Pasta might not seem like a natural for camp dinners, but a closer look at the ingredients reveals why it should be. All you need to prepare it is boiling water. Pasta also has a high calorie-to-weight ratio, which, at 110 calories per ounce, almost rivals that of nuts. Pasta is also dried, and, therefore, preserved. Seasoning is easy. A small bottle of olive oil combined with a packet of sun-dried tomatoes, dried oregano and garlic powder makes a tasty camp meal.
This has been a classic with campers, soldiers, cowboys, railroad workers and just about anyone living outdoors in America for at least 150 years. The necessary ingredients are preserved meat, such as salt pork or beef jerky, beans and some root vegetables like onions, potatoes and carrots. All of those ingredients are either already preserved or not subject to rapid spoilage if kept out of the sun. Camp stews are also a good place to use foraged wild edible plants. The preserved meats offer all the seasoning. Dig a pit big enough to fit the stew pot, and then rake out hot coals from a campfire into the bottom. Put all the ingredients plus water into the pot until it is half to two-thirds full, put the lid back on and then bury the pot. After the pot has been left to cook in the coal pit for several hours, it will be ready to eat. This is the kind of meal that can be prepared in the morning and ignored all day, only to be dug up and served later when people are ready to eat.
Fish in Foil
Many camping trips center on fishing, and an alternative to the camp fish fry is to cook the fish in foil by the campfire. Simply clean and fillet the fish and set it on a sheet of foil big enough to wrap the fish. Cover the fish in a film of olive oil or vegetable oil, and season it to taste, using classics like salt, lemon and basil, or wild edible plants like rosemary or onion grass. Wrap it up and set it by the campfire or on hot coals, let it cook for 30 minutes and the fish is done.
Hoecakes are a Southern classic, and most non-Southerners would call them "pan-fried cornbreads." An ideal mix ratio is a cup of corn meal, a cup of white flour and a cup of milk, but during the Civil War, the Confederate soldiers would make hoecakes from just corn meal and water. Coat the bottom of an iron camp skillet with oil, get it hot and pour in a thick layer of batter. It will fry into pan-bread.
A classic side item for camp dinners is fire-roasted corn on the cob. Many a camper has picked up some ears of corn from a roadside farmer's stand and roasted them over the next night or two. Leave the husk on and set it by the camp fire or on hot coals. The water in the husk will keep the corn from catching fire while also steaming the corn inside. After about 20 or 30 minutes, pull the corn out, peel off the husk (carefully, as it will be steaming hot inside), and that is it. It is a very simple and easy way to cook corn.