Camp food for thought

There’s nothing more awful than going on a camping trip with some folks and seeing them unload somewhere in the neighborhood of 14 ice chests, upon arrival, at the campground. (Well, OK, check that. There are about 6 million things that are indeed more awful, like being decapitated by an 18-wheeler, or being told you have bladder cancer, or biting the inside of your cheek real hard with a misdirected chomp while eating. But, still … )

All those ice chests send out a foreboding message to the camper who wants to get involved with something beyond dish-washing and the proper arrangement of condiments, that message being, “We’re gonna stick around this picnic table all weekend and get involved in some serious ice chest emptyin’! Yessir, we are talking about a solid weekend of eatin’ and drinkin’, so I hope everybody’s digestive tracts are ready to rock!”

Now, don’t get me wrong. If you’re gonna get it on with a whole bunch of deluxe ranch-style breakfasts, with bacon and eggs and coffee and muffins, and back that up with premium sandwiches and bags of chips, and then cap it all off with various hand-rubbed loin roasts and five-lettuce salads for dinner, I will certainly pitch in and do my part to turn those rations into stabilizing outhouse ballast. Hell, I’ll even help with the clean-up, all without even the eensy-weensiest particle of protest or negativity on my part.

I guess what I’m doing here is speaking up for that much-forgotten John Muir-Ed Abbey minimalist approach to camping grub. Muir’s idea of a glitzy dinner while hiking, you’ll recall, was a chunk of bread, some cheese, water slurped from a stream and maybe some bark for dessert. Abbey was notorious for throwing bacon, cheese, bread, raisins and peanut butter into his raft box before pushing off on down the Colorado for a few days. This basic, meager, simple approach to the chowdown side of a camping trip gives off a different message to your comrades, one of “Hey, we better get out and do something while we’re out here this weekend, ‘cuz all I got to eat are salami and crackers.”

So in trying to find a happy balance between Muir’s spartanics and modern American obesity maintenance, I’m going to share with you a few of my favorite recipes for simple yet surprisingly enjoyable gut-busting while you’re spending time outdoors. While these meals certainly can’t be called fancy schmancy, or even a remote facsimile of large living, they do have some excellent upsides, including (a) incredible speed of preparation, (b) incredibly easy clean-up and (c) incredible inexpensiveness. Plus, they can actually be quite tasty and plenty satisfying as well.

Oops. Once again, I’ve run amok with diarrhea of the keyboard, which means this column just turned into a two-parter. Check back next time for three rock-solid, cheapo-cheapo camping meals.