cafe mama's kitchen

inconvenient eating

campfire pancakes

We are camping, and my sister Hannah brings cereal, the multi-pack with Froot Loops and Raisin Bran and Frosted Flakes. This is not, should not be a point for concern or contention; as children, this was our ritual, a special treat only experienced out in the woods, as inextricably wound into camping as moss into our hair. Sometimes, we would open the little boxes flat, pour the milk from mom's battered metal cooler into the inner packaging, and eat straight from the boxes; other times, we would use the camping bowls we'd brought.

hannah and monroe in the campfire

When I pack for camping, I do not pack my mother's camp cooler, no picnic table salt-and-pepper, no Bisquik box, no packets of sugars saved from diner meals. I do not pack individual boxes of cereal, and I must hold my mind's tongue to avoid judgment or commentary. This is my path and it is one I love.

cutting bacon and mixing flour

On my path is bacon, sliced on a picnic table; on my path there are campfire pancakes. How hard is it, after all, to pack flour and baking powder, sea salt and cinnamon? Can not the pepper mill fit in the camping box too? Should not a slab of bacon take the place of sodapops past? And where the cooking oil my mother brought might have gone, I have cold-pressed coconut oil; where she put the cereal boxes, I store butter and more butter.

slicing the bacon

I have brought knives, too. I slice the bacon and cook it alongside my campfire coffee, in my favorite cast iron skillet, while I melt together butter and coconut oil. The sun cants through the trees; around me are the sounds of forest and creek babbling and other campers snoring, tripping hung over to the outhouse. Our campfire smells amazing.

the pancakes cooking over the campfire

I have listened to others bemoaning the chore of cooking while on vacation. I? I would rather cook every meal myself. What more needs to be done? The boys are clear in heaven, running, balancing, climbing, wading, pouring dirt into piles and throwing pinecones with abandon, gloriously without limit and utterly without screen time. And this is my metier. I only wish I had more meals in the day. The pancakes and bacon and smokey Stumptown coffee are like nothing I've ever eaten: sweet and crispy and warm and filling and vastly better than Frosted Flakes. I want to cook, and eat, this way every day.

one. Melt a large spoonful of butter and a large spoonful of coconut oil over a campfire. Maybe 1/4 cup total. Take the pan off the fire.

two. While the butter and oil are cooling, mix a few cups of flour (two or three) with a small spoonful of baking powder (about a tablespoon), a sprinkle of salt, and cinnamon, if you've brought it.

three. Pour about a cup of milk into the butter/oil mixture and, using a fork, mix an egg or two in until nicely blended.

four. Combine the wet and dry ingredients, mixing with your fork just until all the flour has been incorporated.

five. In a pan already hot on the fire, pour butter or bacon grease and a half-cupful of batter, or thereabouts. The pancake is ready to turn when large bubbles begin to open and remain open around the cake. Cook on the other side for about a minute, adjusting the pan's position on the fire if the first side is very brown. Remove, and serve, with butter and maple syrup and campfire coffee. It's good this isn't a quick bike ride from Southeast Portland; otherwise the Saturday brunch line would be all the way to the creek.

15 august . 2011 . comments

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