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How to survive a campsite meal
Developing camping skills
Making a campsite meal go smoothly is a skill most people have to develop. Troubles can abound that are not always easy to anticipate. Being prepared ahead of time can do wonders to take your meal from beginning to end with as little headache as possible.
Time for a campsite meal
The first hurdle that you may encounter is time. When you are at home, your food is stored in or near the kitchen in convenient storage devices. This is a no-brainer; they’re called cabinets and a refrigerator. Campsites have limited storage and usually consist of grocery bags, cardboard boxes and a cooler. Assembling a meal from this type of arrangement takes more time than it does in a well-organized kitchen, even if you are making something as simple as peanut butter and jelly. Whether you are unpacking the back of a car or a backpack, time is added.
The second time related issue is cooking. If you don’t already have a fire going, you’re not going to be eating for at least another hour. Starting a fire is not done with a knob that you turn on your stove. There’s no need get into how to start a fire right here but it’s an art form in itself. Proud artists that campers are, they usually wind up having more than one opinion on how it’s done. The basics are hard to argue with, however. Arrange the kindling, arrange the wood, strike a match. (If you’re thinking, “That’s not how it’s done!” look me up later for a discussion on fire starting.) Once your fire is going, you need to cook on it. Do you have a platform or some kind of grill? If not, you need to arrange the burning wood so a pan or pot can sit on it. None of this includes preparing the food. If you’re using teamwork, one of you can get the food ready. Be warned; if the fire is not going by the time the food is prepared, you may wind up with a fire-side critic with lots of critiquing time on his or her hands.
The right campsite equipment
It might seem simple enough to pack the right stuff but once you are on site, you may realize there was more needed than you thought. The number one item on the list of essentials when making a campsite meal is a can opener. Nothing ruins the mood of a campout quicker than a group of hungry people sitting around an unopened can. A trip to the store might take hours or not be possible at all. The other essentials are a little more obvious; pots and pans, containers for leftovers, eating utensils, plates, etc.
One last item that many campers overlook on the list of campsite meal essentials is light. A flashlight does not light an eating area very well. It can also be very frustrating trying to cook food in a flashlight beam. The uneven light can make it very hard to tell if meat is cooked thoroughly. A lantern is a very good idea and halogen campsite lighting is available in most places where camping goods are sold.
An essential part of a meal should be clean hands. Campsites will make you dirty very quickly. Cooking or eating with dirty hands is not desirable to most people. Having even a little bit of water set aside for hand cleaning is a good idea. In contrast, the dirt Mother Nature puts on you is usually pretty harmless stuff. It’s always good to err on the side of cleanliness if you’re not sure. Don’t forget you’ll have to wash the dishes too.
Campsite food choices
The best way to have a good meal at a campsite is to forego your favorite meals and simplify instead. Preparing and eating a meal in a campsite can take from one to two hours in many cases. It’s rarely less and sometimes it’s more. The best way to avoid this is by choosing foods that take little or no preparation. Cheese and summer sausage is a great way to go. Peanut butter and jelly, cold cuts eaten as-is, cold spaghetti from a can, raw fruit and vegetables, and many other simple meals will make campsite dining much faster and easier.
Enjoy the great outdoors
If you don’t want to spend half your day preparing a few meals, think ahead. Although making a campsite meal can be a lot of fun, it can also take effort and time. If you want to eat and go, make you meals simple. Ready-to-eat (and healthy) foods may be the best option.