As far as I’m concerned, family food rules go out the window on our summer canoe trip. My kids get the kind of packaged cookies that love but we rarely buy, dessert at every meal and assorted treats offered liberally throughout the day. Cleaning your face before (or after) eating is optional and licking plates is encouraged. To me, it’s all part of the fun of being in the bush.
On a recent trip in Northern Ontario where the lake was so quiet it made the days and nights feel gloriously long, my youngest son asked me over and over (and over): “Why can’t we cook this food at home?” The truth is—special treats aside—the actual meals weren’t so different from our regular fare (pasta, rice with chickpea curry). But everything always tastes better on a canoe trip.
Maybe it’s that you have to work together to make your food (collect wood, soap pots, tend fire, tend pots, etc.) or the taste of the flames, or just being outdoors improves a person’s appetite. When I was kid, we called the magic spice that makes canoe trip food so yummy “vitamin K”— for the ash and debris that gets into everything when you’re cooking over an open fire.
As we head into the new school year in a few short weeks, I wouldn’t mind bringing a bit of this into our daily lunch-making ritual. Maybe I should bottle a little “Vitamin K” and sprinkle it on my boys’ packed lunches so they’ll gobble them up like they did all that delicious canoe trip food.