Close Menu
Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette Logo Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette


Remembrance of (camping) things past

My wife and daughters have always been more than happy and willing to go camping – as long as there’s air conditioning and beds. And a shower. Oh, and shopping is a plus as well.
As much of a blow as this may have been to my inner-camper, as of late I’ve been reminiscing the many trips we took to the Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Mountains in my youth. They were regular stomping grounds, and while they will always hold a special place in my heart, I now sit back and wonder if I truly liked it while it was actually happening, or if I have internally revised those trips into halcyon memories.
For one, I constantly went to bed sweaty and always woke up in the middle of the night shivering from the mountain chill from head to toe. Basically, for two-to-four weeks a summer, I never really slept except for the seldom evening on which the mountain breeze was cool without being cold.
Of course my favorite part was the campfire, something that we emulate in our own back yard as much as possible, with s’mores and songs aplenty. The hikes to Sleepy Hollow and Hawksbill were always mesmerizing, and the swims and natural waterslides made things fun after the sweaty hike down and/or up.
But as the youngest of eight children in a single-income, government-employed family, there wasn’t a mountain of cash laying around for fun things. In fact, one of my late mother’s favorite stories was how we went to the mountains with a bunch of boxes of Bisquick, some country ham, $150 and some lunchmeat. We picked blueberries nonstop at Big Meadows and ate blueberry pancakes every day.
For weeks.
How my brothers and I got around the inevitability that there would be no money for snacks, junk food or souvenirs was by collecting glass bottles for a nickel apiece. We would scout out the picnic areas, and by the last year we ran around like little beggars, asking picnickers if they were going to cash in their bottles. Most said that they were not, so we would kindly leave them a crate or box and ask them to put their empties in there so we wouldn’t have to dig through the bear-proof trash cans.
It added up. In a day and age when a candy bar cost about 30 cents, it didn’t take long to raise the cash. A cheap, wooden and completely unauthentic tomahawk might have cost $3 or so. As such, we would set our goals high and raise about $10-15 dollars each. Then we would live like kings.
As I write this, I can literally smell the campfire and the summer breeze in Virginia’s mountains. I can hear the eagles calling out in the valley as we stand on any of a number of overlooks and rocks. And without question, I always go back to the food that we ate.
One of the things that my mom would cook would be Pillsbury biscuit dough donuts. She would flatten the biscuits, cut out a hole in the middle, deep fry them in a cast iron skillet and then sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.
Another fantastic complement to many of our dinners was Dutch oven garlic bread. More often than not, my mom would go to Snyder’s grocery store and buy all of the “scratch & dent” foods for pennies on the dollar. I’ve written about the can room in our basement, and bakery items were never sacred in our eyes. If it was cheap, if was for us.
Mom would score a bunch of old bread and bring it along for the ride, and would make a great and easy garlic bread in the old Dutch oven. As spaghetti was another cheap meal that would feed an army, we could count on at least one spaghetti dinner outside the pop-up camper. And then the garlic bread would come, and we would all feel as rich as kings.
But when all is said and done, I don’t think the girls will ever camp, and I’m OK with that. After all, it only means that I get to sleep in the AC too.
Dutch Oven Garlic Bread
serves 6
1-2 sticks salted butter (amount to your preference)
1/4 cup Freshly minced garlic
6 pieces Soft potato rolls, large
6 slices provolone
3 ounces Fresh mozzarella
Fresh herbs (optional)

1. Melt butter and garlic together and allow to cook until the garlic loses its heat. Do not let the butter turn brown
2. Open or slice bread so that the soft, cut part is facing up
3. Spread evenly in large Dutch oven and drizzle with the garlic butter
4. Place over fire with some hot embers on the lid. Hang the Dutch oven so that the bottom does not char
5. Check after about four minutes to see if the bread is getting any crust to it. Once there is a crust, Remove from fire
6. Top with the two cheeses and place back on the fire with some embers on the lid
7. The amount of time to do this completely depends on the quality of your Dutch oven and the depth of the ring on the lid. The deeper the ring, the more hot embers you can put in there, so watch your bread carefully!