Campfire Cookery

This is a nice book by Sarah Huck and Jaime Young.

I have been a camper for as long as I can remember. But up until now, our camp cooking has consisted of one of three styles: something close to our regular fare cooked over a propane or butane burner, food of the type that can be stuck on a stick and held over the fire, or food that can be wrapped in foil and stuck in the coals.

I thought that as we were using heat to do cook mostly fresh food, we were doing quite well. This book, however, strives to juxtapose the beauty of and simplicity of nature with the very best in cookery. Huck and Young advocate real cooking over or in your campfire, or, if you must, your backyard fire or grill. Their advice is a mix of practical and silly, told in an archly formal tone so funny that it made the book a delight to read whether or not I had any intentions of trying their recipes. Their packing list started off with essentials, all of which I agreed with (cast iron cookware, steel mixing bowls, three knives) and proceeded on to optional items – a parasol, swathes of lace for keeping flies off food, smelling salts. They include instructions on how to construct a safe fire area in the wilderness, how to build your fire without matches or fire starters, how to gauge the heat of your flame for cooking purposes, and how to return your fire spot to nature when you are done.

The recipes seem mostly French inspired, with some English tea-time thrown in for good measure. They start off with recipes to make at home, including potted spreads, ketchup, and the homemade graham crackers and marshmallows shown on the cover. They move on to all the major meals, tea time, breads and dessert, with suggested beverages (alcoholic and non, but mostly alcoholic) for all of these. Many of the recipes include items they suggest you forage for, or perhaps purchase at a farmer’s market on the way in. They look delicious, though what’s sticking in my mind right now are the roasted figs with honey, and fresh biscuits baked in the fire.

Besides the recipes, which will make you yearn to have companions so devoted to the taste buds at your next camping venture, the book is filled with a multitude of other useful information. There are multiple single-page articles throughout, on such topics as the best edible wild plants and how to tell time without a watch. The final section, on evening entertainment around the campfire, includes star-gazing, songs to sing, how to write haiku, philosophical questions, tips for telling ghost stories with a mix & match ghost story table, and how to read tarot cards, and more. I will need to wait until my daughter is old enough to let me cook without trying to climb into the fire herself to try this style of cooking, and I think even then that I’d venture to do their full-scale cooking not more than once a day.

But they are encouraging enough and complete enough in their instructions to make me feel both that I could undertake such a venture, and that it would be worthwhile.

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