Tuesday, July 14, 2009

We Want Food - Camping Cuisine

While I generally think of myself as a city girl, I do appreciate a good Arcadian setting and have even grown to love a long scenic hike. I still shy away from bird watching and on principle the Congaree Swamp (sorry mom), but I have learned to really appreciate the unique pleasures of nature time. However, being the high maintenance, creature of comfort that I am, I have shied away from camping. I mean really, why sleep on the hard ground and wash up by water bottle when I have a comfy bed and a clean (okay relatively clean) bathroom sink at home? Besides, bears and other scary creatures come out at night.

Nature is for waking hours; civilization for sleeping. Right? Well, certain people, who shall remain nameless disagree, and so after years of resistance, I agreed to try out "car camping" 4th of July weekend. This is where you drive right up to your campsite and pitch a tent. The presence of other campers (in our case primarily South Asian families) and rudimentary facilities nearby, as well as the proximity to our actual home made the whole thing seem a little "Let's play pretend." Like we were ten year olds sleeping in the backyard just for fun. But with the exception of an aching back from sleeping on a slant and the enormously bold, St. Bernard size raccoons, I had a pretty good time.

I especially enjoyed the cooking element of things. Although we could have easily packed sandwiches or something simple in a cooler, as I and another camper were basically camping virgins, Eric, our resident wilderness expert, wanted to show us the real deal. And so we ate camping food. Mainly freeze-dried simulacrums of the real thing. But somehow, outdoors, they tasted pretty amazing.

Here's what we ate:

For lunch while on our hike, our friend Jacob whipped up his famous instant hummus. With a mysterious powdered blend and some water from his canteen, within minutes we had a very satisfying protein source. Served with pita, cheese, and sliced tomato, it was just the sustenance we needed.

For dinner, we were a bit more adventurous. Using our campsite's picnic table as his workspace, Chef Eric went to town, slaving over his little camp stove, he boiled water -

And made couscous,

Kung Pow chicken (!?),

Mac and cheese,

and pasta primavera

Each dish came freeze dried in an insulated bag, to which Eric added boiling water and then sealed.

Before "cooking" the contents were strange dry objects with the taste and texture of Freeto Lay products (the mac and cheese was Cheetos and the pasta primavera a kind of Cool Ranch Dorito. I did not try the uncooked chicken. Old habits die hard.)

Miraculously though, after absorbing the water and resting for about 10 minutes, dinner was served -

The verdict? I kind of loved the food. Even the Kung Pow chicken, which at first was a little grisly grew on me, especially after adding some Butt Burner hot sauce that Daniel had received as a gift and serindipitously left in our glove compartment. About the camping, on the other hand, I'm still a bit on the fence. Maybe real camping complete with backpacks and remote wilderness (therein absent of smelly toilets and emboldened, socialized raccoons) would be more my speed. Plus then I'd have hiked all day would know deep down that I'd really earned the fusion fare that is freeze dried campfire cuisine.

No comments: