By the time the fire got its lick of the sugary ooze it was too late to save it. The entire glob let go, the creamy interior flashing briefly as it separated from the blackened gossamer crust crashing one then the other into a gooey splat. Cum-candy gone wrong. Not the happy ending I’d anticipated. Humpty Dumpty’s poem always breaks in at this, the first marshmallow to hit the skids. Since it looks like a bird took a crap, the Humpty Dumpty trigger is obviously a mis-wire somewhere in the psyche. It screws up the camping vibe until a waft of molten sugar belch reaches my nose freeing my brain from the HD song long enough to refocus on the sloppy technique that caused the mishap.
All that passionate effort, the perfectly timed tiny puffs aimed to put the fire out but not dislodge the softening bolster pillow mass;
salty beads of sweat banding together into a trickle down my forehead as my hand and the stick turn,
dip and contort in order to keep the object intact, the anticipation of the ritual touch to the lips
ooh too hot twirl a few times then back for the final plunge, and now, the indistinguishable charred remains could just as well be calf nuts on the crackling coals.
All for what you ask? Another go of course. Losing one or three or ten is part of the ritual.
The whippet of green branch is even better prepared now that the tip’s coated with a sticky clump. It’s like giving someone your hand as they slip from a 10 story window ledge – it’s hopeless but it makes you both feel better in the moment.
The next marshmallow victim has something to cling to as you begin another intricate dance. That’s how it goes roasting marshmallows – casualties are high but the payoff memorably delicious.
A lot of dancing takes place in camp cooking. Unlike Fred and Ginger, the results are cluggy, less than perfectly orchestrated processes that aren’t much to look at, generally requiring resourcefulness and a willingness to be happy with something under or over-cooked, sometimes even unrecognizable.
One needs to be willing to oohh and ahhh over anything cooked over an open fire regardless how shitty it turns out.
That may be what camping is all about,,,,
being happy and grateful for your own mediocrity and learning to deal with it.
Which is why camping and cooking in my opinion don’t go together. Those of us that cook at home need on-staff camp therapists because it’s hard to handle the fact you can poach a perfect egg in your home kitchen but even your scrambled eggs out here would bounce from the nearest pavement [20 miles away]. High tech with one of those heat seeking digital read out guns? It’ll be accurate. But a smidgen either side of that spot might be 100 degrees different. Good luck with that.
You can buy a camp-cook recipe book but you’ll find a lot of things skewered (the veges will wind up in the fire next to the marshmallows and it’s damn messy handling the food without running water), delicate food items packaged into neat little bundles of aluminum foil to be thrown onto a fire you have no idea the temperature of, to be timed at 15.5 minutes but oh wait you left your wrist watch at home (the proper thing to do by the way), and things like muffins and eggs cooked in an orange shell. Don’t know about you but when I cook in a less than stable environment I prefer to see the food as its cooking/smoldering/burning.
And I don’t cook in camp things I wouldn’t make at home like anything in a friggin’ orange shell.
Clean up is another factor you can only afford to overlook if you’re the King. Plan around one pan cooking, two at the most. Chopping or any prep uses dishes that have to be washed. Prep food ahead, then bag it or use a plastic container for transport. Better yet make do without chopped onions or fresh herbs.
Truth is I don’t cook much in camp. I warm up. And instead of recipes I prefer to wing it and use the basic grocery items to mix and match depending on what the mood or weather conditions are that day.
P.S. A little dirt won’t hurt. It’ll add a bit of crunch to those otherwise floppy gray veggies you’re going to wind up with because you’re determined to have veggies in camp.
You know who you are.
Check out the other camping related posts. And yea we (son and I) really did backpack China for over a month. We were jacked up on bijou most of the time but a photography trail found it’s way back home with us.
- Camping Etiquette
- Glamour Camping: What to Pack
- So You Want To Be A Glamour Camper?
- Backpacking China – 5 Weeks of Tan Suo