Camp Cooking without a Cooler?

by Rufina Cambrensis

This article first appeared in the Seahorse, the monthly newsletter of the Crown Province of Østgarðr, in July, 1996.

Cooking at a camping event like Pennsic can be difficult, whether you're cooking for yourself or for an entire encampment. Food storage is even more so; bringing a mini-fridge would hinder the medieval ambience, lugging ice from the camp store to the Serengeti or other far-flung spot is a nuisance, and making daily food runs is impractical (thanks to the dauntingly congested Pennsic parking fields). So, what can you cook if you don't want to be a slave of the ice demons? Root vegetables will keep nicely in a dry shady spot, or even buried in a box of earth....

Dried pasta is also easy to store and prepare out-of-doors; butter and cheese, the traditional accompaniments, can be purchased at the camp store. (An old Boy Scout tip: butter and cheese can be kept cool by storing them in an earthenware crock buried in wet sand)

If you do wish to cook with meat, but don't want to worry about keeping it fresh, try preserving it. We pickle meat in Lord's Salt, a mixture of vinegar, breadcrumbs, and divers spices. The recipe is available in Cariadoc's Miscelleny. Meat pickled in Lord's Salt tastes sour and spicy even after rinsing, and is best used in dishes that list vinegar, cinnamon, ginger, etc. among the ingredients....

Pickling your own meat is a lot of work; you could also cook using canned meat (canning is Napoleonic, but I'd really rather not deal with raw, bloody chicken on a camping trip).

Absolute culinary authenticity is not possible, for a number of reasons, but with discreet use of a few modern innovations (boullion cubes or powdered soup base, canned meats, dried pasta), your camp can produce tasty period dishes without relying on modern (in)conveniences. You can take the time spent hauling ice and visit the merchants, instead....

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