The trick to camping is finding time to relax.
Because in my family, camping isn’t what you see on TV, that idyllic setting of a quiet couple enjoying a fire while their trusty dog sits obediently while yodeling loons float nearby on a calm lake.
Our camps are a bit more chaotic. Because our family camping trips, as they have done for years, involve a small army of hungry people of various shapes and sizes and at least one dog obsessed with chasing squirrels.
There is no doubt that we have evolved as technology has advanced. For several families, the days of tents have been replaced by giant RVs that offer fluffy beds, multiple TVs, and air-conditioning.
As for me, my camping days are certainly behind me as I needed help from several people to get up from an air mattress which, no matter how thick, still didn’t prevent my wife from being thrown off the opposite edge every time I settled down.
But even with the comfort and convenience of modern gadgets, feeding 15 people is still a daunting undertaking when just finding enough paper plates and plastic forks is a challenge. There are always a million plastic spoons out there, but to find the necessary amount of forks, the US Marshals Service has to start an investigation.
Dinner preparation begins almost immediately after breakfast, which usually ends at lunchtime because breakfast took so long to prepare. Years ago, when we were all in tents and using Coleman stoves, which stank of fuel and produced flames the size of a match, we had the great idea of hosting breakfast for my in-laws, who lived comfortably in a spacious cabin down the… Beach lived road from campsite. Apparently camping wasn’t challenging enough so we added more people to the mix.
This was a grand undertaking that included dozens of eggs, huge stacks of pancakes, multiple types of sausage, mounds of potatoes with onions and peppers, coffee, juice, and chopped fruit. We wanted to make an impression, so the pressure was huge, like Gordon Ramsay was yelling in my ear that the potatoes wouldn’t budge.
When we were done, we were a ragged heap of disheveled tramps covered in sweat, butter, and syrup. As we cleaned up, it was time to prepare dinner. Then we went through the whole process again, so camping consisted of cooking, eating, cleaning and sleeping.
Times have certainly changed. The equipment is much better and it is so much easier to cook food on flat top grills that burn evenly. But it’s still a production and you’re still outside and not in the comfort of a kitchen where every utensil has a place and water comes out of a spout.
Food always seems to be the center of camping, and the simplicity of things like frozen potatoes or a bunk sandwich just doesn’t cut it. I’m starting to think there’s an unwritten rule that when camping, you have to spend an inordinate amount of time preparing meals from scratch.
Because what fun is it to sit in a giant, air-conditioned RV, watch the game, and eat microwave pizza?
One day I’ll try to find out.
Ray Kisonas is the regional editor of The Monroe News and The Daily Telegram. He can be reached at [email protected]