Starting from scratch

Starting from scratch

I recently lent some kitchen items to friends who were new to camping.

One mistake we make is buying on impulse. In this way, they could try stuff before buying and not end up kit that does not work. I advocate careful consideration when purchasing as quality comes at a price. So I packed a simple kit and added a fridge and a coolbox as well. I also threw in a bit of advice. If you are new to camping understand that food does not have to be complicated. Camping is a cleansing experience, part of which is the company of friends as is prepping and eating a good meal.

So I am not talking about soggy sandwiches, baked beans or tinned spaghetti. Hopefully, they choose a facility without internet and TV. You do need to plan well as the nearest shop may be far away. There may be no chance of a takeaway of any sort. If you are going to be active or touring, prep food the previous evening. Often cold leftovers from dinner make an excellent sandwich or picnic meal with boiled eggs and a salad. And you can kick start the day with instant oats.

Even if you are a good cook keep things simple and travel with fresh ingredients. Get marinated meats and chicken and freeze them before leaving. Plan your meals per day and include snacks for the sundowners as you start dinner. I love a ring of brie with figs wrapped in foil and lightly melted on the side of the fire. Knowing that things do go wrong a frozen curry from the local deli will not go amiss. As will a few prepared salads. That saves time and is good with a ready-made dressing. Condiments go into a dry box,  include oils, seasoning, salt and pepper. On top of this, you will need to add things like milk, oats, coffee, tea and sugar. It gets easier as you do it more often.

I lent them a standard gas stove and ring, it was empty so had to be filled. Whatever type of stove you take ensure that you have sufficient fuel or spare canisters. If you need a control key for the stove keep it with the dry goods. I have attached a webbing key ring to mine, this makes it easy to hang up and be visible.

Pots and pans should be suitable for the cooker, bear in mind that gas gives a higher heat so be careful with camping pots as they are generally thinner. One would hate to scorch the mushroom sauce on the first night.

It helps to check with the venue if there be a supply of crockery, cutlery and cooking utensils.

Cooking over an open fire is often the preferred method for campers, many campsites have a built-in “braai” and a kitchen area for food preparation and washing. Check first though as you don’t want any surprises. Generally, South Africans are pretty good at cooking over coals. On that note remember firelighters, matches and a stock of wood or charcoal. You can also take a wire brush along to clean the grid before cooking. I prepare as much as I can at home before leaving but do not cut salad ingredients as they go mushy.

Stack a salad in a mason jar for the first night and crack eggs into a similar jar. They can be eaten scrambled or as an omelette.

So I had lent the friends a fridge and a cooler. The cooler was for ice packs and cold drinks for the road. Not having to open the fridge for a drink will keep the fridge cooler. Ice gets messy when it thaws, the blocks can be frozen again for the return trip. On that note, the fridge may be empty and you will not need the coolbox.

If the campsite does not have a dedicated area to prep food allocate a camp table for this. This keeps the camp stove off the ground at waist level for easy cooking.

Lastly tidying up, don’t forget the dishes and do them after the meal and don’t let them stand. If there is a kitchen all good and well. If not I use three buckets.Warm water in the first for rinsing off the residue, then warm soapy water to wash and lastly a rinse bucket. I drain my dishes after rinsing in a hanging mesh bag.

Dispose of your water in an environmentally friendly fashion at least 100 metres from a water source. Use an eco-friendly washing up liquid. Afterwards, strain the dirty water and dispose of the bits in a sealed bin then they will not attract insects or scavengers.

Be careful though, your skills could cause friends to rely on you to take charge of the catering arrangements.

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