I always try to eat delicious food. Unfortunately I don't have that much money, so I have to cook a lot of it at home. But thats OK because I love cooking and I love eating at home with my wife. This is a website with my favorite recipes and a little bit of commentary.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Camping Food Part 1

Next week I am taking the annual camping trip. Every year I spend about a week camping out. Friends from all over the country come to join me and we have a great time. One part about camping that I really enjoy is the food. I can hear the moans now. What you probably remember about camping was the one time your dad took you. It was the middle of the summer, 110 degrees out and you went to some crappy lake. It was hotter than crap during the day until it started raining. You wanted to go home and he insisted you stay. The tent leaked and you had to sleep in a crappy wet sleeping bag. That is not how camping should be done. There is a method to camping that can make it more fun than just about any other vacation you might take.

One key is to have good, well maintained equipment. Another knowing how to use it. Another is selecting times of the year when the weather is more moderate - ie spring and fall. Selecting a place to camp is also very important. The more woodsy and scenic the better.

Let me tell you about the last time I camped. It was in April and two friends of mine and I piled in the car and went on a road trip. The first night we ended up in Shrevport Louisiana. We got in so late that we decided not to camp. Instead we stayed at the Isle of Capri Casino. My friend joined some club (for free) and we stayed in an awesome room for $50. Split three ways that was hardly anything. We ate at the in house cantina for like $5 a piece and had some awesome drinks to boot. The next morning we set out for Grand Isle State Park. If you can only camp a few places in your life, one of them needs to be Grand Isle State Park in Louisiana.

It is about an hour and a half south of New Orleans on the gulf. It really is an island and because there is only one road to it, it is fairly isolated. The other thing is that no one knows about it, so there were only a few other people there. In April the weather is perfect on the island. It was 70 degrees and there was a nice breeze.

One the way down we stopped in a grocery store and stocked up on a few things for the night. I bought a bottle of Mount Gay rum and stuff for pina coladas. We also got some food that I will tell you about later.

When we finally got to the island we drove out onto the beach. Yes ON the beach on the sand.

Not in some parking lot next to the beach. We drove down a little ways and found our campsite. On Grand Isle, there is about 100 yards of beach and then some dunes with some scrub trees. You can either camp straight on the sand or you can put your tents up in the dunes under the canopy of trees. It was like sleeping in a rainforest on the beach. There was just enough room hollowed out for our two tents and a picnic table and a fire.

After we got everything set up it was starting to get dark so one of us built a fire and the other two started to get dinner together. The first thing we did was make some pina coladas using a blender that hooked into the cigarette lighter on the car. For dinner I just had a few things and we decided to get creative. We had one of those bagged rice dishes that you can buy, like cheesy rice or something. I also had a couple cans of chicken gumbo soup. I got those two things going. Then we had some andouille sausage that I cooked on the grill. What we did was put some cheesy rice in the bottom of a plate, pour a little chicken gumbo soup over and top the whole mess with a piece of andouille sausage and Louisiana style hot sauce. It was heavenly. Later we drank some Dixie beer and explored the island. There was a light breeze and the waves were crashing in from the gulf. How perfect is that?

The next morning we took my kayak out into the gulf.

That was a ton of fun. Before then I had never used it on rough water. I don't know how to Eskimo roll so I haven't done whitewater yet. None of us tipped over so that was pretty cool.

Then we packed up and went up to New Orleans for some fun. We stayed at a Marriott down on Canal Street. For dinner we ate at a Cajun restaurant right next door to Pat O'brien's. I had red beans and rice with andouille sausage.

I highly recommend that restaurant. Then we went to Pat O'brien's for a hurricane and you can imagine where things went from there.

Around noon the next day we went down to the Central Grocery on Decatur street for a muffaletta sandwich.

The muffaletta is the sandwich that Schlotzky's based their sandwich on. The Central Grocery is the originator of the muffaletta sandwich. So if you are in New Orleans, you should stop there.

We camped once more that week at table rock lake. The whole trip was amazing.

The other great thing about camping is that staying in State Parks is a great way to travel the country cheaply. I have yet to stay somewhere that was more than $10 a night and most are right around $7. Contrast that with what it would cost to stay in even the cheapest fleabag hotel. I have reservations on the water at Lake of the Ozarks State park next week from Wednesday to Sunday and it cost me $36. That included an $8 registration fee. If you know of any way that you can stay 4 nights in some place on the water cheaper than $36 please let me know.

In the next few installments I will be writing about camping food. I like to use Dutch ovens, so I will talk about them a little bit. I will be talking about some old standard camping recipes and ones that you might not think would be possible. Stay tuned.