Camping cookbooks for the woodsy foodie

Chicago TribuneJuly 23, 2013 

Camping and gourmet cooking: two pastimes that are seemingly mutually exclusive. Yet three new cookbooks are trying to shuck the notion that communing with nature has to come at the expense of quality, nutritious food – or at least need not be limited to hot dogs and cans of baked beans.

For those heading out to a campsite with access to a refrigerator or ice machine, “Campfire Cuisine” (Quirk Books, $15.95) and “Family Camping Cookbook” (Duncan Baird, $14.95) boast recipes crafted with the foodie in mind.

In the former, author Robin Donovan skews her book more toward adults, with recipes like Indian-style curried yogurt chicken and cioppino (a seafood stew). The recipes are ingredient-heavy, and the lists of “must-haves” and “pantry staples” are on the longer side. That said, nearly all of the marinades and rubs are intended to be made ahead and packed in a cooler for later use.

“Family Camping Cookbook” offers the same style of recipes, but tailored to families. Especially helpful are the meal plans that preface each chapter, one each for families with younger kids, those with older kids and vegetarians. Still, the ingredient lists for things like paella and risotto primavera lean toward the lengthy side and would be impossible without regular access to ice or a store.

For campers looking for a slightly more minimalist outdoor experience, “The New Trailside Cookbook” (Firefly, $19.95) offers more of a traditional approach to campfire cuisine. Written by canoe enthusiast Kevin Callan and dietitian Margaret Howard, the book includes tips on dehydrating, living off the land and at-home steps for meal preparation to cut down on the packing list. It still has some more extravagant recipes as far as camping cuisine goes – slow-cooked pulled pork, lamb chops with rosemary and grapes – but feels more realistic in terms of what can be accomplished at a campsite.

The common thread – and key to using any of these cookbooks successfully – is planning. All three books stress crafting meal plans ahead to cut down on extensive packing lists.

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