We’re back from our family camping adventure and what a trip it was!
Complete with a beautiful lake for swimming, lots of toads, a crayfish, a humdinger of a thunderstorm, a deflating air mattress, one burned finger, curious chipmunks and still providing us with that smoky, slightly damp odor -- we can’t wait to do it again next year, or maybe even sooner.
We used to camp every year for at least one long weekend, but three days of non-stop rain at Burton Island State Park several years ago left such scars that it has taken a while for us to regain our courage.
So finally this year, after enough time for mental healing and the purchase of a new tent, we made tent site reservations for one night at Silver Lake State Park, in Barnard -- no lean-to for back-up. After all, it was only one night and the drive from Barnard to our next stop on vacation, my brother’s house, could easily be done in the middle of the night should our courage and tent fail us.
Fortunately, both our tent and our courage remained upright, leak-proof and strong, and we had a really wonderful time. My husband and I marveled at how you could feel so relaxed after so much work -- planning what to pack, cramming it all in the car and then setting everything up under a sky that threatened to rain all afternoon. Our girls, ages 7 and 12, had a great time. Margot, the youngest, had a bit of trouble with the thunder and lightning that banged
A large part of the enjoyment, as always is in our family, was the cooking and the camping food. Our meal planning (all two of them -- dinner and breakfast) began a week or so in advance. I was convinced that I would try roasting corn over the campfire as we had when I was a kid, which set the tone for our supper menu. Then Margot saw an idea on TV that she described as "banana boats" that she was convinced we had to have for dessert. All I could understand was that it required bananas, candy and marshmallows and had to be roasted over the flames. A bit skeptical, but always one for letting the kids help plan and prepare a meal, banana boats we also added to the list. Pancakes and maple syrup have always been our standard camping breakfast fare, so we were well on our way to having a good idea what we would be eating. Adding a couple of no-fuss and well-liked elements and we were ready to pick up our provisions.
Off to the grocery store the girls and I went, armed with our list of ingredients. It wasn’t the most adventurous of menus -- burgers and dogs, roasted corn, summer squash cooked in a tin foil packet and sliced fresh cucumbers for dinner, followed by the aforementioned desserts, but we were looking for a measure of comfort as we re-attempted this tenting project. After our night of roughin’ it, breakfast would then be blueberry pancakes, maple syrup and sausage.
We started filling our cart until most everything on our list was crossed off. Then, in the middle of the baking aisle where we were looking for candy to add to Margot’s banana boats, we ran into a friend who I knew was also shopping for an annual family camping trip. In his cart were things like fresh kale and beautiful bell peppers and he was looking at the yeast choices for making homemade bread cooked on a stick. For a moment our choices felt woefully boring and lacking originality, but then I reminded myself that we were taking the easy culinary route so that we would be more able to deal with the unforeseen hazards that we were convinced would crop up. Shopping completed, I wished our friend the best, noting that the weather forecast wasn’t optimal, and went on our way, me somewhat sheepishly pushing our cart to the checkout, still feeling like a bit of a cop-out.
In the end, we were very happy with our choices. The burgers and dogs were delicious and easy for the girls to cook, the squash didn’t burn and the corn was sweet and good, even if there were a few spots underdone as the ears hadn’t been turned in the coals as evenly as they should have been. But the stars of that night’s menu were Margot’s banana boats, the very things that I had been skeptical about. She says that she saw this recipe in a segment of "Pioneer Woman," a cooking show on Food Network, and had clearly paid attention to the recipe, supervising the rest of us with a bit of an iron fist.
Here is our version as told by Margot and deciphered by me.
-- 4 large yellow bananas (not too ripe)
-- Assorted sweets that melt -- we used marshmallows, chocolate chips and
peanut butter cups
-- Aluminum foil and grilling forks or sticks,
Slice each banana in its peel, lengthwise, cutting only about halfway into the fruit. Stuff the slit with any variety of sweets, breaking large things into smaller piece. Wrap banana entirely in foil and spear through the side with a fork. Roast over the fire, but being careful that the slit is held up, so that the sweets don’t ooze out while melting. Carefully unwrap, let cool a bit and eat -- we found that a fork or spoon worked best.
The bananas softened and caramelized beautifully and all the chocolate melted into the fruit. I think they would be just as delicious without all the candy added, but I don’t think I’ll win that one anytime soon.
We’re already planning for next year’s camping trip to be a bit longer and I hope to be a little more experimental with our menu. One thing’s for sure; I’m sure these crazy roasted banana boats will remain a part of our family’s camping tradition, regardless of where we go, what the weather or who we welcome.
Julie Potter is a wife, mother of two, avid gardener and passionate cook who believes good food doesn’t have to be complicated. Share your thoughts with her at firstname.lastname@example.org.