Stuart and I have been together long enough now that our arguments have a certain reassuring predictability. To simplify things, we should just number them. He could say, for instance, “39!” and I could reply “27!” and storm out of the room.
These are hardly rocks upon which the Royal Navy smashes its fleet. No, these are minor shoals, little peculiarities that each finds astonishingly annoying when, in truth, we are each just living our lives in the way we see fit. The RIGHT way, of course. “27” or die!
One of those peculiarities (as I see it) is Stu’s insistence that no dirty dish be placed or stacked on another dirty dish, as if each left singly, dirty, face up only, he would never have to wash the bottom of the plate, since it has never been made dirty. I see this as patently ridiculous, since the whole plate has to be washed anyway. Clearly, a 39 vs. 27 cage fight for which there can be no winner, only bloodied combatants with cauliflower ears and black eyes.
But I do wish for domestic tranquility, even in the dish pit. When we go camping, and dishes are more of a chore than at home when everything can be quickly stashed in the dishwasher, I try, as the camp cook, to make it easier on Stu, the camp dishwasher. This means lining up fewer pots, pans, serving bowls and utensils along the picnic table bench in single file (never stacked!) where Stu can marshal them into the twin red dish basins, one for washing, one for rinsing.
And so I have contrived a number of Camping McGyvers, dishes that would under normal circumstances require several saute pans, serving bowls, spoons, tongs and spatulas, reduced instead to one composed bowl or pot or skillet. Which, I repeat, is never stacked, dirty, with a dinner plate or otherwise besmirched on the bottom. Domestic bliss, and pretty darn tasty too.
Pancakes with Red Banana Bacon Maple Compote
Pancakes are a holy camping miracle. A fluffy, griddled cake, hot and moist as a kiss on the inside, and golden brown and crispy as a hiking suntan on the outside, always seems like an amazing thing, as you sit eating them in your camp chair with a blue tin cup of coffee. Don’t leave this job to Bisquick or Krusteez. Before you leave home, mix up some flour (make sure to add a little texture, like corn flour and flax seed meal) baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar, and pour into a Ziplock bag. At camp, add to the bag: some buttermilk, egg and oil, seal the bag and massage together, adding more buttermilk until the batter is just right, and you are ready for magic.
Bacon (ends and pieces works great for this)
Red bananas (yes, they are more delicious than yellow bananas, just trust me)
While the griddle heats, in a saute pan, add some chopped bacon, and fry on medium heat until the bacon is crispy. Drain off half the fat (not all, geeze, think of the flavor!) and add a little butter. Slice up a couple of very ripe red bananas and tip them into the bacon and butter, and sprinkle some sugar on top. Turn the flame to high, and allow the sugar and bananas to caramelize, turning carefully with a spatula to keep the bananas from breaking up. Turn down the heat, and pour in some maple syrup, and bring to a simmer. Set aside. To cook your pancakes, pour the batter onto an oiled griddle straight from the Ziploc bag. Spoon a little compote on each as you stack them up and serve. Full belly, few dishes.
Stu likes a five-course dinner at Le Pigeon. But when he’s camping, he likes traditional American camp food: brats and burgers. When it comes to brats, we like to pile them high with a variety of spicy, crunchy, salty, sweet items and two kinds of mustard. This can create a lot of bowls to wash, without a little Mcgyvering. Hence, what I call Dog Chow: a fine combination of hot dog toppings, my take on a quick Southern chow chow relish.
Brats and buns
Sweet pickle chips (bread and butter are the best)
Red bell pepper
Jalapeno pepper (optional)
Salt and pepper
Grate the cabbage and chop into half-inch long pieces. Chop the pickle chips, onions and peppers into equal small dice. Mix together in a bowl or Ziplock bag with the cabbage, add a little of the pickle juice from the jar, salt and pepper. (You can, of course, do this at home and just pack the Dog Chow pre-made into your cooler. It’ll hold well, and improve in flavor, over five days.)
It’s time to build your evening camp fire in that nice fire pit with the grate on top. When you have some coals under the grate, slide your brats onto 12-inch metal skewers, and lay them on the grate, with the skewer handles extending off the end so they are cool and easy to handle. Have your buns ready to lay on the grate and toast. Turn your brats until they are nicely charred all around and spitting fat. Toast your buns, lay the brats in the buns and pull out the skewers. Serve with Dog Chow and the many different mustards you have carefully packed in your cooler.
All-in-One Burger Set Up
The easiest way to deliver good burgers in a camp setting is to shape and freeze your burgers at home, each patty in its own fold-top sandwich bag. We prefer our burgers cooked on a griddle, diner style, so that’s how we roll.
But the toppings? Yep, all-in-one scoop-and-go makes service easy with few dishes to wash. Did we mention the important role cabbage plays in camping? It won’t dissolve or get crushed in an icy cooler or dinky trailer fridge like lettuce, and lasts longer too.
Burger patties and buns
Bacon (optional, and only if you remembered to fry extra when you were making your pancake topping)
Salt and pepper
In a bowl, mash avocado and mix with a spoon of mayonnaise. Add chopped onions, shredded cabbage and jalapeno and bacon if using. Salt and pepper to taste.
Cook those burgers. Toast those buns. Serve them with the All-in-One Burger Set up, ketchup and mustard. Hike it off.