Blueberry barrens, Maine
This summer, we did some wandering. We wandered all through New England and bits of upstate New York. Sometimes we stayed in houses, sometimes we stayed in a tiny tent, sometimes we travelled by car,and sometimes by canoe, but always we made fires, and we experimented with the art of campfire cooking.
Cooking over a campfire is both simpler and more complicated than cooking in a kitchen. There is no running water, temperature regulation, stocked pantry, or fancy appliances. These limitations, possibly frustrating in the long run, are just the incentive for good ideas in the short. I didn't miss the complications I usually love. We just made food.
This trip was one of the first times I've gone beyond just skewering food or boiling water over a campfire. Yes, we certainly had wonderfully skewered vegetables, even the ridiculously decadent bacon-wrapped steak, but we also tried our hand at dutch oven cuisine--more specifically, cornbread. Of course it burned, but it was a small revelation to me, a confirmation of the truth that I could live well with only a wood fire and one or two utensils, could live well and eat well outside for a long time.
I left this post unwritten for a long time, because our final camping trip of the season was this past weekend. In the end, we didn't cook anything particularly noteworthy, but just being out there burning wood reminded me of all the pleasures of cooking outside, the kind of pleasures a grill never quite duplicates--the gritty ash, the sweet burning smells, the communal attention to the pot and the skewer, the hungry dog blissfully licking the grill, and best of all, waking up in the morning and going to sleep at night in the light of the good fire.