Most of us learned in Sunday School the story of the Biblical cook who was suddenly faced with a multitude of mouths to feed with only a few fish and a couple of loaves of bread. It's my guess this particular fella had an inside line to the "Great Camp Cook in The Sky" because as I remember the story, all he did was bless the food, and he was then able to send everyone to bed with a full stomach! Lacking the direct line this guy had, I think it wise that if you're the camp cook that you add a little planning to the prayer!
Looking at the picture accompanying this story, one might think an unexpected visit from my buddy, Ian Barlow, and his mule string, resulted in my entire supply of oatmeal being used for one meal. If Ian did indeed drop by expecting me to feed his mules, they would most likely go hungry, 'cause under most circumstances, I wouldn't have near enough oatmeal to serve this bunch! However, it does bring up the topic of how to accommodate unexpected guests in camp. Over the years, I've been plugged into both sides of this equation. Some might call it "Western hospitality" but I prefer to just call it "good manners"! In my many years camping in the back country, I've ridden into camps near meal time, and been invited to stay about as many times as someone has came into my camp just before supper and I've asked them to stay.
So, if you're the camp cook, how do you accommodate unexpected dinner guests with the nearest supermarket two days horseback ride away? Of course, all camp cooks walk the line between having enough grub to go around for everyone vs. having so much leftover that storing it becomes a problem. When planning my menus, besides figuring a little extra, I pick up a few items above and beyond what I need for my recipes for just this type of situation. These extra groceries usually consist of dried and canned ingredients. Should they not be used, they won't spoil before I get home.
Depending on how many folks you're cooking for, and how many unexpected guests show up, the easiest fix is just to reduce portion size to make sure the grub stretches. This situation is made easier if you're in the same camp for a few days. Probably one of the best meal extenders that I use is a pot of beans. When I set up a camp for a few days, I make up a batch of beans and ham hocks. They work as a side dish for almost anything, and if unexpected guests show up, I'm not behind the power curve when it comes to having enough grub to go around.
If I'm setting camp in a different place each night, and I end up with an extra mouth or two to feed, I make this dish for backup. I dice a small canned ham, mix it with a couple of cans of kidney beans, stir this into a pot of rice about ten minutes before I'm ready to serve. With whatever else is on the menu, everyone gets plenty to eat without any undue strain or waiting a long time for something extra to cook.
When packing for your next camping trip, plan on a few extra items in the grub box, just in case company shows up. A little planning ahead of time can mean the difference between panic and dinner being done on time with enough to go around!
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