As the parent of a son who has just bridged from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts, I’ve been thinking a lot about camp cooking recently. The truth is, you can cook many of the things you can cook at home when you’re off camping, the big limitations are food storage, and cooking equipment.
Fortunately, most of their camping trips qualify as what I call ‘car camping‘. This doesn’t mean you camp in the car, just that they’ll be camping close enough to where the cars are parked that they can bring a bit more equipment with them and not have to worry about hauling it for miles of hiking or canoeing. It may even mean that having a cooler of ice with some perishable food items is acceptable, though I guess we’ll have to take a trip or two with the Boy Scouts before I figure out if this is true or not. And of course some trips require long hikes, or canoe trips which mean they have to be careful about the weight of the food, and the equipment they carry to cook the food in.
This weekend we did some very basic outdoor cooking, and I showed him how to start a fire in a charcoal grill. We then cooked some baked potatoes in the coals, and some hot dogs and steaks on the grill. While I doubt charcoal will be a common cooking method for his camping experiences, I do think he’ll be able to do similar cooking using wood fires and grill grates located at some of the camp sites.
On past camping trips, I’ve used Sterno fuel and a modified tin can as my cook stove. I usually just use it to boil water for my morning coffee or some hot cocoa for my son, but I’ve also cooked scrambled eggs on it. In order to make things more portable, I’m going to buy him an actual Sterno Stove so it will be a bit more compact for taking in his backpack. It will also probably be a little bit hotter fire because the flame will be a little closer to the food he’s cooking.
While there will be some trial and error, in the long run I think my son will figure out the mechanics of cooking outdoors, though I’m told the Scouts usually burn their food the first trip, which teaches them to do it better the next time. I’m more worried how his picky tastes will affect what gets cooked at camp, but learning how to meet the needs of a small group of people and not just your own tastes is part of what he’ll learn in time. And he did surprise me by enjoying the baked potato this weekend, so perhaps his taste buds are starting to mature a bit. Not sure I want to start sharing my steaks with him too soon though.
Peace, love, and bacon grease!