Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Cooking with kids over a campfire

For those of you who guide families into the woods, how do you encourage the "helpful" kid when mealtime rolls around. Sure, you could make the menu include hot dogs, foil dinners, and rolls on a stick. I prefer to keep a nice food menu with little extra side dishes prepared by the kids themselves.

Last weekend I had the opportunity to be cooking for a group at a campsite which included another group of kids. One of the kids in the other group, was extremely interested in what we were up to (no wonder, it took them 3 hours to get their charcoal started, their meal prepared, and finally were ready to eat). In any case, this kid was asking me all sorts of "what are you doing?" questions. I put him to work breaking eggs into a mixing bowl, then stirring cake ingredients in the same bowl.

I try to bring a couple things that kids can cook all by themselves in a campfire with me. Nonstick aluminum foil and a pair of leather gloves makes a campfire accessible to kids and, if you are concerned, you can easily reuse the foil more than once before crunching it up and packing it out. This weekend I had grabbed corn on the cob, bananas, apples, and brown and serve sausage in addition to the ever necessary s'more making materials.

The kids this weekend were interested in baking corn in the husk. As I was cleaning the corn and preparing to wrap it in foil, an older gentleman in the group said "that's not how I'd do it". Sometimes at these points it pays to listen. When asked how he'd do it, he said he'd put the butter on the corn before he'd bake it. With nothing to lose, I buttered the corn liberally, put the husk back on, wrapped it all in foil and tossed it into the coals. The results were much better than any corn I've ever baked before. Small spots that might have been burned before were now caramelized in butter. The results were very tasty and the kids were eager to bake more.

At breakfast time, I made sourdough pancakes with dehydrated blueberries that came out very tasty. Since I was cooking on the dutch oven lid, I only get 3 or 4 pancakes at a time. While they are waiting, I have the kids make worm in the apples. Core the apple, shove in a brown and serve sausage, then wrap in foil and place in the coals. In about 15 minutes the kids get applesauce and a sausage to eat with their pancakes. Happy kids make for repeat customers.

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