This summer, I set out to spend as little time inside as possible. I think I slept in my hand-me-down red sleeping bag all but about eight nights. If you’ve spent time in the woods, you know that camping and fine cuisine are often at odds with each other. A show of hands for anyone who’s hiked 10 miles on a handful of walnuts and half a granola bar they found at the bottom of his or her pack?
And so, faced with a summer spent outside, far from my beautiful lemon zester, I learned how to improvise. Here’s what I learned:
1. PB&J sandwiches taste the best on the second day, after they’ve squished down to the perfect bread-saturation point. Bonus points if they’ve been in a pannier or a dry bag. It’s like a mini solar oven of wonders!
2. Eat aggressively. Sure, share your mac ‘n’ cheese with your fellow campers (nobody likes a pig!), but don’t be polite. Someone offering around the last bite of hummus? Nab that sucker. You’ll be happy and warm at 3 a.m.
3. It’s all in the sauce. Eating a steady diet of onions, bell peppers and carrots over couscous? Seasoning is going to make all the difference. Here’s a recipe that my friend Liam taught me. I think he picked this up in a NOLS course:
Put a bit of oil in your pan with a diced onion. If your camp stove is like my camp stove, holding the pan above the flame will prevent an onion funeral pyre. Now’s a good time to add some diced garlic cloves or garlic powder. Once the onions are getting close to that magic translucent stage, add diced carrots, potatoes (you carried potatoes into the wilderness!? Beastly!), bell peppers, broccoli or whatever else strikes your fancy. Sprinkle the veggies with a few spoonfuls of water to achieve that ultimate steamed veggie effect and cover. Watch it like a hawk! I’ve found that veggies can go from tasty to toasted in less time than a 1967 Mustang can achieve 0-60. Now put a couple dollops of peanut butter and a sprinkling of water in the pan, working the peanut butter into the water with a spoon (or, you know, a stick if that’s all you’ve got) until you’ve got a smooth thin paste. A couple spoonfuls of brown sugar, a generous spoonful of rice vinegar, some hot sauce, soy sauce if you’ve got it and you’re golden! Mix well and serve over instant rice, top ramen or your carb of choice. ¡Buen provecho!