Cooking Without A Kitchen

Cooking Without A Kitchen

We had hoped to create and share some amazing campstove recipes with you, but so far we’re having a tough time cooking anything but the most basic food. Don’t worry, Moms, we are eating, but it’s the kind of food we made in college – survival food. We’re talking pasta with sauce from a jar, “enhanced ramen” (just add veggies!), and soup from a can. We love to cook, and we’re both OK at it, so why is this turning out to be so hard? Here are a few of the difficulties we’ve been facing:

1. The setup. The Coleman has two reliable temps: on and off. When it’s on, it’s on full blast. When it’s off, it’s off. It also has developed a new setting we’ve deemed “fireball.” It’s really hard to cook something with finesse on a jet burner. It does not know the meaning of simmer.

2. The dark. The sun now sets around 5:30pm. We’re racing against darkness: the minutes tick by as we are less and less able to see what we’re doing. Our headlamps attract moths and other bugs that then fall into the supper. And then, as soon as the sun sets, you get:

3. The cold. Brr…it’s winter! Sure, we’re in the desert, but it still gets chilly at night. The cold adds two challenges: first, your fingers get numb and not so nimble as you try to finely dice the garlic. Second, your food gets cold the second it hits the plate. We try to get things as hot as possible, then eat them as quickly as possible.

4. The ingredients. Picture yourself in a typical grocery store. You can only buy enough food to make one meal – no leftovers. What do you buy? This is proving to be quite a challenge. It’s HARD to buy small servings of things – our entire food-buying mentality seems to be based on economy-sized packages. Like bacon, for one. I am craving perfectly cooked bacon like a fiend. But I am not craving a pound of bacon, which seems to be the smallest size available.

5. The dishwasher (or lack thereof). When you’re on a shorter vacation, you just wing it – wipe your plate with a napkin and wash it really well when you get home in two weeks. But this is our home, and it does not have a dishwasher, much less consistently warm water! Unscented, biodegradable soap is our new friend, along with lots of vinegar and baking soda (used separately!). This setup makes cooking any kind of meat a tough proposition (not to mention it attracts skunks).

6. The wildlife. So far it hasn’t been an issue, but at some point we’ll be in scavenger country. That makes things like tuna sandwiches strictly off limits. It’s strange to take into consideration the lingering scent of a food when shopping!

7. The schedule. We typically eat a small breakfast, then a big lunch out, then we cook dinner. Lunch out is cheaper and more of a treat, but we tend to forget to eat it until 2 or 3pm, so we’re not really hungry for dinner at 5pm. This schedule does have a few advantages, though – it is proving to be quite inexpensive and slimming!

So, consider us your Camp Test Kitchen. We’ll continue to try our best to make adult-level food, but it’s going to take some trial and error. At some point, though, we’ve got to get good at this – right??!?

Have you learned any camp cooking secrets? Share your tips and hints in the comments.

A semi-successful attempt at cooking Brussels sprouts to perfection.

6 thoughts on “Cooking Without A Kitchen”

  • Hey Paul & Lisa – a tip for moderating the temp as noted in #1 – buy a metal trivet of some sort that at the right moment you could place on the stove top grate and then put the pot on it to get the cooking pot further from the flame – be sure to get a metal trivet that doesn’t have any paint or other burnable decoration on it of course.

    And you are the Kings & Queens of the Google search but perhaps this site will give you a few ideas (randomly selected without any serious review by me)

    happy camping  Gary C

  • Hi Lisa, Remember the pocket dinners we cooked on camping trips? Seems like that would solve all those problems; heat and light from the fire that cooks the meal, no pots or pans, simple ingredients. You can use hamburger, or other chunks of meat, potato, turnips, vegetables, onions. Wrap it well in foil, put it on a bed of coals, turn it often. Takes some practice to get it right, you have to be careful not to tear the foil, and sometimes some parts get burned while others are not cooked, but when you get it right, it’s really good! Dad.

    • Dad, somehow I had forgotten about pocket dinners!  Most places here you can’t have a campfire, but we’ll work on some new combinations when we can.

  • Lisa, Your Dad is right on!  You guys have to think out of the box.  You can put great ingredients in those foil packs.  Another staple is the pudgy pie meal…think camping panini :)

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