't soggy up and you squeeze out your makings. Bagels make a fair breakfast sandwich, too.
Pick a cheese that actually has flavor, which won't be a slice of that solidified Cheese Whiz individually wrapped in a pack. Slice it off a real chunk. 'Sharp' is a minimum because the flavor softens a bit when heated. Wait until the very end and then just enough to show softening, so it doesn't melt into a gooey slick on top of your sandwich. It'll continue to soften in the made sandwich. Experiment. Swiss or provalone are good, too.
Finally -- and what is missing at the fast food joints, is to butter -- very thinly -- one side and on the other, put a tiny bit of jelly. It really doesn't matter what kind. It should be so thin you can get a hint of the sweetness but can't really identify it. A fast food packet will do at 2-3 muffins.
Ever heard of "tin can chicken?" It's the best thing since sliced bread. Take a 3 pound chicken and wrap it in heavy duty foil. Take a 3# coffee can and punch 4 holes in the bottom/side of the can with a bottle opener. Put 13 charcoal brickets inside the can and light. When the coals are ready put the chicken in the can "head down" (if it still had a head). Wait two hours and get ready to eat fall off the bone tender chicken. Great with tortillas and salsa.
I get the can preloaded with charcoal and all ready to go before a trip. Cook the chicken and then throw the can away!
Ludwig van: My wife is a big oatmeal eater, but likes the multigrain variety. It's become very hard to find lately -- may have been dropped from Quaker's lineup. She likes frozen blueberries in hers. They defrost in the hot cereal quickly or can be dropped in during cooking. There are a number of dried or dry-frozen berries that can also be added but they need to be added prior to cooking so they rehydrate in the cereal. I like cherry, but cranberry, apple or even banana add to the flavor.
Like most of us here, I've learned through trial and error with my camping meals. Gone are the days of 'Hell's Kitchen on Wheels'; I go for simplicity as well as nutrition now. For days on end camping (Everybus and High Country Bus Festival), I actually write out each day of the week, and write out the contents of each meal. I learned the hard way one year; I limited myself to one meal a day so that the kids could eat at every meal, since I didn't guesstimate the correct amount of food I thought to bring!
Remember the simplicity! My typical menu minimizes prep/ cooking/ refrigeration, so they look like this:
breakfast: instant oatmeal (add raisins or bananas if you want)
bagels (with peanut butter)
oranges, apples, or bananas
lunch: bagel sandwiches (slice of cheese, or pb&j)
with pretzels or peanuts
dinner: Here's where I get something more substantial, and use this as my one cooked meal a day. Chili -- cook one pound of spicy sausage in a pot. Add a can of kidney beans, a can of black beans, and a can of navy beans -- juice and all. I add cumin, black pepper, and Texas Pete to taste. Spaghetti -- cook a pound of spicy sausage in the pot. I know it sounds weird, but try it! Add two cans of spaghetti sauce, and put uncooked noodles directly into same pot. Simmer it all stirring occasionally, adding some garlic and basil to taste.
Both dinners feed four, and minimize the amount of cooking (and utensils to be cleaned).
I always have peanuts on hand for drunk (or sober) snacking, as well as raisins. Plain bagels do for something to keep a belly satiated until dinner.
Last edited by Capt. Mike; 08-18-2008 at 09:00 AM. Reason: Remove incompatible formatting.