Comforts Of Home When Camping
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
To invade the time-honored realm of the camp frying-pan and smoke-blackened coffee-pot with any new suggestions for camp cookery is a fearsome venture. Flapjacks and bacon dished up on a tin plate and "renched down," to use a favorite expression of a guide we once employed, with coffee, always coffee and yet again coffee, served in a granite-ware cup with a tin spoon—these are inseparably linked in many minds with the idea of camp life which accordingly has been thought not for those less vigorous, who even in an outdoor existence cannot digest fried fare or drink unlimited coffee.
We know, nevertheless, from experience that two people of the latter type can travel through the wilds of Arizona, New Mexico or California with entire ease, provided there be a little forethought and some understanding of cookery; but some time must be spent beforehand in careful packing, and considerable extra cost of transportation must be reckoned on. Also it is well to be able to avail one's self of the natural products of the location where one may be camped. And here a little pioneer lore and botanical knowledge will come into play. For example, lemons cannot be had everywhere, but one of the commonest shrubs of the California mountains is a species of sumac known as the Indian-lemonade bush from the sticky, red berries of which, by simply steeping them in cold water for a few minutes, a refreshing acid drink may be made. Neither may one hope for watermelon in the desert, but the fruit of the prickly pear and some other cacti is almost as delicious as the watermelon, with somewhat of its flavor. Such luxuries, too, as lettuce and spinach, are not to be expected in the wilderness, but a frequent weed in certain sections of the State is a relative of the Spring Beauty of the East, known as Miners' or Indian Lettuce, the younger stems and leaves of which boiled with bacon and served with slices of hard boiled egg (if you have eggs with you) make a capital substitute for other greens.
In laying in supplies for a camping trip, it is well to take as few canned things as possible, as these are heavy to transport and if needed can usually be bought from the traders or supply stations on the road. So also can bacon, coffee and tea, usually all of quite good quality. If space is very limited, the trader can be depended upon also for flour, but as this is frequently poor at some places, it is preferable to carry one's own. We take less flour than do most providers, and more corn-meal. If one understands the possibilities of the latter, there is a varied number of appetizing dishes to be made from it. They are more nutritious than wheat-breads, besides affording more variety. White corn-meal is much more delicate and less apt to grow strong in hot weather than the yellow meal, which nearly every veteran camper will tell you to buy. After you have listened respectfully to his advice, take white corn-meal.
Always use the best baking powder. Traders as a rule have only inferior grades. Better still, do not use any, but substitute cream of tartar and soda in the proportions _respectively of two to one, or yeast when procurable. Take several different kinds of dried beans instead of all one kind. If you ever crave variety it will be in the matter of beans. The white navy bean, the pink frijole, and the dried lima make a grateful assortment of nutrition in a small compass.
Carry as much dried fruit as possible, and again study variety. Prunes once or twice are bearable but prunes always are a weariness to the flesh, so besides these it is well to pack small quantities each of dried peaches, apples, apricots, figs and dates; and then fill in every crack of the baggage with English walnuts and raisins. Then there are also "evaporated" apples, which the traders usually carry and which make a welcome change from the common dried apple of commerce.
We give very little space to condensed milk, never having found its gummy sweetness a satisfactory addition to our menus. For those whose contentment in camp is dependent on something of the sort, some brand of evaporated cream is in our judgment to be preferred to condensed milk.
As eggs are at the bottom of so many culinary triumphs, we take as many as it is possible to carry. Get them absolutely fresh, wipe them carefully, and pack the requirements of your first week in oatmeal or any dried cereal which you may be taking. They will in this way stand a great deal of rough travel. The supply for the latter part of your trip, should first be greased, then dipped in salt, each wrapped carefully in paper and packed in boxes. If they can be packed in salt, so much the better. They make in this way heavy packages, but it is the best manner we have found to tide them, in cookable condition, over several weeks of travel or camping.
With respect to butter, secure a perfectly fresh lot and pack it in small jelly glasses with tight lids, allowing one glassful for two persons for one day. Be careful not to work or smear the butter around in the packing or it will lose its sweetness and never be good afterwards. Keep it as cool as possible during transportation—above all, protected from the sun-and at once upon reaching camp bury it in a box in the shade, preferably near water.
For drinkables, a bottle of raspberry vinegar and one of unfermented grape-juice will not be difficult to carry, and will prove wonderful stimulants to cheerfulness under some adverse conditions which will come to the best regulated camp. For a steady hot drink we have found invaluable a certain preparation of cocoa called choco-lactine, which has not the liver-clogging or headache-producing quality of ordinary cocoa. Moreover, unlike so many preparations of concentrated nutriment, it is entirely palatable. It is a coarse powder containing be, sides the cocoa an admixture of milk and sugar; four teaspoonfuls dropped into a cup of hot water are instantaneously converted into a delicious, wholesome brew. There are times, however, when to certain temperaments nothing takes the place of a cup of hot tea. As this is readily made, it is well to carry a packet of the leaves along, even on trips of a few hours.
The question of meat in mountain fastnesses or desert is always a perplexing one. Dried beef in the "chunk" is good, this being the most concentrated form available, and in this, shape it keeps better than when chipped, and the amount for each meal is sliced off as needed. Bacon of course is one of the main standbys, and variety may be se-cured by taking with you a piece of pickled pork (not dry salted pork, which is a very different thing and will not keep well) and keeping it packed in salt in as cool a place as your camp affords. When there is a sportsman in your party, even if you are not out primarily for game, your larder may be enlivened by the addition of a rabbit now and then ; and in a trout country there is, of course, fish in season. For frying purposes the fat from fried bacon is by far the best material both for digestion's sake and also, to many palates, for tastiness. If you use many fried things, provide yourself be-fore starting with some bacon rinds from the meat shop, and render the fat down to take with you packed in a tight jar. If you do not fry much, the fat left over from the bacon cooked in camp, will be enough for ordinary purposes.