The Camp Kitchen

In camp, a kitchen can be as elaborate or as simple as you wish-and it can be indoors in your camping rig or outdoors under the nearest tree. A camp kitchen, however, should contain three basic centers of activity: c cooking enter, a refrigeration center, and a cleanup center. How you organize and arrange these centers is a matter of personal taste and depends on the kind of camping equipment you use. An Indoor Camp Kitchen If you camp with a travel trailer, tent trailer, pickup coach, step-van or motor home, chances are your camp kitchen has been planned and organized for you. The cooking center in a modern recreational vehicle usually consists of a built-in oven, both designed for a close fit with surrounding wall and floor cabinets. The range and oven are fueled by liquid petroleum gas and operate as easily as any conventional gas range. Many rigs also feature a hooded vent fan over the range which clears a camping rig of cooking odors, and smoke and heat moisture. The refrigeration center in today's camping rig has come a long way from the little icebox found in early camping trailers. Today's recreational vehicle comes with a convenient built-in refrigerator that operates on either liquid petroleum gas or electric current, and some even have a separate freezer compartment large enough to hold several days' supply of frozen food. Most models also come with hinges on both sides of the door so the camp chef can arrange her refrigerator door to open the most convenient direction. The cleanup center in a modern camping rig consists of a single- or double-drain sink constructed of stainless steel or porcelain enamel. If the camping rig is equipped with and LP gas-fueled hot water heater, the sink will be equipped with either a conventional separate hot and cold water faucet or a single-handle faucet that controls both hot and cold water mixing and water volume. Many rigs also offer a retractable handheld spray hose as an optional sink accessory. Other kitchen features found in most modern recreational vehicles include sturdy wall and floor cabinets, durable Formica-type counters and backsplashes, efficient light fixtures and conveniently placed electric outlets. Floors are of vinyl linoleum or carpeting, walls and ceiling of prefinished vinyl-faced wood paneling or prefinished vinyl. Like other campers who own modern camping rigs, we enjoy the luxury features of out indoor camp kitchen. However, we've discovered that if we rely on it exclusively for cooking we unwittingly fall into the trap of serving campsite meals exactly like meals served at home. To add variety to our camping menu we carry outdoor gear and find that meal preparation is more fun when we use our Dutch oven, reflector oven, charcoal grill or portable camp stove. In addition, we enjoy tinkering with the challenging art of campfire cooking and tend to agree with old-timers who claim that good outdoor cooking can only be done on a wood fire. So-no matter how efficient your indoor camp kitchen may be-to add a new dimension to camp cooling we suggest preparing at least one meal a day using outdoor cooking gear. An Outdoor Camp Kitchen If you travel light, and if your home in the great outdoors is a tent or a sleeping bag, in order to prepare nutritious campsite meals you'll need to set up an outdoor camp kitchen. You can organize your three basic kitchen centers by selecting gear from the wide variety of equipment available at all camping supply centers. The cooking center. Although backpacker and woodsmen may cook three meals a day over a campfire, for a quick, instant cooking flame a useful piece of equipment is a two- or a three-burner camp stove, fueled either by LP gas or white gasoline. Such stoves may be obtained with a folding stand to bring them to convenient kitchen range height. Another item that's useful to the outdoor chef is portable oven designed to be used with a camp stove that burns white gasoline or a special fuel canned under the manufacturer's label. Our family has owned a portable oven for years and finds it especially handy for baking casserole dishes or heating bakery goods. The refrigeration center. To keep food at its nutritious best, store perishables in an insulated cooler chest. The most popular chests are constructed of metal or Styrofoam and they come in a wide assortment of shapes and sizes. One of the largest chests on the market has a 68-quart capacity and holds a 25-pound cake of ice-enough to keep food fresh for several days. However, if you plan to buy a large cooler look for one with a drain spout for the melted ice runoff. Then, to conserve space in your chest, store drinking water or other beverages in an insulated picnic jug. For the ultimate in outdoor refrigeration, and if money is no object, you can outfit your camp kitchen with a portable 12/110-volt refrigerator with an adapter that plugs into an automobile cigarette lighter. Portable refrigerators range in size from one to four cubic feet and cost anywhere from $50 to $150. The clean-up center. Although rugged types prefer to wash and rinse utensils using two pails of water heated over a campfire, we clean up with a divided plastic mop bucket that holds our stove. For more luxurious pot washing, you can buy a portable plastic skink that comes with a hand pump, a water tap and a hose that attaches to a water jug. We've never used a portable sink but it looks like a handy addition to any outdoor kitchen. Once you've assembled all the gear for the three basic centers of an outdoor kitchen you'll need a cupboard or a "chuck box" to stow it in. You can improvise a chuck box form a large cardboard container, you can build one from plywood, or you can buy one ready-made. There are several commercial cupboards available and some may be purchased in kit form. Most come with a counter door, an gadget drawer and three or four storage compartments. At camp they can be placed at one end of a picnic table or set up on folding stand. Cooking in an outdoor kitchen is fun-if you've got the right equipment. Select your gear carefully and buy quality items from manufacturers with a reputation for reliability. And remember-you're investing in gear that will make your family's camping holidays more comfortable and more convenient for many years to come. Excerpted from Woodall's Campsite Cookbook.