How to Have the Ultimate Campfire Cooking Experience

“You don’t need a silver fork to eat good food.”

-Paul Prudhomme

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As a Girl Guide member-turned-leader, I have learned a couple of things in my fifteen years of Guiding:

  • Always be prepared
  • Share and be a friend
  • Pack lots of marshmallows and hotdogs when camping

SWEET MEMORIES…

My earliest camp memory is from when I was a Brownie. I was eight years old and it was my first camp. Ever. It was an outdoor tenting excursion, so naturally all the girls in my unit were excited.

The week leading up to the big endeavour I printed out the kit list and rallied all my camp equipment together. Mess kit, five pairs of socks, cotton leggings, a couple t-shirts, shorts, a sweater, boots, runners and toothbrush… the essentials.

Of course, like any another eight-year-old, I couldn’t wrap my head around not being able to pack my ten fluffy stuffed animals. Being the stealthy gal that I am, I did, however, manage to smuggle my favourite miniature plush bear, the one with the Cracker Barrel ribbon tied around its neck. I have no clue as to why that was my favourite stuffy. Maybe it’s because I was a cheese and cracker fiend, even back then?

As the days crept closer, I became increasingly excited. On Friday afternoon, the time had finally come to make the hour trek to our Scout camp. A weekend full of activities leading up until Sunday morning departure could only mean one thing: a good time.

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Tents, what’s the deal with those things?!

Upon arrival, our leaders, Comet and Chips, helped us assemble our tents on the large open field that made up Blue Springs Scout Reserve. Novices that we were, we poked and tugged at the different tent compartments, pushing the detachable poles in through one section only to realize they were meant for another. After what seemed like an eternity, we were finished. Caitlin, Vanessa, Simone and I decided to move the tent by the oak trees that lead to a trail near the campfire area. Spooky, I know.

As night fell, I learned a valuable lesson. Even though it may be June, temperatures dip drastically over night! So pack lots of layers! That said, as we each took a seat on the logs surrounding the campfire, I had little time to think of how cold it had become. Between singing, laughing and storytelling, we were having too much fun to concentrate on anything else. The one thing that I remember most clearly though, were roasting marshmallows and spiderdogs.

“Find a long stick, girls” instructed Comet. “Once you find a good one, come see Chips and she’ll give you a spider dog to cook.”

This of course was met with many gasps and shrieks. What on earth was a spiderdog? Well, we quickly discovered that it was just a regular wiener whose ends curled into “spider legs” once roasted.

Like the egg-legged hotdog treat, there were many other firsts that weekend as hiked, learned archery, fell asleep under the stars and made new friends. Aside from all the cool activities and hat crafts we did, the meal plan was out of this world! It wasn’t gourmet but I must admit it was creative. Who knew you could cook so many things over a fire with a little bit of ingenuity?

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In a couple of weeks, I’ll be making a trek up to Camp Makeewa, a Girl Guide camp outside of Orangeville, for a weekend of fun and creativity. Along with ten eight-year-olds, I will be exploring the great outdoors and watching friendships flourish. Of course there will probably be some tears along the way, but hey, life isn’t perfect. At this point, Barn Owl (me) has some tricks up her sleeve 😉

FOOD

Let’s start with what really matters, the most important thing. What better way is there to get the creative juices flowing than to think up meals for camp? 

Eggs in bag, water bottle pancakes, muffins in an orange peel … all great campfire recipes that EVERYONE should keep in their arsenal. I mean, did you really go camping if you didn’t cook over a campfire?

I cannot tell you how many wieners that I have seen fall into the ashes. It’s just heartbreaking. Luckily, with age comes experience. Spear your ‘dogs real well, especially if you’re going to make spiderdogs. Those can be tricky at times, but they taste so much better. Why? I don’t know, it’s the mystery of campfire cooking.

Of course, no camping trip or backyard bonfire is complete without s’mores. Aren’t they the greatest? Sweet, sticky and melty. They’re the perfect ending to any outdoor adventure! If you have never eaten a s’more, then I personally extend an invitation to you the next time I go camping! Who could resist a toasted marshmallow and melted chocolate sandwiched between two graham crackers?

