Camp Food

Food Jan 4, 2022

There is a lot to be said about asceticism, doing with less or without. It's a religious practice. Go to the wilderness and fast or eat little.
There is much to be gained by giving up the things you love that aren't good for you, now, before you have to later anyway.

But sometimes people eat little or do with less, not because they are ascetics, but because they are lazy. I grapple with this problem a lot.

After getting out in the woods and working till the sun goes down, I might rather have something ready to eat from the bag or can. But I try to do better than that. It's part of the whole practice of getting away and purifying yourself, putting your effort into food you can enjoy, and not burdening others with the task.

Generally, I cook one meal a day, with snacks and coffee in between meals. Here's food from a five day trip to the woods.

Monday- Dutch oven, fire baked bread with butter and honey.

Tuesday- Fried bread with butter and apple butter.

Wednesday-Lamb, sliced and grilled on a wood fire, with a little side of "stewed lamb" in foil.

Thursday-One giant butternut squash, cooked with butter in a covered pan.

Friday- Egg and fresh mozzarella cheese pasta.

I can't remember when, but I also had a giant bowl of oatmeal sometime in the week. For snacks, I had dates with peanut butter.

My other favorite camp food, which I had on a previous trip is banana pancakes with maple syrup.

No cookies or ice cream...no sugar in coffee...but I survived. While I could have eaten a lot more throughout the day, and I would have if I weren't so busy with other things...I had to eat more than I wanted to at every big meal to finish what I'd cooked. So it seemed like I ate a lot actually...More squash and pasta than I wanted to...but even doing that is a kind of spiritual practice....to clean all the food off the pan and not let anything go to waste.

But food should be shared. No people came by to share with, but some local dogs stopped by for a bite.

I like cooking on a fire. But I don't have a good way to do it in the rain yet.
So, I plan my food around the weather. My bread turned out well this time, but a little underbaked. That was good enough considering that I pulled it out of the fire just as it started to pour down rain, without getting the bread soaked.

It's a great idea to have a backup way to cook. Previously, I used a backpacking stove that takes little isobutane cartridges....and it was just one burner. I've now upgraded to a two-burner Coleman stove with a propane tank...
It's a world of difference. I can heat up water for coffee and make food at the same time. As a backup backup, I also have a small alcohol stove that I made, similar to this one I used when I lived in Turkey. You can use antifreeze/isopropyl alcohol sold in any gas station as fuel.

I've got plans to eventually make a covered, outdoor kitchen with clay oven, grill, counter, etc.

It somehow seems right that, after a tired day of digging, moving stones, and cutting wood, I should be there after dark, heating up a little water to clean my few dishes...or at least the next morning. A good, organic meal can be had for a quarter hour's wages and some effort. Cooking something well...right, is a kind of alchemy. And I think that a little alchemy in your cooking can help complement alchemy of the soul.

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Joseph Shamis

Joseph Shamis is a recovering academic.

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