Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Longing for simple... making bread over the campfire


Why does food taste so much better when cooked – and savored – outside? The American part of my soul loves camping, for the outdoors, the beauty of nature, the escape from civilization. But also because of the food.

Camping is one of the rare times I indulge in bacon...
French toast and fried egg...


Somehow when camping, life becomes simple again. Life slows down. For a couple of days, life becomes about sleeping, eating, enjoying and savoring the moment, absorbing the surroundings, being in touch with nature. The basics of life, really. The things that make you feel grounded, and tend to get diminished by the rat race of 21st century life. Perhaps it is because we are (willingly) forced into this contemplative state that our senses are enhanced and we can enjoy the food, the process of cooking and enjoying it, so much more, it seems.

These are the things I was so excited to share with Pablo on this camping trip to the Sequoia National Forest, and he had a wonderful time, though it is the natural state of a toddler: being in the moment, absorbing the surroundings, his life being about sleeping, eating and enjoying. Is this what the essence of childhood is?  I suppose it makes sense he was a natural at camping then… He was probably thinking of me all frantic to get organized and packed and in a hurry to go slow down in the woods, thinking to himself, “Of course that’s what life is about.” We have so much to learn from our children. We are forced to outgrow this state, to then grow to seek and rediscover it. Life is all about cycles, isn’t it?

This longing to “get back to the basics”, to the simplicities of life, must explain why I was so excited when our dear friend D mentioned she and her ex-husband used to make bread while camping. Making bread. Just saying it makes me feel grounded. Over the campfire!  The pioneers from the Lewis & Clark expedition come to mind. I feel the dough in my fingers. I smell the smoke and heat from the fire. 



Food has a way of connecting and reconnecting people, and it’s exactly what it did here. D contacted her estranged ex-husband to obtain the bread recipe, and they were able to reminisce about the good memories around that bread and find closure in acknowledging these happy times together. I love how food touches our lives this way, as a symbol, as a token, as the companion to the ups and downs of life. When Pablo gets a bit older, I will love telling him that story, it’ll make the bread taste that much better. That’s one part of the education of taste: to us, that bread will always have a tinge of healing and joy in its flavor. Recipes get passed from lives to lives, like happy ghosts of nostalgia, carrying our journeys, spreading them like ashes, feeding the soil for new growth. 

For a simple and nutritional lunch open-faced sandwich (called “tartine” in French), I used a wonderful Tomato Jam made last week, some mozzarella and avocado…











Even if you don’t go camping, you can make this bread over a fire on the beach, or on the barbecue at the park! It tastes like a scrumptious American biscuit, and a bite out of it might just make you feel like the pioneers who helped build this country – à propos for a July 4th!



Tomato, mozzarella & avocado tartine, on Bannock camp-cooked bread



Bread recipe from Bradford Angier


Age: 12 months and up – because the tomato jam contains honey, mostly. Note that the kids can help mix the dough with the water in the plastic bag, always fun and sensory! It’s a balanced lunch sandwich with vegetables (tomatoes, onions), starch (bread), dairy and protein (mozzarella), and good fats (avocado)!


Makes 4 servings



For the bread:

2 cups of organic flour

2 tsp of double action baking powder

½ tsp of salt

6 tbsp of butter

4 tbsp of dry milk

Water, as necessary to obtain desired consistency



At home, mix in bowl the flour, baking powder and salt. Cut up the softened butter and mix it in with the dry ingredients – the easiest for me was to do this with my hands, until you get a coarse meal. Then add the dry milk.  Pour the mix in a plastic bag.


In camp, stir mix lightly, and add water, a little bit at a time, to obtain a dough that’s not too liquid. Put in a greased pan, cover with foil and cook over campfire over low to moderate heat. It took ours about 1 hour.  Check it often, turn it over when the bottom part is golden brown. Either eat right away, or if you intend to keep it for the next day, store it in a plastic bag.



For the tartine:


Avocado

Tomato Jam (wonderful recipe from Food loves writing)

Fresh mozzarella

Salt & pepper to taste



Melt the mozzarella in a pan. Spread some avocado on the bread, add some tomato jam, and pour the mozzarella on top. You can add some more tomato jam if you’d like. Enjoy!


PS: Just added "Bread" to the food sign list, check it out!
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1 comment:

  1. What a beautiful story. When you have been very happy at one point of your life, there are more often than not personal connections with food. Of course, you remember the setting but you never forget how much better the food tasted and smelled. It seems that love enhances food and vice versa, like in a perfect communion!

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