With summer here, inevitably someone is going to suggest I give up the burden of air conditioning, properly prepared food, washed hair and a comfy mattress to enjoy the pleasures of sleeping on dirt, swatting mosquitoes and eating unrefrigerated food badly prepared over a smokey fire.
This, supposedly, is done in the name of fun.
Look, I am not good at camping. I am not good at anything outdoors. I clearly remember last week when Mother Nature tried to kill us with a series of tornadoes, and besides, I always pack for the wrong frontier (toothpaste and Tang? Or 120 pounds of salted pork and bolts of muslin to trade with the Indians?).
I like my apartment and I try to exist in it as often as possible. I don't want dirt or spiders or poison frogs or West Nile, but my friends insist that sunshine and water outside of a bottle might not be entirely lethal.
If you have to go, then eventually you'll have to eat something besides gum. Here are a few stunningly easy, adequately tasty recipes I've picked up.
Trout I used to work in a restaurant where they stuffed trout into a wad of aluminum foil and cooked it on the griddle. Slop on a side of steamed veggies and rice pilaf and that will be $15.99, thank you very much. There's salt on the table, in case you want to taste something. I can't tell you how to clean a fish. I refuse to learn how because my professional opinion is that fish innards are yucky. I don't catch fish because I am a wuss of the highest order and impaling an earthworm on a hook makes me squeamish. I prefer to leave that to the fine folk who make a living from catching, cleaning, packing and shipping fish to my local grocer. God bless you all.
But let's say you're a significantly stronger person than I am, and you have a fish clean and ready to cook. Leaving the skin on, stuff the fish with butter, garlic, yellow onion, sage and lemon disks. Wrap the fish in foil and set it on hot coals with the folded side down, that way when you flip the fish (and only flip it once), all the juices will stay inside. Cook the trout for several minutes on each side, until the meat inside is firm and white or gray-brown. If you left the head on, the eye should be a solid white, which is the most horrifying thing I can imagine. At least it tastes good, and you didn't have to break a 20. Peel back the skin and pick away at the meat.
S'mores I quit religion when I was 8 at Vacation Bible Camp. As a reward for good behavior and reciting Bible verses, the teachers let us make s'mores. Only instead of marshmallows, we used marshmallow fluff. And instead of bricks of chocolate, we got sprinkles. I remember wondering what God allows that kind of blasphemy, and it's all been downhill from there. Looking back, I don't know what I expected the teachers to do. They couldn't let a bunch of sticky, 8-year-old fingers roast marshmallows indoors, and chocolate is probably some kind of sin (I don't know, I never finished the Bible). But still, why make s'mores at all? I am lukewarm, indeed.
Obviously, the only way to make s'mores is with graham crackers and oozing chocolate with a charred-black marshmallow. But if you can't stand to be on the straight-and-narrow, I've seen s'mores with moist brownies in place of the chocolate, or open-faced s'mores with the marshmallow browned by a blowtorch. My favorite option is combining chocolate, marshmallow and chunks of graham cracker into a fondue pot. I can't figure out why anybody eats anything besides fondue.
I don't know how you would lug a pan of brownies or a fondue pot to the campsite with you, but since you've already dragged a sack of vegetables and an herb garden with you for the trout, how hard could it be?
Chili Accurate or not, I like the image of cowboys spitting around a campfire, watching chili bubble in a pan while their huffing and swaybacked horses get gnawed on by raccoons. So it seems sad that such a tradition has evolved to warming up a can of Wolf Brand and stowing the extra in Gladware.
Alternatively, if you have an appetite and something heavy and made from leather, think about making your own. Just brown two pounds of ground chuck in a skillet and add diced onions and black beans. Dump in a can of diced tomatoes, tomato sauce and tomato paste. Cook until the onions disappear. Salt and pepper to taste. Watch the salt, though, depending on your supply and quality of water. Crackers go good with chili. Cholera does not. This recipe isn't as spicy as what clung to the cowboys' mustaches, but trust me. You'll thank me later.
Bee Soup Unfortunately, there is no play on words here. If you find an abundance of bees on your hands (or face, or flowers or campsite or wherever), I've heard you can toss them in a pot and boil them until the venom burns off. And then you can eat it like chicken noodle soup, except it's full of bees. Also, I've never tried this. I promise to make another post when I do. Maybe Bear Grylls and I can go for a pot of boiled urine afterward.
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You could just munch of a bag of trail mix. Or go hungry. You'll climb back down the mountain and be home in three days, anyway.
Wild Game I'm not here to say that meat is murder, or that hunting is altogether wrong, or that wild game and unusual protein isn't delicious. I just think when you spy a lone rabbit through a high-powered scope and fire something devastatingly fast and powerful into its fluffy little hide, that's unfair. What chance did the rabbit have? How much of a sport is that? Bambi was actually a documentary about the havoc wrecked by irresponsible hunters. I can only see myself killing a deer so I can crawl inside of it for warmth, and even then I'd offer an elaborate dance and thanks to the gods (the ones that disapprove of sprinkle-laden s'mores, of course).
At least keep the honor and respect in hunting. Try tangling with something your own size, like an angry bear. How do you cook a bear? I don't know. Tell me in the comments section, along with all you have to say defending the great and noble sport of hunting.