Sunday, April 25, 2010

Scamp Food: Hoboes

My life in this place has entered the countdown phase, which, I’m fairly certain I don’t like. I’m t-minus one month now and the thought makes me faintly nauseous, even as I’m working on packing and stalking Craig’s List for apartments. In the last few days, I’ve made quite a dent on my kitchen—and I have no words for how good that feels. With the exception of the cupboard under the sink (which I’m afraid of), all my cupboards have been gone through, culled, and the stuff I can live without for a short while packed. Yesterday I packed up almost all of my tea china and all the pots and pans and cookie sheets I wouldn’t need for the next thirty days. I also took most everything off the walls—and you never realize what stuff on the walls does for a home until it’s not there. Something about permanence, I think. Like the packing episode I did a couple of weeks ago, the Goodwill pile is almost as big as the Going With Me pile and that feels damn good.

I also had to consider that I would actually have to cook in the next four weeks, so I couldn’t pack everything away. At the very least, I still have some Cow in my freezer (my third of a quarter-cow that two friends and I split last fall) and since I like to cook, not cooking for the next few weeks isn’t an option. But being a single person, I tend to cook several things at once, divide them up into single containers and freeze them (last Saturday I made sauerbraten, tomato orzo, and a pasta dish and that will feed me for a couple of weeks). Sure beats frozen dinners from the grocery store and it cuts down on the amount of trash I produce. And these individual meals make excellent staples when I’m on the road. I can put them, frozen, in my little fridge and they’ll both keep the fridge cold while we’re on the road (if the battery fails) and be thawed when I’m ready for them, which is really nice if it happens to be raining and I can’t cook outside. I tend to prefer cooking on an open fire whenever possible, but even if I have to resort to the microwave, there are worse things.

Hoboes are my main food source when I’m Scamping, wrapping up whatever food in aluminum foil and tossing it on the coals of a well-built fire. My experience with hoboes dates to the years I worked at camp during college and every Thursday for lunch we’d take the kids to a campfire spot, build a fire, cut up potatoes, carrots, onions, and pinch off pieces of ground beef, wrap them in foil and cook them on the fire. It’s simple, it’s good, and as an avowed pyromaniac, I’m always excited when I get to build a fire. When I make hoboes on the road, I always make enough for leftovers, since I never know if it'll be raining the next night.

On my third Scamping trip, I made the traditional hobo and I don’t recall what I did to get the package out of the fire, but gravity was not my friend and the first one (I made two) hit the ground and burst open. Luckily none of the edible portions met the dirt, so the whole thing was still salvageable, but my DNA kicked into overdrive. There had to be a better way. On my next trip to Goodwill, I picked up a wide metal spatula and something that looked like a barbeque spear—and so I took my wire ties and my duct tape to it and I made a long-handled hobo scoop. The Babine Tinkering Gene is a beautiful thing. As a result, I haven’t dropped any more hoboes.

The main food-related thought I had yesterday—as I put my food processor on the Goodwill pile—was that I could start experimenting with new Scamp recipes. Since most of my pans are now packed, I’m wondering about what else I can do in a hobo. I don’t take meat with me when I camp and I’m mostly vegetarian anyway (Cow notwithstanding)—so I’m thinking about doing some different combinations of vegetables (zucchini, yellow squash, tomatoes, mushrooms, baby corn, etc), maybe some sesame chili oil and a sprinkle of ground ginger. I saw a recipe for sweet potatoes and scallions that looked worth trying. Maybe some heirloom varieties of potatoes—bring on the purple ones!—and see where it goes. And it’s strange how I haven’t gotten sick of the basic potato-onion-carrot combination yet, but I’m looking to branch out.

Anybody have any good hobo ideas?

1 comment:

  1. Sweet potatoes...

    And today I'm thinking of asparagus with lemon zest and maybe some kale...

    We need to look at the Flavor Bible to get some more ideas.