Friday, August 17, 2012

camping / granola

What? That doesn't look fun to you? Sleeping damply under a parking-lot-sized piece of blue plastic while the rain hurls itself from the clouds like giant clots of wet, suicidal lemmings, even though it has, to date, been the driest summer on record? Well aren't you strange! Because it's especially fun in the moment right after it starts to pelt water, when you and your partner are out in the rain stringing the tarp to the trees, because that's just the kind of situation that lends itself to a kind of absolute harmony: a oneness of vision and purpose that brings everyone closer, like putting together an IKEA futon frame or putting up wallpaper or cleaning up your barfing kids in the night, if you know what I'm saying (and what I'm saying is: lack of harmony).There was a moment when we had the edge of the tarp draining onto a boogie board that was propped up against a plastic bin that was set up on another tarp right by the ditch we'd dug with a miniature plastic beach shovel to encourage the water to drain awaywards rather than towards.

Campfire under a tarp: good idea or not?
And yet. It was fun, even during the worst of it, and I'm not even sure why. Maybe it was the game we invented--the one where each person takes a turn standing up with a hand to their breast and making up the national anthem of a made-up language? (This only became unfun briefly, when I realized that our Russian neighbors were looking over at us offendedly. "Oh no!" I said. "I think they think we're making fun of them!" And Birdy said, "Well, we did get the idea from listening to them talk." Which was, I'm ashamed to say, true. But as you know, I khev Russian blood in my veins, so ees okay, yes?) Or maybe it was all that cozy reading in the tent. Or the wet day at the bay.

Or the excuse to clam-shack it for dinner. Or the game that we bought for $1.50 at the Brewster Library book sale. 

I'm Sorry! Did we steal your game idea? What an Aggravation! So Sorry. (That's a photo I lifted from ebay, lest you thing we brought a metal-framed bed camping.)
Or the fact that we still didn't miss a single day of pond swimming.
Our own private pond.
Or the fact that when the weather did turn, and turn glorious, nobody could have appreciated it more than we did.

Much intrepid boogie boarding was boogied.
Of course, we ate well, because that's what we do. Classic camp dinner (see the last photo here), to which I added diced zukes; goat-cheese and basil and cucumber sandwiches at the beach; tuna and pickled banana pepper sandwiches at the beach; fire-melted Raclette with tiny boiled potatoes and cornichons (because it's a longstanding tradition); fried scallops; 

Us at Arnold's, where the scallops make my eyes water with happiness. Also: a giant stuffed quahog, like chowder crossed with Stove Top, in a good way.
dip cones; birthday cake;

Are you dying a little because our tablecloth is so nice? Me too. I splurged on two yards of this fabric. I didn't even hem it or anything. It's so lovely.
and, for breakfast, a beautiful bass, caught, gutted, and fried in bacon fat by Ava's dad, Jonathan.

And lots of granola. I am republishing this recipe for two reasons: 1) because it's awesome and I still make it all the time, and 2) because I've changed it the slightest bit with the addition of bran cereal. I always add it now, but it is especially great for camping, in that keeping things moving along way, even though you risk spending less time in the fascinating insectarium of the bathroom. So that might be kind of disappointing.

2008. The granola still looks the same, though Birdy doesn't.
If your family doesn’t share a titanic aversion to sunflower seeds, please feel free to add them here. Along with cinnamon, which is another normal granola additive that I don’t like and don't add. If you want fruit—raisins, those date rolly things, or dried cherries—wait until the granola has baked and cooled, then stir it in. 

6 generous cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup bran cereal, ideally the twiggy kind that looks like something a guinea pig would eat (I use Trader Joe's High Fiber Cereal)
1 ½ cups coarsely chopped raw nuts (I use a mix of pecans and sliced almonds)
1 ½ cups shredded coconut (mine is the sweetened kind)
¼ cup each pumpkin seeds, whole flax seeds, ground flax seeds, and wheat germ
½ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or blah as much blah blah blah)
1  stick butter
1/3 cup mild-tasting honey
1 teaspoon vanilla

Heat the oven to 300. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a very large bowl (hands are nice for this, as are children), then melt the butter and honey together in a small saucepan, add the vanilla, and stir it into the dry ingredients, mixing with a wooden spoon (preferably one that doesn’t hold an aromatic memory of garlic or cumin) until everything seems well moistened.

Now spread the granola evenly on two very large rimmed baking sheets (I think mine are called “jelly roll pans,” and they’re 12 inches by 17 inches) and bake for 15 minutes. Now take the pans out of the oven and use a spatula to stir the granola around—the edges may have started to brown a bit, and the idea is to move it often enough that all of it browns without any of it burning; be especially wary of the wheat germ, which likes to hide out at the bottom of the pan where it can char in peace. Put the pans back in the oven (switching their positions), and bake another 10 minutes, then stir them around and return them to the oven. After another 10 minutes (35 minutes altogether), evaluate the granola for doneness: it should be fairly golden and toasted-looking; if it’s not, return it to the oven for a few minutes at a time, stirring at each checking until it’s done; bear in mind that it will continue to toast a bit in the hot pans after you remove them from the oven. Allow the finished granola to cool completely before storing in a large, lidded, airtight container or, if you're camping, in a gallon-sized ziploc.


  1. Anonymous10:13 AM

    omg I spotted Ben's shirt...Ted Drewe's right? Love It!!

    Robbin from St. Louis

  2. Anonymous10:44 AM

    I laughed at the game. My family has played Aggravation on a wooden board drilled out and polished by my great-grandfather for ages, making me wonder if Sorry! was named by the company that stole that idea as an inside joke. It's much more fun on an indifferently drilled board with a few spots a bit too big that swallow the white marbles that are a bit too small, causing the game to stop and everyone to memorize their spots so you can shake the board upside-down.

  3. Mild-tasting honey, indeed! We just managed to finish our first--and only--jar of buckwheat honey. It may have more antioxidants, but yikes, is it strong!

  4. Years ago I won some of your glorious granola in a contest you held. It was so, so delicious. Thanks again :)

  5. Allyson6:07 PM

    Is it weird that this post made me nostalgic for your previous camping trips? I've been reading you since your very first BC post, when we were both pregnant with our younger kids, and I vividly remember your description of that rainy camping trip. The Zooquarium, the "odordome", Ben freaking out over the dogs' names. I remember it almost as well as I do our own family vacations. I think there might be something wrong with me. :-) By the way, I love your granola. It's one of the few things I can get my 11-year-old to eat in the mornings.

  6. Anonymous7:12 PM

    Ahhh I love the perfect timing of this post as we are one week away from a 6 day camping trip just north of MDI. You have given me so many great ideas, tips, recipes, and must-brings. So glad you all had fun!

  7. Catherine, we have Brewster in common. If I ever recognize you there (and that is unlikely since I don't camp or go to ponds), please don't worry that I'm stalking. My parents live there!

  8. Anonymous5:09 PM

    1. I had the board game Aggravation growing up! Must have been a 1970's / 1980's thing.

    2. The granola (pre-bran update) is a staple food at our house and I have made it and shared the recipe with several others who also love it. Thanks!

  9. What? Amy Butler sells 54"wide laminated fabric on Amazon for that price? I thank you kindly for pointing that out. By the way, I am reading Thornbirds.

  10. Please tell me you didn't bake Michael's birthday cake while camping. I admire you so much but I don't think I can take the ineptness I will feel if I find out you baked a layer cake over a campfire during a rainstorm.

    1. Yup! Right in the Dutch oven over the fire while I was whipping the frosting up out of spruce sap!

      No, Silly! Our friends brought it.

  11. Oh, I love your camping posts! I feel like I get all the benefits of camping without actually having to do it myself. (The tarp and the rain made me laugh out loud.) And I ALSO love your granola. We made it in a pan, and I cover it with waxed paper and have the kids walk on it to press it into bars.

  12. Ah, camping in the rain! Anywhoo, 2 questions:

    1) Our school has gone nut/seed free. Can you imagine this without any, or should I just skip it and make something else?

    2) We have loved Chop Chop, but our subscription ended. I guess they are not quite mechanized yet to send reminders. So, you might want to remind everyone who initially ordered to re-up (if they liked it as much as we did, which I bet they did!).

  13. Anonymous1:14 PM

    In response to craftsister, we make the granola all the time without nuts or coconut -really we are down to just a few ingredients now (oats, honey, brown sugar, vanilla, butter) and it is yummy!

  14. Anonymous10:21 PM

    Oh Catherine I finally got down to making this, why did I wait??? Also almost grabbed liquid smoke instead of vanilla which is totally your fault! Can't wait for your camping adventures this year. We are taking the leap to "camp" for a year near my husbands job and the ocean. We aren't "properly" camping as I bought a trailer for such a long adventure.
    Take care,