Of course, with all this traveling, we get hungry every once in a while. “What are we going to cook this weekend?” is a standard question that we ask each other while buzzing around the house trying to get ready. Some days we are more organized than others with an occasional “I want to do something totally different this time” coming out of my mouth as I am frantically looking for inspiration by inspecting the alignment of crumbs on the counter, hoping for enlightenment.
Over the years we have found that you don’t have to follow the standard camping fair of hot dogs, burgers, and processed food. As a matter of fact, you can cook just about anything that you stir up at home while camping, keeping it healthy, fun, and delicious. This section is therefore dedicated to just that – a cornucopia of meals that can be enjoyed anywhere, especially while kicking back with a cold beverage in your cup holder.
Let’s talk about some basics that should come along on every trip. We have two plastic tubs that make it easy to have the essentials at hand and ready to go. One is loaded with metal plates, cups, utensils, cutting boards, and a small and big pot. Investing in a cast iron skillet is almost a must and we sometimes also carry a small metal grate from an old hibachi size grill with us if we are using the campfire. However, most of the cooking is done on an old 20+ year old gunky Coleman stove. The other tub contains spices, oil, paper towels, can opener, dish towels, and who knows what. We also always have a few emergency meals in there, primarily pasta that keeps for a while. Don’t forget a lighter!!!
A bit more explanation has to be dedicated to spices since they play a huge role in our cooking, as you will find out if you decide to read on. Here are the basics: salt, pepper, pepper flakes, cumin, coriander, oregano, basil, turmeric, garlic powder, onion powder, cinnamon, paprika, and cayenne. We have some fabulous friends, the Tonnemakers, in Royal City, WA, who have an organic farm. Their peppery spice mixes have also become a staple in our magic tub. A little bottle of fish sauce has been a recent addition along with fajita mix (the non-marinade kind).
You may have noted that I did not mention dishwashing detergent. You don’t need it, especially if you have dogs that will do the pre-washing. Yeah, I can see some of you wrinkling your nose but hey, if you want a sterile environment you may not want to bother with the whole camping thing altogether. Yep, there will be bugs, dirt, and who knows what so keep your gut bacteria happy. That does not mean that you don’t wash your hands – that remains to be a no-brainer given practice. Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap is biodegradable and has been my go-to camping and backpacking soap for decades. Pre-cutting meat will also save you a lot of clean-up hassle so plan ahead, put into a Ziploc, and double bag to ensure that nothing gooey is contaminating your cooler.
I am usually the dishwasher and have found two fabulous tools to get things clean. If you are fortunate enough to have a stream around, the sand/silt serves as a fabulous abrasive, especially for metal pots. The other must is a small conifer needle branch or, if no trees are around, sagebrush or a wad of grass will do equal wonders. Use that as a scrubber and your dishes will sparkle. The hood and windshield of the car serves as a perfect drying rack.