More Than S'Mores

A cooking class for the great outdoors

Cooking in the great outdoors used to consist of a can of beans and a package of hot dogs, cooked over an open campfire and topped off with blackened marshmallows skewered by a crudely whittled fallen branch. But camping isn't just for wieners anymore. The Cleveland Metroparks Institute of the Great Outdoors is offering The Art and Craft of Camp Cooking, a class designed to bring some culinary class to people who view flush toilets as a luxury.

"Things that people normally wouldn't want to eat at home, they somehow think are going to taste good out there," notes instructor Nancy Loseke of popular camping fare. "You see a lot of Lipton noodle dishes and couscous -- Hamburger Helper without the hambuger. Despite what you have heard, not everything tastes good in the outdoors."

Unfortunately, backpackers need to be selective about what they can carry with them, but Loseke claims that they can do just about anything with only a pot or two, a good knife, and a camp stove (explaining that "there's very little campfire cooking that goes on, just because of concerns for the environment"). Armed with these tools, outdoorsmen can add such decidedly unrustic dishes as herbed corn or fettuccine with spicy black bean sauce to their repertoires.

Loseke also hopes to provide people with a method for adapting their own recipes to the outdoor kitchen, stressing improvisation to create gourmet results in the woods. "Let's say I wanted to serve something really cool for dessert," she proposes. "Well, I would take a tortilla and some Andes mints, and if I had a little raspberry jam or something like that, I would put those in the tortilla and grill it like a quesadilla." The result: Her answer to pain du chocolat, a French bread with chocolate baked into it.

It's no s'more, but it'll do in a pinch.