 Here are a couple of things that I’m going to be trying at an upcoming camp:

Naturally, campfire cooking recipes are awesome to try, but there are also some great prep and clean-up hacks to make sure that there aren’t any (or, at least few) problems!

Camp Cookout Prep:

  • Measure ingredients for each meal ahead of time and pack in labeled ziploc bags
  • Don’t forget aluminum foil; it’s essential for nearly all campfire snacks and meals
  • Keep any meats frozen before placing them in a cooler so they will last longer
  • Always bring extra matches
  • Have a small cutting board for food prep, or use the back of a clean Frisbee

When Cooking:

  • Cover pots or foil pockets so food will cook faster and be free from unwanted bugs
  • Carry instant soup mix to serve with meals on cold days
  • Pack lots of granola bars, trail mix or dried fruit for day time activities

Clean-up:

  • Pack a sponge with a scrubber side for easy washing
  • Apply oil on camp grill to keep foods from sticking
  • If there are bears in the area, be sure to properly store your trash either in locations provided at the site or off the ground in a tree far from your tent

Of course, a good campfire experience extends beyond food. Below I have listed some other things to keep in mind.

 SONGS

Traditionally, there’s a roster of campfire songs that we sing around the ole’ open flame. Just like our fresh campfire, our songs begin slowly (Guide Opening). As the flame heightens, so does the upbeat rhythm of our tunes (Mamma Don’t Allow, Fish and Chips and Vinegar, Kookaburra, My Hat). When the night has ended and the flames turn to embers, so does the music (Taps). It’s a really beautiful metaphor. What? I’m sentimental like that!

GAMES & ACTIVITIES 

Broken Telephone is always so much fun, especially when you have a larger group. Despite creating your most eloquently worded message, by the time the it reaches the last person I can guarantee that it’ll be super silly and the exact opposite of what you intended. It never fails, especially when kids are involved. How “I love camping so much” can shape-shift into “Fat llamas dance on the beach,” I do not know. Turn to the kid on your left and they’re most likely the culprit.

“Darling if you love me, won’t you please, please smile?” This one is a Guiding CLASSIC. People take turns approaching someone asking the following question in the silliest way they can. The person being asked must avoid even the slightest grin or chuckle or else they became the next person to ask, “Darling if you love me.”

Charades, an oldie but a goodie, is also always fun. Trying to act out a person, place or thing in the dark is quite amusing. Even more so if things take a dark turn and suddenly you’re launching into the middle of a ghost story.

SAFETY

It’s all fun and games until someone walks too close to the flame. Don’t be that guy! You know the one, everyone’s having a grand ol’ time until someone takes it a little TOO far… it’s unnecessary and dangerous. If you lose half your tent-mates in a fire incident, I can guarantee your campfire experience will not be as ultimate as promised. Always be aware of your surroundings and exercise caution around fire. Maintain at least a foot in distance between you and the hot stuff.

FRIENDSHIP

It’s so corny when I think about it, but there really is something SO DAMN MAGICAL about a campfire. Like, you just want to join arms with your partners and sing “Kumbaya” as you sway back and forth.

Teamwork is critical in building and maintaining the perfect campfire. It’s an experience that brings you together, regardless of whether or not you were friends before. There’s an overwhelming sense of accomplishment when you and your new best pals step back to admire what you have created with your bare hands.

The smell of burning wood and the gentle crackle of the campfire just makes all seem right and just in the world. The laughter and camaraderie had at a weekend at camp is incomparable. Take it from me, those who camp together, stay together.

What’s more, those who roast marshmallows and spiderdogs together, will never go hungry and always remember those special times when less really is more!

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Lastly, remember one very important thing: HAVE FUN!

 

The Ultimate Campfire Spiderdogs

INGREDIENTS

  • Hotdogs, at least two per person
  • Small knife
  • Long skewer or stick
  • Outdoor fire (this is key for optimal flavour)

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Take a hotdog from its package and using a knife, cut an “X” into both ends of it.
  2. Pierce the middle section of the hotdog with your skewer.
  3. Roast over an open flame, turning frequently, for approximately five minutes or until the ends of the hotdog begin to curl. Be sure to cook your spiderdog over hot coals, taking care to avoid white flakes of ash.
  4. Enjoy life’s simple joys!

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What are your favourite things to cook around a bonfire? I’d love to know!

 

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