Beyond The Campfire was created to encourage readers to explore the great outdoors and to observe it close up. Get out and take a hike, go fishing or canoeing, or simply stretch out on a blanket under a summer sky...and take your camera along. We'll talk about combining outdoor activities with photography. We'll look at everything from improving your understanding of the basics of photography to more advanced techniques including things like how to see photographically and capturing the light. We'll explore the night sky, location shoots, using off camera speedlights along with nature and landscape. Grab your camera...strap on your hiking boots...and join me. I think you will enjoy the adventure.

The Dark Horse Region

The Dark Horse Region
A View into the center of the Milky Way

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Camp Cooking with Mosquitos and Grasshoppers or Building Self Asteem Through Trial and Error

I got to looking at an old book the other day called Roughing It Easy. It's all about how to camp cook in style and has all kinds of recipes and outdoor cooking ideas to make your life afield more enjoyable. Well, I got to laughing to myself as I remembered a number of camp cooking learning experiences I was able to endure over the years and so having nothing else to write about at the moment I thought I'd share one of the most memorable ones with you.

My camp cooking career began many years ago oddly enough in my grandparents backyard. The year was probably around 1960 or 1961. My dad had purchased an old canvas army surplus pup tent. It was a drab army green and had that old musty smell like it had been stored away wet since 1942. It was summer and as was typical of that era, I spent a good part of my time outdoors running around barefoot and looking for something to do when I came up with the brilliant idea of camping the backyard...but, regardless it was a real genuine campout for a nine year old.

The tent was setup in a strategic location; far enough away from the house so it would feel like being out in the wilderness, but close enough so if too many creepy crawlies creeped and crawled too close I could easily make a dash back to the house. The old army cot was wedged inside the tent with more blankets than the one hundred degree plus temps required piled on top.

There were numerous broken limbs lying around the yard and I gathered everyone of them I could find and built a small fire late that evening. That time of year in that part of the country it doesn't get dark until well after 9:00pm, and I couldn't wait to sit up at night around my campfire. What I didn't realize was just how much firewood would be required to last until then. For the next several hours as my campfire continued to burn down I would run around in the ever widening circles in ever increasing darkness looking for something to burn. My intent of course was to cook my supper over the fire after it got dark, but by that time, it was too dark to find any more wood to burn and my grandmother had fixed fried chicken whose aroma kept drifting across my campsite, so I ate inside that first night. But, I was determined to fix my own breakfast the next morning.

Morning was long in coming. Army cots are not the most comfortable of devises to sleep on and it was hot and the mosquitos swarmed inside my open ended tent. I'd pull the covers over my head to protect me from their blood sucking bites until I would get too hot and then have to come up for air. I've often wondered what it is about the inside of your ears that is such an attractant for mosquitos. They were constantly buzzing and dive bombing around my head and wanted to burrow deep into my ear cavities. The grasshoppers were thick that year and a number of them along with daddy longleg spiders turned the inside of my tent into a residence. It was a regular commune of mixed species trying to co-exist. That pretty much was the pattern all night. Somewhere between one of the coming-up-for-air bouts and the hoot owls and whippowills seranade I fell asleep.

By the next morning I was skeeter bit from top to bottom. But, I jumped out scattering grasshoppers as I tossed the blanket aside. I quickly gathered another arm full of firewood searching high and low for the fuel...rekindled the fire and ran to the refrigerator and extracted a couple of eggs and several strips of bacon. Using my old army surplus spit kit I commenced to burning the bacon and destroying the eggs. What I ended up with was part burnt bacon bits blended with rubbery eggs and egg shells pieces and probably a hapless grasshopper or two that managed to find their way into the mix when I wasn't looking...which by the way probably considerably improved the taste and texture of the meal. I loved it. I was now a genuine fully fledged camp cook.

Over the years just how much my camp cooking skills improved could be debated long into the
summer night. Although I've managed to graduate to a more modern approach to camp cookery, those first feeble attempts proved much more valuable in the long run. What has improved is my appreciation for having done those things. As simple and comical as those trials-by-error events were, they were none the less great learning tools for those time when a good sense of self became important. I guess my parents and my grandparents instinctively understood things like that. They allowed me to build my own self asteem through trial and error, mostly through error. It is amazing just how effective cooking burnt bacon and eggs over your very own campfire...and throw in a grasshopper or two...can be when it comes to building such things.

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