Sunday, June 15, 2014

I Love Wood Smoke

We went camping for the sake of the children.  They loved it.  The adults were charmed by their love, but rather overwhelmed by the amount of stuff camping requires as well as the relentless rain.  Lest you pity us, we were in a rough little cabin in a campground, not a tent in the wilderness.  There was running water nearby - lots of it in the stream, from the sky, and yes, importantly, in the bath house.

I am writing this blog post while sniffing my camping sweatshirt - I am loathe to wash the scent of wood smoke out of it.

My notes from last time were really useful.

More notes and menus for next time:

1. Tea lights in pint jars are lovely for atmosphere, especially on rainy days, but don't give out much light.
2. An extra bowl and an extra serving spoon are helpful.
3. Mug for every person, not just adults, because hot drinks are nice in chilly weather.  Must have hot drinks like hot chocolate and hot tea in addition to coffee.
4. Whatever vessel is used over the fire will be covered in black soot - good to borrow from camping friends or else get a dedicated pot from a thrift store.  Used my own cast iron frying pan, of course, and took along an old grate from a grill.
5.  Cold cereal and granola are a great camping breakfast because it's easy to be crabby in the morning when you're hungry in an unfamiliar space and trying to start a fire and then cook over the fire.  Much better to move those delicious cooked breakfasts to another meal (see frittata below) and just get everyone fed.
6. An extra bag is helpful - this time it was used for the abundant dirty, wet clothes.
7.  Chop and slice the onions at home so there's no need to take the big chef knife.  I only took a paring knife and a cutting board, which also doubled as a trivet.


kielbasa on sticks over fire
popcorn (made at home)

mushroom/Swiss/onion fritatta (ended up scrambling that because the fire was too hot and the eggs were getting too dark on the bottom)
baked beans (home canned)
grilled asparagus over the fire

fried fish (filets dipped in cornmeal and Old Bay) - squeeze of lemon
foil packets in the coals with potatoes, onions, olive oil, s&p (note:  triple-wrap the foil!!)
grilled asparagus over the fire

daily bread

both breakfasts:
junky cereal that the kids chose rapturously in the discount grocery store
coffee in the percolator (this was the only appliance we brought along; well, we brought our in-laws' camp stove, too, out of fear of the rain, but managed to cook almost entirely over the fire)

extra snacks:  spicy peanuts, chocolate chip oatmeal peanut butter cookies (made at home), apples

Also interesting to observe:  we gave the children each $3 at the beginning of the vacation and told them not to ask us for treats, that they could control that money and buy their own treats at the camp store.  My, how they obsessed over the money!  Sometimes they appeared to make plans, and other times it was sheer impulse.  They spent it down to the last penny (Tootsie Rolls cost $.01) with lots of drama and junk along the way.  Ben finally got his wish to stick a dollar bill in a soda machine.  I truly hope that is not the highlight of his camping experience.


  1. Your post made me smile! This sounds so much like our camping trips. :)

  2. I love camping- in tents and cabins.

    Most of our camp cooking is done over a camping gas stove because few campsites let you have a fire here, but every year I help at and the children attend (Girl) Guide camp, where they cook every meal and boil every kettle on a wood fire. Love it! Chocolate steamed pudding night is my favourite :-)

  3. I have much fonder memories of my childhood camping than my adult-age camping ... which I sense you would understand :) But as you say, it's worth it for the children to have that fun. A cabin is definitely better shelter from the rain than a tent. We once set up our tent in what seemed like a good spot. It turned into a small river during a hard rain later that night.

    I like the idea of notes to help the next time.

  4. Ah yes, camping in the rain. We're familiar with it : ) Great fun and memories right?!

  5. Did you ever learn how to make sourdough bread or did I miss that post?

  6. How fun! We tent camped with our 3 girls, and they had their own tent. What a blast! I developed a separate stash of camping cookware, as it always got burnt on stuff from fires and/or the camp stove (thrifted and yard sales). We always did cereal too for breakfast, but we did instant hot cereals, quick and easy. Just boil water over the stove. We always took one, as I didn't like relying on a fire. Sometimes in fire seasons they weren't allowed either. Bigger lunches and dinner, mostly premade at home. They loved camping, and do it now as adults...

  7. anon, I'm not sure what you mean. I blogged about sourdough bread here:

    and that is still the bread I make the most.

  8. I have to admit to not having been camping since we bought a share of a vacation house 15 years ago. Our kids do all the camping now. I do have very fond memories of camping when I was a child. My Dad was usually the first one up in the campground and would put a pound of bacon in a skillet and get it going just to watch noses peeking out of tents once the smell started waking everyone up. And there is nothing like campfire toast! He also put a big cast iron skillet right on the fire and fried chicken every Saturday night. There is no chicken like that chicken. I would so love to be able to be a child and family camp for a weekend again.

    If you rub the bottom of a pot with dish soap most of the soot will wash off but it is a yucky job both soaping and washing it. Thrift store pans are still the way to go. We used to bring a wagon with us to transport the kids back from the bathhouse after showering them at night. I at least knew they were clean in their sleeping bags! The wagon comes in handy for all sorts of other things, too.

  9. Where did you go camping?

    If you ever need a fun place to go, check out Ricketts Glen. It's probably a couple of hours away from you, but gorgeous and very family friendly!

  10. Dusa, thanks for the tip! There are so many state parks that I don't know about. Email me privately if you want to discuss our campground :)

  11. This post made me laugh. I remember camping in the rain.. I was miserable.ha..but the grown kids still talk about the fun they had..
    Love the idea of giving them their own spending money..

  12. That is so cute, I would of never thought of that. I am definitely making me one or maybe a few! Lol

  13. Ah, I have so many happy memories from camping with my family. It was such fun--though yes, it can be such work, too! We're thinking of heading out backpacking this weekend. I am thankful to live in such an arid place, at least when it comes to adventures in the outdoors. Rain does often make it less enjoyable.

  14. I just found your blog and am really enjoying it! Next time you go camping you can try this trick my Mom taught me when cooking over a fire. If you rub dish soap on the outside of your pot or pan before cooking, then when you go to clean the pot/pan the soot should mostly come right off.

  15. Welcome, Lynn, and thank you! Love that tip with the dish soap.

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