As economists are fond of reminding anyone who’ll listen, human wants are insatiable. If you need proof, just spend a few minutes scrolling through any outfitter’s website. You’re sure to come away convinced that you have only half the gear you need. (Sticklers for subtleties will note that I’ve glided effortlessly from “wants” to “needs,” something that’s bound to bring joy to the hearts of marketers and ad copywriters everywhere.) Kitchen kit is no exception to this rule. There’s always something new and shiny in the shops.
Of course, the consumer imperative runs counter to many other considerations: space (in your pack or on your shelves), weight, and cost, to name only a few. So trade‑offs are inevitable. But it’s not a zero‑sum game, and today I’m going to look at some little things that make the camp cook’s life easier, without adding too much to her burden. I hope to winnow the wheat from the chaff, and help other cooks in the process. I’ll lay down no hard and fast rules, though. Camp cooks are a delightfully independent lot, and one cook’s luxury is another’s necessity. I’ve met paddlers who wouldn’t leave home without a wok or paella pan, and others who think nothing of hauling heavy griddles, cast‑iron Dutch ovens, and two‑burner propane stoves on routes involving many portages. I’ve even known an inveterate backcountry baker who regards a heavy hardwood rolling pin as the Eleventh Essential. And make no mistake: her companions eat well — very well, indeed.
In fact, I was reminded of her not long ago, when I heard from a reader who’d devised an ingenious alternative to the inveterate baker’s billet of hard maple: an improvised rolling pin… Read more…
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For the past 30‑odd years, Friday night has been pizza night chez Tamia. The tradition — and that’s what it is, I suppose — got started during my stones‑and‑bones years. It always involved a certain ceremony, marking as it did a happy return to home comforts after a workweek spent digging holes in the ground, sleeping on musty motel mattresses, and subsisting (barely) on microwaveable meals and Cup‑a‑Soup.
Well, I no longer sift dirt for a living, but Friday night is still pizza night at my place, even when that place is a backcountry campsite. Which will come as no surprise to regular readers of this column, who’ve endured quite a few pizza paeans over the years, each of them reporting a small step in my progress toward perfecting the art of running an alfresco pizzeria. (Any readers who haven’t yet had a chance to test their mettle in this way are invited to explore the links to previous articles.)
Of course, I wouldn’t have kept writing about pizza if readers didn’t encourage me to continue. My In‑Box is my substitute for a focus group, and two recentish articles elicited a particularly robust response. One concerned the making of minipizzas using English muffins. The other was a more general piece on pizza as a breakfast dish. Each generated so much mail that I figured I was duty‑bound to pass along what I’d learned. And that’s exactly what I’m going to do now, beginning with an idea that combines two of my favorite things: pizza quesadillas… Read more…
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The wind is always with us. Or so it seems. There are calm interludes, of course. Summer sailors dread them. But paddlers welcome any such respite. Why? Because whenever the wind blows over the water, it always seems to be in our face — an implacable presence that forces us to work twice as hard to go half as far. Which makes our evenings in camp doubly attractive, though here, too, the wind finds ways to bedevil us. It blows hot cinders from the fire onto the kitchen tarp, wafts woodsmoke into our eyes, and makes the walls of our tents flap and snap throughout the night, denying us the sleep we crave.
Yet the wind isn’t always an enemy. A brisk breeze helps to dispel the fug on sultry days, and it keeps the blackflies and bulldogs at bay while we eat our lunch. (OK. Nothing short of a full gale keeps the bulldogs at bay. But at least a stiff breeze makes them work for their meal.) As soon as it comes time to fire up the stove for a quick cup of soup or tea, however, the wind reverts to type, stealing heat from the billy and occasionally snuffing out the sputtering flame altogether.
Is there a solution to this all‑too‑common problem? There is. And it’s as simple as breaking the windl… Read more…
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