In August 2016, I was invited to be part of the Stay Wild EXPO at the World Forestry Center in Portland, Oregon. They called the event “the world’s first adventure festival,” and it was chock full of field trips, workshops, and a trade show featuring local artists and makers.
I was involved in a variety of ways: I’ve written for Stay Wild Magazine, I taught an adventure writing class on the first day of the festival, and on Sunday, August 28th, Snow Peak asked me to lead a backcountry cooking demonstration. Using their stoves and cookwear, I helped participants create their own gourmet backcountry brunch.
We started with a berry cobbler. The recipe was simple: chop whatever fruit is in season (we used peaches, nectarines, and berries) then toss the fruit in a cast iron pan or dutch oven with a lid (like this.) Mix a couple of spoonfuls of sugar and few of pats of butter or coconut oil in with the fruit. If you’re feeling creative, you can add nuts or dried berries or other spices, like cinnamon or ginger or a dash cloves.
For the topping, we used instant oatmeal — the kind you’d buy in a packet to take camping. Pour one or two packets into a bowl, then mash in some butter until the mixture gets crumbly. Sprinkle over the fruit mixture, then cover your concoction with a well-fitting lid.
To bake, you can use any heat source: a camping stove, a fire, or a conventional oven. Just make sure the heat is relatively low and (if possible) diffused somehow — i.e., not directly on the fire. (If you’re cooking over a campfire, scoop some hot coals onto the top of your cast iron oven to help the heat wrap around your dish.) I cooked my cobbler on this camping stove over low heat for 10-15 minutes, and it turned out beautifully.
Huckleberry helped, of course.
After we each ate 40 servings of cobbler, we moved on to the second course: salad. Using a handful of simple ingredients — olive oil, hot sauce, vinegar, something fruity/jam-like, salt and pepper — everybody made their own dressing, which we drizzled over locally grown purple cabbage.
(While cabbage isn’t my go-to when I’m cooking in the city, it’s one of my favorites for camp cooking: it’s insanely sturdy, stays crispy and crunchy forever, and is even considered a superfood. And with homemade dressing, it’s pretty darn delicious.)
We added some sliced almonds, crispy wontons, and a slice of lemon. Even my friend Dampier (who swore he “wasn’t really a cabbage guy”) ate a whole plate of his homemade salad.
After the cabbage salad, we made a couple of other fun dishes: an egg scramble, coconut pancakes, and several more cobblers.
It was fun to hear other people’s favorite backcountry recipes, experiment with new cooking techniques and different kinds of camp stoves, and meet some new friends. We made pot after pot of coffee, and there were mimosas, too.
Thanks to Snow Peak, Muir Energy, and the Stay Wild community for making this fun event happen. The apron I’m wearing was made by the Red Clouds Collective, a rad Portland-based business. Big thanks to my friends Rashaun and Dampier, who helped chop vegetables, sample cobbler, and generally kept me from burning the place down. If you’re interested in attending a similar event, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Photos are courtesy of Bryan Aulick.