Almost two weeks in and now I’m beginning to wonder what we signed ourselves up for. We leave for camping tomorrow with some of our closest friends. While I’m looking forward to most everything camping entails – hiking, long hours at the beach, campfires, bikes rides, reading, being totally unplugged – I am not looking forward to eating while camping. Or more specifically, eating local while camping.
In the past, food was one of the last things that I worried about while camping. Anyone with young kids can attest to the fact that camping (specifically, tent camping) is not relaxing. So, in my world, one way to minimize stress while camping was to keep meals simple, convenient and fun. Think marshmallows, hotdogs, chips, Kraft Dinner and s’mores. Now think about trying to find those same items locally.
Even simple meals like a sandwich are that much more time intensive and involved. There’s no ability to pick up a simple loaf of bread. (Unless we eat the 100% local-ingredients dark rye bread from Golden Hearth Bakery. While Jeff and I find it delicious, our kids won’t touch it. And when it’s exposed to air of any sort, it becomes the texture of a brick, making it completely unsuitable for life spent outdoors. Not to mention the $6 price tag for a loaf about six inches long….also, not budget-friendly.) Needless to say, I have been rationing my last tablespoon of active-dry yeast to bake my last two loaves of bread today just before we leave. (Part of me is waiting for a miracle of Biblical proportions. Forget the oil – I could use a little jar of overflowing yeast.) Let it be known that in years past, baking bread was never on the top of my to-do list before we went camping. (Also, as a side-note, anyone willing to babysit my sourdough starter while we’re gone? Our bread-eating future depends on it.)
There’s also the element of having to explain to our kids that since we are camping with friends, it’s not appropriate or acceptable to mooch snacks. Elsie, especially, has a tendency to sidle up to someone who has just opened a bag of something crispy and deliciously non-local, while indicating in a sugary-sweet, passive-aggressive sing-song voice, “I’m hungry.” And she will repeat that same phrase at a religiously fevered pitch until someone passes her a bowl of whatever they were eating. The last thing I want our friends to feel is that not only have they packed snacks for their kids, but also ours. I should mention that so far Zoe and Elsie have loved the snacks offered from our local diet, however, dehydrated apple chips don’t stand a chance when a bag of veggie straws are in the vicinity. Essentially, I’m concerned about our kids being whiny about the lack of “fun” food, while simultaneously feeling guilty for not allowing them the fond summer memory of ooey, gooey roasted marshmallows.
People have kindly suggested that we make exceptions to our guidelines for events such as camping. But both Jeff and I feel like if we make excuses whenever we hit a rough patch, then we’ll be making allowances right, left and center. Then the whole purpose behind this year-long experiment will lose it’s validity and we won’t truly experience what it means to eat locally.*
Part of me is a tiny bit excited about the challenges we’re facing so far with our food preparation for camping. It’s revealing to me how much we have relied on a weakened and convenient food system. And dare I say it’s taking abstinence to a whole new level. The other much larger part of me is tearing my hair out and wondering what the heck we were thinking when we committed to this experiment. But wait – I don’t have time for hair-pulling or pondering. I’ve got bread to bake.
*One exception we have agreed on is kids’ birthdays. We are not inviting 15+ kids over for birthday parties and serving them lentils and sourdough cupcakes. But you can likely expect more on this topic at a later date.