In this new semi-regular, not so serious feature, I put to paper the random ideas about food I have on a daily basis. As a chronic insomniac I find myself lying awake more often than not, listening to the fan and the snores of my husband and cat, going over my day. Inevitably thoughts wander to what I would create if I had: 1) the money 2) the energy 3) the gumption.
Yeah, I’ll brainstorm until doomsday about the next great food trend or product idea. Way more productive than actually bringing it to fruition, right? During one particularly epic period of insomnia lasting two years, I planned and laid out an entire restaurant, including the menu, architecture, seats, and glassware. It was Italian seafood. I called it Luna di Mare. I was teaching middle school at the time and had such fun, I ended up doing a multi-genre restaurant writing project with my 8th grade students. They loved it.
You could say I’m an overthinker. I’ve got ideas aplenty, and zero desire to ever implement them. Take camping for example. There oughta be a glamping cookbook. A book of lowbrow recipes presented in high style. Now sure, if you go to Amazon there’s a plethora of camping cookbooks to choose from. Except they’re all paperbacks, with little to no photographs, and full of recipes resembling dishes you’d create at home, with a few camping puns mixed in. S’moradillas anyone?
Plus, the ingredients list makes my head spin! Who packs their entire refrigerator into a cooler? Who opens their spice cabinet and sweeps the entire inventory into a bag with a giant wave of the arm? I’m not going camping so I can make crown roast of lamb. I want to throw a few basics in a cooler and MacGyver it so I’m still eating like a king over open flame.
I want my glamping cookbook to be off-the-cuff. Less recipe driven. Give me approximate amounts, general ideas. It should be a jumping-off point, not a hard and fast rule. What three or four ingredients can I throw together, stuff you might not expect, that will still taste amazing? Because no way am I going to be attempting to read measuring amounts with my granny glasses as I’m stirring the stewpot like a Macbeth witch. If I’m hauling a cookbook to a campsite, I’m using it to start a fire because we had five hours of rain and I forgot to cover up the kindling.
Give me a cookbook with a list of ten items. Okay 15 tops. Like the express lane at the market. Wine and beer don’t count. They’re a given. Give me 30 ways I can cook it over a fire with either 1) a pan, 2) a griddle, 3) a skewer, 4) wrapped in tinfoil, or in a Mountain Pie maker. In fact, give me an entire section of Mountain Pie recipes. Strange weird taste combinations hidden between two slices of bland white bread. Are Mountain Pies the greatest invention or what? Our last camping trip I created one with port wine cheese spread and half a curry mango sausage link. YUM! There’s nothing like that last morning in camp, when supplies are low, you still need breakfast, and all you’ve got left are two heels of bread, a scraping of cream cheese, and the last of the apricot jam. And yes, that’s a damn good Mountain Pie.
A section of S’more recipes? Goes without saying. Some of my fondest memories involve experiments with Reese’s cups and Rice Krispy treats as S’more ingredients. Not adverse to doing a little prep work pre-camp. But when I land I want to be ready to roll up my sleeves and make like Bear Grylls. Without the urine beverage.
Fried chicken, grits, hot dogs, all have been given the fancy food makeover, garnering their turn under the food stylist spotlight. Sean Brock’s Heritage took beans and made them sexy. Camping grub deserves the same treatment. Even though the recipes are lowbrow, present them glamorously. With gel lighting. Worthy of Diana Vreeland. Or Martha. Make my glamping cookbook full of drool-worthy, ooey gooey photographs. Stunning layouts of S’mores, Mountain Pies, and baked potatoes in foil dripping butter. Food porn for campers. It should resemble a Taschen retrospective in scope and color, approximating the weight of a healthy infant.
Maybe include a history of camping food, how different types of camping cuisine overlap or don’t depending on region. Does camping cuisine differ depending on the culture? Although this is secondary and only included to make the tome seem more important than it is. It’s really food porn. I want to flip through its pages all winter, dreaming of my camp site cooking laboratory and all the magical combinations I’ll dream up come spring. In full living color. Technicolor like in vintage cookbook classics. Sure, it’s ironic. Sure, it weighs 30 pounds. I’m not hauling that shit to camp. It’s purely for inspiration. A Pinterest board I can use as a doorstop. Or to take out a burglar.
It’s a simple request really. Not much to ask. There’s only two million cookbooks in circulation. What’s one more? Camping cookbooks are low rent. It’s time to raise them high. Make them stylish. Vogue worthy. Instead of middling quality paperback books full of fancy recipes, why not a fancy full-color tome full of low-rent ones? Glamping food. I’d totally buy that.