There is something about eating food cooked over an open fire that makes everything taste better. Maybe it’s the fresh air or the smell of woodsmoke or maybe it’s the way you have to work for your food—carrying it in, gathering the wood, stoking the fire, prepping the pots, waiting for the water to boil, etc.—that makes even familiar fare taste exquisite. (I’m pretty sure the best meal I’ve ever eaten was a wild salmon my friends and I picked up from a fish packing plant near Tofino, British Columbia, cooked over our campfire on the beach and ate with our fingers!)
Last week, my family and I went on a four-day canoe trip on the French River in Ontario’s “near north.” It is a beautiful, historically rich waterway and we had a fabulous time canoeing and swimming, playing cards in our tent and generally just soaking up the place.
But one of the big highlights was the food. Canoe trips require careful planning and I spent a lot of time on our menu—to make sure we maximized our fresh food, that meals and snacks appealed to everyone and it didn’t take up too much room. I also threw in some curve-balls—stuff like campfire peach crisp (brown sugar, oatmeal and canned peaches) and GORP mixed with chocolate M&Ms—to sweeten the deal.
I knew that if we did the food right, our kids would be canoe trip converts—and I’m pretty sure it worked. Even pasta with tomato sauce (our quick and easy go-to dinner on busy nights at home) was devoured as if it were some rare and extraordinary treat.
I am going to take a hint from this experience and attempt to get my children more involved in making their own meals. Evidence from places like Britain’s School Food Trust shows that kids who are engaged in cooking and preparing their food eat better and are healthier—I’m willing to bet they also enjoy their food more.
[photos by Andrea Curtis]