The trick to camping is finding time to relax.
Because in my family, camping isn’t what you see on TV, that idyllic setting of a quiet couple enjoying a fire while their loyal dog sits obediently as yodeling loons drift nearby on a calm lake.
Our camps are a bit more chaotic. Because our family camping trips, as they have for years, involve a small army of hungry people of various sizes and shapes and at least one dog that is obsessed with pursuing squirrels.
There is no doubt that we have evolved with the advancement of technology. For several families, the days of tents have been replaced with giant campers that offer fluffy beds, multiple televisions and air conditioning.
As for me, my tent days are certainly behind me ever since I needed assistance from multiple people to rise from an air mattress that, no matter how thick it was, still didn’t prevent my wife from being flung off the opposite edge every time I plopped down.
But even with the comforts and convenience of modern equipment, feeding 15 people still is a massive undertaking when it’s a challenge just to locate enough paper plates and plastic forks. There are always a million plastic spoons, but locating the necessary amount of forks requires the US Marshals Service to launch an investigation.
Preparing for dinner begins almost immediately after breakfast, which typically ends at lunch time because it took so long to prepare the breakfast. Years ago, when we were all in tents and used Coleman stoves that reeked of fuel and produced flames the size of a match, we came up with the grand idea of hosting breakfast for my in-laws who lived comfortably in a spacious cabin down the road from the campground. Camping apparently wasn’t challenging enough, so we added more people to the mix.
This was a major undertaking that involved dozens of eggs, massive stacks of pancakes, multiple types of sausages, mounds of potatoes with onions and peppers, coffee, juice and chopped fruit. We wanted to make an impression, so the pressure was on as if Gordon Ramsay was screaming in my ear that the potatoes weren’t going to stir themselves.
When completed, we resembled a ragged bunch of disheveled hobos covered in sweat, butter and syrup. By the time we cleaned up, it was time to begin preparing for dinner. Then we went through the entire process again so camping consisted of cooking, eating, cleaning and sleeping.
Times have certainly changed. The equipment is much better and it’s so much easier preparing food on even-burning flattop grills. But it’s still a production and you’re still outside rather than in the comforts of a kitchen where every utensil has a spot and water comes from a spout.
Food always seems to be the center of camping and the simplicity of such items as frozen potatoes or a baloney sandwich just will not do. I’m beginning to think there’s an unwritten rule that when camping, one must spend an inordinate amount of time preparing meals from scratch.
Because what fun is sitting inside a gigantic, air-conditioned camper watching the game and eating microwaved pizza?
One day I might try and find out.
Ray Kisonas is the regional editor of The Monroe News and The Daily Telegram. He can be reached at email@example.com.