interview by Marnie Hanel and Jen Stevenson
While kicking around ideas for their second cookbook, The Campout Cookbook, Marnie Hanel and Jen Stevenson, the IACP-award-winning authors of The Picnic, kept coming back to their favorite childhood food memories, many of which happened to involve a campfire. The result is The Campout Cookbook, a collection of more than 100 recipes designed to keep campers sated from the moment they pile into the station wagon to the final breakfast before the rubber hits the road. Here, the co-authors discuss the ins and eats of their writing process.
JS: Never in a million years. But looking back, it actually makes a lot of sense. We took very, very long family camping trips every summer, and most nights, I would lay in the tent wishing I was at a fancy hotel. The mosquitos, the dirt, the ceaseless smoke, the raccoons (or worse) rustling around the underbrush all night— it all seemed so preventable. I mean, surely that Four Seasons/Best Western/Bates Motel back in town had a vacancy. But I loved meal time—from blueberry pancakes and breakfast sausages first thing in the morning, to hot dog lunches (the only time we got hot dogs, so that was major), and s’mores before bed every night—it made the whole thing worth it.
MH: That you’re most likely going to burn something, and it’s going to be OK. Fire is fickle. One day you’ll produce the most perfect golden Dutch oven roast chicken the world has ever seen and feel like a camping god (until Winnie eats it, that is). The next, you’ve got a sad charcoal-skinned bird and have to fall back on making campfire nachos (not the worst fate). You have to use all your senses, especially smell and, for best results, forgo the O the Grid Old Fashioneds until dinner is served. Otherwise you might get so wrapped up in a game of Truth or Dare you forget lasagna is cooking in the coals.
JS: The almighty charcoal chimney, a.k.a. our best friend forever. I love building a log re for ambience’s sake, but when everyone’s ravenous after a day on the trail, it’s just so much easier to light the charcoal in a chimney, dump the hot coals into the fire pit, and start cooking. It’s the difference between stumbling out of the tent in the morning and having the coffee made and cinnamon roll dough proofing in fifteen minutes, versus a half hour of blearily coaxing damp logs to burn while everyone yells helpful things like, “When’s the coffee ready? Why’s it so smoky? Did you know a bear’s eating the bacon?” from the tent doorway.
MH: Very funny. As it turns out, if you bake a cherry blueberry crisp in a brand new cast iron Dutch oven that hasn’t been sufficiently seasoned, it turns your teeth a lovely shade of slate grey. I had to brush my teeth eight times to get them white again and, as I recall, so did you.
JS: The graham crackers, the chocolate and the marshmallows. You can’t camp without s’mores. You just can’t.
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