It’s a well known fact that any food tastes better if it’s cooked on a campfire in the wilderness, especially after a long day in the outdoors, but there is a world of difference between a top class camping chef and someone who pours hot water into a dehydrated packet meal. The latter might fulfill your nutritional needs but it lacks the style and flair that make food fun.
I was once huddled under a rock ledge waiting for a sudden rain of bitter sleet and hail to die down, freezing cold and with a long way still to go to the summit of our chosen peak, when my climbing partner rummaged in his rucksack and brought out a plastic case.
Inside, kept safe from the jolting by careful packaging, was a stack of profiteroles, complete with chocolate sauce and real cream. I was absolutely stunned but completely delighted. We went on to finish the climb and made it safely down before sunset.
Most people would consider it madness to add that kind of extra weight to a rucksack even on a mountain walk in the summer. On winter outings my packing is always carefully restricted to a minimum of lightweight clothing, ice axes and crampons, map and compass, practical food, and water but there is no denying that those pastry treats were the highlight of the outing, barring only the summit itself. Food has the ability to cheer us up, give us energy, and keep us going. It can make or break a walk or a climb.
Getting creative around the campfire is great fun and it adds a touch of luxury that’s otherwise absent. Even if all you do make yourself a packet meal and liven up the dessert, it’s well worth it. One of the most effective pieces of campfire cookery I’ve ever seen is to seal peeled bananas or orange segments in tin foil with a piece of chocolate. Place these in hot embers for 15 minutes and the results will be hot, gooey, and delicious.
Vegetables can also be cooked in foil. For best results, squash a clove of garlic with the side of a knife, then add this to a tablespoon of oil or margarine. Rub the outside of your chosen veg with the mixture, cover in foil and bury them in embers once the first hot flames of the fire have died down. Potatoes may take an hour or more but onions and carrots are much faster.
Eggs are notoriously easily broken but if you hard-boil them before leaving home they keep well as long as the skin under the shell remains intact and it’s not too hot. Peel the shell off and slice the eggs. Fry for a couple of minutes in a pan or pan lid with rounds of salami and you’ll have a quick bacon and egg breakfast that tastes great and gives you a lot of valuable protein. Vegetarians can use a handful of shelled pine nuts instead of the meat.
There is a lot you can do to make campfire cookery interesting and once you do it, your friends will soon follow and you’ll have a wealth of gourmet treats on every trip. There’s no reason not to enjoy nutritious, interesting, and filling meals no matter where you are.