Camping for Food Lovers
S'mores and a whole lot m'ore.
Welcome to the campfire! Take a seat on any rock you like. You’re just in time for s’mores. Which Pantone color is your ideal marshmallow: Spanish Villa, Affogato, or Toasted Coconut?
Does anyone else daydream menus for hyper specific fantasy occasions? Camping is one of my favorites, always somewhere beautiful and remote. Well, I’m delighted to report that I spent last weekend living this specific fantasy.
We walked along an abandoned train track to pick wild blackberries for our morning pancakes! We precariously carried fishing poles and beers over a rocky shoreline to find a semblance of a beach! We did many other extremely picturesque, late summer in the Pacific Northwest activities.
Unsurprisingly, I loved the thought exercise of stocking a cooler for a few days away from the kitchen. Like Buckminster Fuller, my camping cooking philosophy is to do more with less. I want unfussy but delicious meals made with only a few perishable ingredients or tools. It’s a fun puzzle to solve, and just like cooking for a holiday, easiest done in pieces. Why stress out assembling everything fireside when you can use a few make-ahead or store-bought components?
Our trip was brief but there were still a few noteworthy meals: piri piri steak tacos (sliced and marinated in advance), fluffy pancakes with foraged blackberries (simplified with Bisquick and forever enshrined in my first ever Reel), and because it’s the brief time of year where tomatoes taste amazing, the best damn BLT of my life (assembled on the hood of my sister’s car).
I hate to say it, but fall is approaching. You’ll never catch me hyping up the end of stone fruit season, but at least the next few foliage-filled months will provide some peak camping opportunities. I hope you’ll find an occasion to cook at least one meal outdoors.Maybe you’ll be grilling veggie burgers in a cast iron. Maybe you’ll go all out and make guitar string chicken. Whatever menu is planned, it never hurts to round out the cooler with a few flavor boosters. These are some of my favorites:
Maple syrup. Whether you’re pre-mixing dry ingredients or just relying on Bisquick (my preferred approach), pancakes are a perfect camping breakfast. Yes, eating syrup-less pancakes is a tragedy alone, but maple syrup also plays well with a slew of other meals. Use a swig to sweeten oatmeal, round out a quick dressing, or makeover your morning coffee.
Hot sauce. A self-explanatory addition to tacos, sandwiches, charred veggies, eggs, and basically everything you cook. We used excellent leftover carrot habanero salsa from the Portland torta spot Güero on our recent camping trip, but any favorite would be great.
A punchy spice blend: Don’t pack your entire spice drawer. Instead, take a few seconds at home to mix up an ultra-flavorful spice blend and sprinkle it over tin foil-baked potatoes, grilled corn, eggs, and everything else. Think: aromatic Somali xawaash, herbaceous Middle Eastern za’atar, or a blend of garlic powder, cumin, and smoked paprika.
Lemons/Limes. You’ll never regret throwing some citrus in the cooler. Use a squeeze to brighten up boxed mac ‘n cheese, chili, or any other delicious (but admittedly stodgy) non perishable meals. Add a wedge to your 4 p.m. beers, or make a campfire hot toddy to keep yourself warm while watching for falling stars.
The tools I always forget (but wish I didn’t): Extra containers to store leftovers, a collapsible cutting board, and at least two prep bowls.
Pop Culture Potpourri
Dinner party playlist: My parents celebrated their 30th anniversary recently, so my sister and I made a collaborative playlist to soundtrack the occasion. I’ve been playing it while cooking/eating dinner ever since.
Longread: How Russia Wins the Climate Crisis. We often hear about how countries will be destroyed by climate change, but Russia is among a group of northern nations who stand to benefit from warming temperatures. A must read about the future of farming, global politics and much more.
When Did Vinegar Get So Cool? (Eater). I went (very!) deep on the origins of our delicious artisanal vinegar renaissance. I’m extra proud of this one so please give it a read.
The Quintessential Party in the Park (Food Network). I shared some tips on throwing a leave-no-trace picnic, how to zhuzh up store-bought desserts for stress free sweetness, and more.
Aliza’s Guide to NYC (Lovebites). I was asked to share some of my favorite NYC spots for eating, drinking, and people watching for a new food and drink catalogue! Keep your eyes out for a print version this fall.