When I think of camp, one of the first things I think about is packing snacks and treats. Camp is a great excuse to return my childhood days of string cheese, hot dogs, gummy worms and ice cream sandwiches. But I’ve gained some wisdom in my later years. While those candies and snacks are fun and easy, they’re missing out of the fun of actually making the food.
My trips to camp now hinge on local farmers markets and delis, acting as fresh food outposts before we head far away from town and into the country. Whether these places are a mile down the road, or 20, developing a healthy reliance on these local places adds another layer of mindfullness to the trip.
But by far the greatest lesson I’ve learned is this: always bring a chef. My friend Emily Berman of 52 Meals (where she blogs about her weekly food experiences with friends) has always fed our group of friends well. But nowhere is she more impressive and appreciated as when we head out to a cottage or camp, and her abilities to spot great local produce, quality meats and unique seasonal ingredients really shows. And you can tell that she relishes in the challenge.
The dishes she prepares when we’re away at camp are a lesson to us all. It’s not about how fancy the oven is, or how exotic the ingredients are, or even the preparation. She’s been known to come back from the garden with handfuls of heirloom tomatoes, mustard greens and wild spinaches from the fields, and then season and slice her way to a perfect summer plate for the group. And then she’ll fry the bacon. In these moments, it becomes clear to me that the difference between a chef like Emily and the rest of us isn’t just the expert skillset, it’s an appreciation for the innate value of food and ingredients, which is something she can share with all of us at camp long after the meal is over.
Food like this at camp isn’t just a fun treat, it’s an inspiration that usually has me and Hillary cooking more often for weeks after camp. We’ve been making this cheesy scrambled egg recipe from Gilt Taste she shared with us…a LOT.