The Pacific Northwest Tour: Adventures in Cooking

So you know from my Fishpeople Seafood review that I’m quite the reluctant cook. The process just doesn’t excite me so I tend to muddle my way through for lack of inspiration and interest. This is why for me to be writing a cooking post is really very funny.

But it occurred to me that someone has to keep it real for the people who don’t aspire to be uber-chefs at home or at camp… those of us who like to eat decent food but don’t find joy in making it happen. This is the conundrum I found myself in as I set out to Overland Expo this year. I was tired of the same old camp food but had very little motivation to expand my horizons and improve our camp fare.

That’s the short version of how I ended up spending a chunk of my Overland Expo time at the Living Overland and Life Remotely booths.

Living Overland…

Beau and Krista Johnston of Living Overland had some great demonstrations on the technical aspects of cooking as well as the practical considerations of making great food at camp. They also had some really nice recipes to share with us and I encourage you to check out their site. Super groovy folks.

Beau Johnston of Living Overland took on the challenge of trying to convert me into a camp cook.

As educational as the sessions were, I was not entirely successful in stifling a sarcastic chortle when Beau asked the crowd the seemingly rhetorical question of “Why wouldn’t you cook at camp like you do at home?” Keep in mind that my favorite cookbook at home is “What the F&@k Should I Make for Dinner?” because they’re simple, no BS recipes that are still quite tasty. And let’s face it, the tone of the book fits my personality well. (Find it on Amazon here…)

Beau and Krista’s setup is more elaborate than mine by a long shot partially because I don’t have the space to pack specialized gear in Blubaru, especially when the back seat is occupied by adolescent boys. While I won’t be packing a wok on a camping trip any time soon, I did learn a lot about different options I hadn’t considered before and what they can do for your camp cuisine.

They covered everything through pot choices, knives, fuel types, stoves, and cutting boards. Much of it I actually knew already believe it or not, but there was also a lot of good refresher and some very good new information for me and I left feeling at least somewhat inspired to up my camp cooking game a bit.

Here’s a sample of their sessions at Overland Expo this year:

For more on Living Overland’s recipes, many of them are gluten-free if that’s something you need, go visit their site. They also have gobs of practical overland cooking tips so check it out.

Life Remotely…

Thinking I’d had enough cooking at Overland Expo, my buddy Wilderness Dave proved me wrong by convincing me the folks at Life Remotely were pretty groovy and I should pay them a visit. Of course, he was right.

I’m smiling with Wilderness Dave and Kobus of Life Remotely… but that’s only because I hadn’t tried to cook anything yet.

They are entirely charming and I ended up buying their ebook full of recipes and stories. It also comes in a paperback version but looking ahead to six more weeks on the road I knew the book would be destroyed before I got back home. I managed to make use of several of the simpler recipes in the weeks that followed on the Pacific Northwest Tour, even without having prepared in advance with supplies.

The book contains lots of details about tools, methods, and getting proper heat while cooking on the road. I’m very fond of the fact that they encourage balance in overland cooking, recognizing the need for simple as well as more complicated concoctions so you have options when traveling. Of course, you know I’m a sucker for personal stories and I love the touch they add by sharing their experiences and how they discovered these recipes.

From a practical side, Life Remotely’s spice rubs and marinades area appealing for the ease of tweaking them to fit your needs as well as their versatility. For example, I added baby portobellas to the grilled potatoes and I used that same sauce for grilled asparagus. I also substituted agave for honey and sugar as sweeteners since that’s what I had on hand and I don’t have the car space to carry everything on a seven-week trip.

You can, of course, get much more involved. Check out their session of cooking a chicken in a vat of mud at Overland Expo. Good times…

Putting it together…

Between Fishpeople Seafood, Living Overland, and Life Remotely, I had a lot of camp cooking thoughts swirling around in my head and it was fairly overwhelming but again, I couldn’t stomach the thought of living on burgers and hot dogs for the next six weeks.

Forks in the Road from Life Remotely
Forks in the Road from Life Remotely is available in paperback or e-book.

So I experimented during the rest of my solo time on the trip so hopefully dinners wouldn’t be a disaster by the time Fred and George joined me. I stuck with very simple recipes from the book since I was not in the least prepared for anything more. But it was the wind, hail, and rain throughout my stay at Great Sand Dunes that added the most challenging element to my experimentation and tested my resolve to put more effort into camp cooking.

I was moderately successful but often highly frustrated by the extra challenges to my already limited motivation. I did, however, get to refine my process a little bit before I had to cook for my picky adolescents. I took several approaches throughout the trip, working towards that balance of going simple when I needed to and putting more in when I could. Here’s something of a photo essay of those efforts:

Pick your battles… on a night when you’re prepping to break camp and trying to shoot time-lapses, it’s ok to go for a simple meal. I will say Fishpeople Seafood makes that a very easy choice.
Because camp cooking isn’t challenging enough… hail.
And sometimes it was a simple as adding wild rice to a Fishpeople entree to give me the extra calories I needed after a long day on the trail.
A late night arriving at camp meant keeping cooking by headlamp which was very manageable with some Fishpeople and quinoa action.
I did get some props from George for the Pork & Pineapple Kebabs. I’ll take it. This simple marinade from Life Remotely added much flavor to camp dinner.
More insane winds at Crater of the Moon made keeping the heat on a simple dinner like BBQ ribs and sweet potatoes challenging.
I took some liberties with the Life Remotely recipes like adding baby portobellas to the Grilled Honey Mustard Potatoes. That worked well and I also used that same sauce for grilled asparagus later on in the trip.
I may be challenged in many camp-cooking arenas but I can make a mean s’more. This is not amateur material. Just sayin’.

Progress…?

So the big picture is that I’m a little more inclined to cook more interesting fare at camp. The recipes Living Overland and Life Remotely have put together tend to keep the challenges of camp cooking in mind so I will definitely be using them on future trips. And many of them lend themselves to some level of pre-trip prep to ease the burden at camp. Along with my new-best-friend, Fishpeople Seafood, camp fare just got much more interesting.

In the end, it’s unlikely I’ll ever go to great culinary extremes in cooking. It’s just not my thing. Given the option, I will happily let others do the cooking…

Truth is, I’ll always appreciate the culinary talents of others over my own… including this delightful burger I snuck off to have during a hail storm at Great Sand Dunes. So much better than anything I’ll ever make!

And now for your moment of green…

Cooking doesn’t excite me. This does.

The Full Monty…

The Pacific Northwest Tour (2014)


2 thoughts on “The Pacific Northwest Tour: Adventures in Cooking

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *