Book Review: Cliff Jacobson’s Basic Illustrated Cooking in the Outdoors

As I posted earlier, I’m working on expanding my repertoire of outdoor cooking techniques and recipes this year. The Boy will be crossing over from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts in the Spring, and I won’t have to cook for 80 people at a time on Cub Scout family campouts (we have a really large and active Cub Scout Pack).

When I camp with the Boy Scout Troop, I’ll be cooking with the adult patrol, and I’ll have the opportunity to cook small (or individual) meals. I’m greatly looking forward to that. I’m also working on learning some new small group recipes to teach to The Boy’s Webelos den (the Beaver Patrol — which is a completely unironic name chosen by 10-year-olds) some easy small-group recipes for their den campouts, the first of which is coming up soon.

In addition to the other outdoor cooking books I already own, I recently picked up a copy of Cliff Jacobson’s Basic Illustrated Cooking in the Outdoors (Falcon Guides, 2008). I’m a BIG fan of Cliff and his books (especially Expedition Canoeing which I also recently bought and will talk about here in this blog at some point) and his articles in Scouting magazine. Cliff Jacobson is a Distinguished Eagle Scout, experienced leader of wilderness trips, and a retired Environmental Science teacher. Clarke Green (of the excellent Scoutmaster Blog and Podcast) recently posted some video interviews that someone else did with Cliff fairly recently, and they are entertaining and enlightening.

I haven’t finished reading all the recipes yet, but the thing I like most about the book is that it’s full of advice about preparing meals in the outdoors. Yes, that would seem obvious, but many “outdoor cooking” books are mostly collections of recipes and have little experienced practical advice in them. Cliff’s book is FULL of that sort of information.

The book was published in 2008, so it’s pretty up-to-date, but there may be a few techniquest or pieces of gear in that have been superseded by better options. For example, I would think cozies made out of reflectix would be easier to make and more efficient than Cliff’s wool and batting design, but I could be wrong.

The book is focused on group cooking where you can carry a lot of supplies and gear, so it’s more focused on canoe trips (no surprise there, given Cliff’s background) or car camping. Many of the techniques can be adapted for backpacking use, though.

It’s well worth adding to your collection of outdoor cooking books.

Camp Cooking

During the summer — the hottest, humidest, nastiest part of the summer — I get the jones to go camping. The Boy and I camp quite a bit with Scouts during the school year part of the year, usually about once every 4-6 weeks. But, during the hot part of the year, we don’t camp much (or at all). I hate camping in hot weather. I can’t sleep, I sweat too much. It’s not fun. BUT, I get the urge every year in August.

Instead of actually going camping though (which would usually be miserable this time of year), I tend to sort through all my gear, cleaning and repairing what needs work (and what doesn’t). I also tend to acquire more gear this time of year than any other, too, which isn’t always a good thing.

This year, my plan is to channel some of that energy into working up some camp recipes using my dehydrator (which I didn’t have this time last year and which is mostly just a fruit leather and jerky-making machine at our house). I also need to work on my cooking gear, which is pretty oddball at the moment. I can boil water and just-add-water one pot dishes, but that’s about it. I’d like to get a little more creative and branch out some. I’m thinking of adding a Banks Fry-Bake, which is used by NOLS, Outward Bound, and countless other outfitters.

I’d also like to do some more dutch oven cooking, though that will be restricted mainly to car camping (and cooking at home).

I’m going to start trying some recipes from great places I’ve found online, especially trailcooking.com, which is an amazing resource. In addition to her book, which is available there, Sarah has all sorts of recipes and advice on cooking outdoors. Her blog on that site is fun and informative, too.

Anyway, I’m going to do some practicing for when camping kicks in this fall in September. I have two or three Cub Scout pack campouts, at least one campout with a Boy Scout troop (since The Boy is a Webelos Scout and is currently looking at troops), and I’m doing Wood Badge this fall, which includes two weekends of camping (though food will be provided for us on those weekends).

I’ll report back here on what was successful and what wasn’t.

Resolutions: Q2 results and Q3 resolutions

A quick recap of the Q2 results (Q2 Resolutions here):

  • fish more: Ha! I don’t even want to talk about it.
  • Write more: Ha! Didn’t even think about this one after writing the resolution. 0 for 2
  • Cook more: Ha! Mostly derailed by the kitchen remodel taking, um, I think we’re at week 16 or so now. I HAVE been cooking more since the kitchen’s been functional, and I’m really enjoying it. 1 for 3.
  • Clean more: Ha! You can’t clean a house that you’re remodeling. Now that we’re coming down to the finish line (God, I hope so, anyway!), this one should be achievable soon. 1 for 4.

Okay, now that that’s over, maybe some Q3 resolutions just for fun:

  • Cook more: startin’ with a winner here. A little confidence booster, as I’m enjoying the hell out of cooking in my new 97% completed kitchen (more pics soon!). This’ll help with the eating healthier, too. I can already tell.
  • Sleep more: I average 5-6 hours per night. By the end of the week, I’m in serious sleep deprivation territory. I usually catch back up a little on the weekends, but it’s not enough.
  • Exercise…um…some (I can’t really call it “more” when I don’t do it at all now): The Wife up and signed us up at the gym last month. She’s been going regularly, but I’ve just started. I’m feeling confident, though. We’ll see how it’s going in three months.
  • Listen more: While I’ve spent a lot of time recently working on MAKING music, I’d like to spend more time just LISTENING to music. I don’t mean having music on in the background when I’m doing other things. I mean JUST listening. While sitting and doing nothing much else. I need to slow down in general, but this is something specific I want to do.

Well, folks, there they are. They’re more ambitious than I had planned (especially the exercise part). I know that sleeping and sitting around listening to music don’t seem like much to get resolved to do, but with all that I have going on, it’ll be tough.

See ya next quarter.

EDIT 2007.07.20: Things are going pretty well so far. And, in response to Luke’s comment below: I didn’t so much need a Resolution about roleplaying (esp. Burning Wheel) as I get in at least one session (and WAY too much forum reading/posting time) per week!