CAMPING: The ultimate camping experience in your very own abode
By Laura Leigh Packard Photo credit: www.kleppingerdesign.com
C is for Camping
But it’s also for clueless, confused and downright crazy. And for this Southern girl, one has to incorporate all of the above in order to put one foot inside a giant, netted, bustling insect hive (which some people call a tent) and the other foot in a sorry sack of zippered up flimsy fabric meant for you to lay down on and slumber (you know, some call it a sleeping bag).
Now, I have been on many a camping trip, but I will fess up and tell you I don’t remember much about any of them. It’s called denial. Or post traumatic shock…it doesn’t really matter. Still, to this day my brother and I are unable to even talk about or process what took place inside a pop-up tent we spent with our parents for two weeks in Yellowstone one summer when we were in elementary school back in Texas.
Not having TV, hot water, and sharing twelve feet of space and a collapsible potty with three other humans, a few frogs, a family of squirrels, and a hungry bear who was fascinated with our revolving dinner table-slash-bed, does that to some people.
My husband loves to camp. And it’s one of the things I love about him. He keeps me guessing.
As in why would a grown man squish himself between a formation inside the earth called “Pancake Rock,” repel down the inside of a 30 foot deep cave, then set up camp next to a slab of rock covered in guano?
Now, that’s bat poop for all of you indoorsy types.
But y’all, now that I have children, I am starting to get scared. Not that my hair will turn grey, my back will permanently ache, and I will no longer remember my name by the time I can have the bathroom to myself. No. I am tougher than a two dollar steak when it comes to most things, but sometimes I do get a little shaky at the possibility of hearing three dreaded words announced at the supper table: Family. Camping. And Trip.
So far though, I have been doing a pretty good job of heading it off at the pass or before the insect repellent and collapsible fishing rods to catch our only dinner make it into hiking packs, if you know what I mean?
It’s all about another “C” word that most people really rely on for their own sanity. It’s called comfort. And if you provide it, they will come….or stay home…….depending on how you think of it.
So, fellow non- camping moms, heed my advice. It only takes ten minutes to set up a tent in the den with some funky quilts and a dozen squishy, soft pillows, put a few triple A’s in the mini flashlights, download a few Gothic Southern ghost stories (the Gray Man’s my personal favorite-see link below), and broil a few s’mores in the oven. Oh…..and break-up a few dozen glow sticks to coat the inside of a couple of Mason jars to look like fireflies at night.
While it takes 6 hours to drive, 4 miles to hike, 3,000 calories and 2 boxes of granola bars to make it to a camp ground inside the middle nowhere that, upon arrival, you’ll have to hang your food from a tree and pray it doesn’t rain.
Instead, here are a few tricks for providing the ultimate, elevated camping experience in your very own abode. Just think of all of the bug bites, blisters, and doctor bills you’ll avoid by staying home in comfort and in style.
Tomato Bacon Bisque with “Camp Crackers” and
Oven Broiled S’mores
This is my foodie representation of grilled cheese and tomato soup that I like to serve “camped out” in the den with my family on a summer week-end movie night (think Stand by Me, Caddy Shack, the Great Outdoors, National Lampoons Vacation, On Golden Pond). It has taken me over a year to perfect my bisque but it was worth every slip of the serrated knife and burn of the boiled over cream. I do have to confess I borrowed the camp cracker recipe from one of my favorite restaurants The Common Man’s Camp. And shhhh? Because it’s a place up in New England… but trust me y’all, their food is to die for, the ambiance and menu titles take you back to your youth, but their food appeals to your grown-up sensibilities and then some. You’ll find the link to make these yummy gorgonzola cheese slices of heaven below, and like they do up there in Meredith, New Hampshire, slice the pita bread into tiny pizza triangles and place on a long wooden cutting board sprinkled with green scallions and then serve family style-genius.
For the Tomato Bacon Bisque, you’ll need the following but, by the way, ALWAYS double the recipe. It’s that good:
4 cups of peeled and diced fresh tomatoes; salted to taste (or the canned kind depending on the season)
2 cups chicken broth (or if you have time, it’s always better to sauté some butter, onions, carrot and celery, add an already cooked, rotisserie chicken (how is that for irony) over boiling water for 30 minutes and then strain chicken and veggies to make your own stock.) Unless, you have absolutely nothing else in the world to do - I suggest canned chicken broth.
2-3 Tablespoons of real butter (depending on the state of your arteries)
1 clove minced garlic
8-10 pieces Peppered Bacon (alright, your all in now…might as well go for it)
1 small, finely chopped onion
2 cups whipping/heavy cream or half & half (tried them all and they all work-your preference)
Cook bacon in oven on 400 for 10-12 minutes until crisp.
Meanwhile, sauté butter, onion, and garlic in soup pot over medium high heat until tender.
Add diced tomatoes, chicken broth and cooked bacon to soup pot.
Simmer for one hour.
Next warm cream in separate pan, careful not to overheat. Now, you have to pretty much stir constantly, and like the home-made chicken stock and pot of tomatoes-you have will absolutely nothing better to do than enjoy a good book ( one of my favorites The Forgotten Garden or The Lake of Dead Languages) and a hefty glass of Pinot.
Add cream to the tomato mixture then transfer to blender or food processor; blend well.
Serve immediately with camp crackers (www.thecman.com).
Oven Broiled S’mores are just as easy, see below.
The only thing left for y’all to do is link to my story, A Diary of a Sleepover, on my website. Especially, if you’re letting your kids invite a few friends over for the campout fun. It’s your need-to-know Sleepover Survival Guide. Have a great night and don’t let the bedbugs bite!
Much love and High Hope for All Sorts of Pseudo Outdoor Fun, Laura.
Hauntedlowcountry.com to read about the gray man and other scary southern ghost tales. Flashlights On/Lights Off.
Check out Laura’s, My Kind of Camping, on Pinterest for all sorts of inspiring ideas for at home camping.
Check out The Southern Coterie’s, Movies you just can’t watch too many time, on Pinterest for movie ideas.
Finally find out how to make camp crackers at www.thecman.com under recipes.
Laura Leigh Packard is a contributor to The Southern C and is also a free lance writer who has lived all 40 years of her life here in the South and in five different states (Texas, Alabama, Florida, South Carolina, and Georgia) and is proud to call herself a Southerner. She currently lives on the coast of Georgia on St. Simons Island.