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The New Trailside Cookbook, by Kevin Callan and Margaret Howard

Lucky me!  I have another great book to review.  This time we’re jumping into The New Trailside Cookbook, by Kevin Callan and Margaret Howard (Firefly Books).  From the start this cook book had me “oohing and aahing” over the recipes and tips.  With 100 recipes inside, this book has offerings sure to please even the most diverse palates at camp.

The book starts off with a brief reminder about the three most important things when camping: breakfast, lunch and dinner! (This is a cookbook review, after all) While the other parts of the trip are fun and exciting, you need to fuel your body.  Along with the numerous recipes, other  chapters cover topics such as: dehydrating food (for use at camp ), camp stoves, and  how to shop and pack for your adventure.  A “living off the land” section is also included for those who are edible plant and berry savvy.  The book is presented in a well thought out order that begins with breakfast and ends with (woo hoo!) mixed drinks.  I thought this was a great idea, beginning the book with breakfast (the first meal of the day) and ending with drinks (the last hoorah before getting some much needed rest).  Other books are surely presented in this manner, but along with the ordering, the recipes inspire the camp chef to stretch his or her culinary repertoire perhaps beyond their usual offerings.

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Many of the recipes included in the book have two components.  Prep work that can be done at home such as dehydrating, combining dry ingredients, and precooking beans and lentils along with steps while at camp.  This makes many of the recipes more easily prepared once at camp.  Another bonus is that you can plan your menu in advance and have one less thing to think about (or worry about) when you are enjoying yourself outdoors.  One note about the recipes: some ingredients are preceded with a water drop symbol.  I had a heck of a time trying to figure out what that water drop meant, as it wasn’t referenced in the beginning of the the chapters with recipes. The description (which indicates the ingredient can be brought to camp dehydrated) was on the inside cover page.  I thought this should have been placed in the beginning chapter that started the recipes.

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Now that I’ve mentioned dehydrating, I am going to tell you that the chapter dedicated to dehydrating food (Chapter 6) is fabulous!  It covers fruit, beans, dairy (yes, dairy), meat and even sauces.  How to prep food for dehydrating and how to tell when it’s “done”  and why dehydrating is a great option when camping. I’ll spoil the last bit.  In addition to the weight reduction dehydrated food brings, it also almost eliminates the problem of bacteria forming.  Nobody wants to be sick “out there”.  Sure coolers are fine for most short trips, but if you’re going for a week, you’ll spend a bunch running for ice all the time to make sure nothing spoils.  Plus who wants to trek in and out of the camp to go to the store?

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If you aren’t into dehydrating, fear not!  There is a section for the “weekend gourmet” (Chapter 13) which covers meals that can be kept cold in a cooler for a short weekend journey.  This is a great addition, in my opinion, because some of these recipes sound delicious. (Raisin french toast with spiced orange maple blueberry sauce, anyone?  YES please!!)  Looking on there is even a small section for those of you hard-core cold weather campers.  While I don’t understand the need to try to get hypothermia, I’m sure many love winter camping.  Have fun-I’ll be in my snuggie.

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I have to say that Kevin Callan and Margaret Howard have certainly done a fabulous job in this well thought out offering to the camp chef’s collection.  I also want to mention that this book (191 pages) is small enough to pack for your trip.  Another bonus, since I really hate transcribing recipes to travel with!  Take note, though, as it isn’t plastic bound and is susceptible to the elements!

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With an MSRP of just under 20 dollars, this book is a great addition to your camping gear.  Actually, this book is a great addition to your collection of cookbooks to use at home as well.  I’ve made a few of the recipes and they are really tasty and have creative twists on old standards that are sure to liven up a camp meal.

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