So what happens when the foodie gene hits an open-air kitchen? Lance and I found out when we introduced Dragon and Kangaroo to camping a couple of years ago. I had the scenario in my mind already – I’d first seen it years ago (I’m deliberately keeping that timeframe vague) when my parents began taking my brother and I camping. Growing up in California, we were treated to the wonders of Yosemite National Park and beyond. One time, I think we even had a campsite with a panoramic view of El Capitan and Half Dome.
But what do I remember most vividly? Not the scenery, but Mom’s Tandoori chicken grilling over the open fire. And an unnaturally high number of things organized in Ziploc bags.
My brother and I joked that we’d get even better food camping than we did at home (sheesh, we were so clueless). We highly anticipated our camping meals. The tandoori meal was perennial: Mom marinated it beforehand (in a Ziploc bag, of course), then rounded it out with a raita (Ziploc strikes again!) and vegetable rice pulau. She had to make the rice with “Veg-All” mixed veggies in a can (it’s camping, after all).
And that tandoori aroma created such a stir that curious neighbors would amble over asking what it was – then joined us for a taste. It was like a cultural outreach program. We did other things, I’m sure, but I really don’t remember much else that well.
Growing up, I remember talking with my friends about their camping trips. They remembered things I’m pretty sure we did too (thank goodness for family photographs): hiking, playing board games, campfires… When I asked my friends about meals, they’d talk about franks ‘n beans, sandwiches, hot dogs – but often they drew a complete blank on their meals. I’m certain my blank stare let them know how well I understood that.
It’s not that the meals we had were so gourmet. We had pancakes from a mix (when Mom didn’t bring her homemade version in a Ziploc bag, natch). But there was continual effort dedicated to what we were eating. And little compromising. The only modifications from cooking at home were the amount of packaging and prep to organize, and the fact that certain forms of cooking couldn’t be easily done (like baking). Otherwise, it was foodie business as usual.
Flash forward a vague number of years, and we’ve taken on our summer camping trip with Dragon and Kangaroo. What was a hot topic? But of course. I pulled up last year’s meal spreadsheet as a reference, but we couldn’t have the exact same menu again, could we? There would be a revolt. After discussions and debates, I finessed the grocery list, and we filled the cooler. Off to Banff National Park we went, already having discussions about the meals we'd have (and in what order).
And there wasn’t an empty Ziploc bag left in the house.
Who writes this blog?
I'm an Edmonton-based writer and genetic counselor on the hunt for the foodie gene... my family is living proof that it exists. Read my blog for musings on food, genetics, and sometimes both at the same time!
© 2020 Deepti Babu
Photo from www.now.tufts.edu