Grilled steak and toasted marshmallows? They seem to attach themselves automatically to any image of camping and campfires. But if, like me, you’re a vegetarian, or if you would just like some lighter, more healthful fare, you can eat well while camping, without much effort.
In Heron Lake State Park, in northwestern New Mexico, my husband and I had our choice of campsites, and we found one on the edge of a bluff overlooking the lake.
We had an eggplant with us, and the thought of roasted eggplant salad was so appealing, but we had no wood. So we took a bag and in the spirit of recycling went “shopping” for leftover firewood at empty campsites nearby; soon we had more than we could use.
Once we got a fire going, I wrapped the eggplant in aluminum foil and left it to roast until it was soft. Then I scooped out the pulp and mashed it, using a knife and fork, with some olive oil, lemon juice, finely chopped onion, and salt and pepper.
We ate the warm eggplant salad along with brown rice, asparagus au gratin, and a mixed vegetable salad. On another night we had sauteed diced onions, portobello mushrooms, and zucchini in (readymade) tomato-basil sauce, served over pasta and accompanied by sauteed fresh spinach.
We were on the road for ten days, and we managed to keep all the produce we had bought in Santa Fe fresh and wholesome by making sure to replenish the ice in the ice chest and keeping the chest out of the sun—which meant moving it several times a day in desert areas.
After dinner, when the sun went down behind the ridge at the far edge of the lake, the sky was a brilliant red, redder than I had ever seen before. We walked along the lakeshore and came to a place where children had written with stones, “WE [heart] U MOMI.”
After that we sat and watched the stars come out until we could see the Milky Way above us. Then, we knew, it was time for bed. For we knew we would be awakened by the fat crow in the tree above our tent shouting “AH! AH! AH!” in response to the fainter and more plaintive “Ah! Ah! Ah!” from across the lake.
Text and photo copyright 2010 by Esther Hecht. No part of the text or photo may be used without written permission of the author.