Camp coffee . . . camp toast! Camp toast is so much fun, I could write an ode to camp toast . . . although I don’t think I could write a more beautiful ode than OK Go’s “Last Leaf” video (below). This is such a beautiful song and their creative and fanciful and artistic use of toast is nothing short of exquisite. Please, do watch it. The melody, like a good cup of Joe, will stay with you throughout the day in a good way.
Camp toast. It’s like comfort food on the trail and so simple to make. Add some almond butter and slice some fruit on top of it all, and you have yourself a very hearty breakfast that delivers good hearty nutrition with minimal time expenditure.
When I think of Camp Toast, I think of a buckaroo named Bill. Bill was a Late Hire on our Whip-It Crew. Being on a Whip-It Crew involved going into a post-logged slash area and cutting out all of the little saplings and shrubs that were sprouting up, prior to re-planting. I am sure that there is someone out there who is going to say that there is no such thing as a Whip-It Crew . . . It doesn’t sound very woodsy-technical, I will agree — so I just want provide the caveat that this is what we called our crew for that and subsequent contracts involving the removal of adverse vegetation in a slash area.
Being on the Whip-It Crew was not what I would call Fun. It played with your mind and the day did not move quickly. The work involved tripping your way through acres of slash while being whipped about the face and body by lithesome sprouting trees. In order to get an early start to beat the heat, we had to wake up very early in order to get a cool start on the day. We would climb into the Crummy each morning to save gas and to afford the non-drivers some extra sleep. Who knew that we were way ahead of the Rideshare curve?
Much to our ever-heightening annoyance, Bill used to arrive late to the Crummy every morning. Every single morning. He’d come roaring into the Meeting Lot, a wide spot on Highway 54, in his ’72 Chevy — spraying an arc of gravel while chewing on the end of wadded up cigar. I am guessing that Bill’s overall effect was one of eccentricity and I’m sure funny as hell to anyone who didn’t have any alarm-clock association with him. But funny to us on the crew? Not so much.
I remember the morning Bill came skidding into the parking lot wearing some old WWII aviator goggles. The goggles being necessary as his windshield was blown out. When we asked him about it — how could you not? — he grumbled something or other about a Late Night and Trees that Jumped in Front of His Rig. Who knows what the real story was, but I am suspecting it had something to do with reading his fortune at the bottom of a gin bottle. You would have thought seeing some old Bull of the Woods cruising down the highway wearing these vintage goggles, his longish gray-black hair blowing back in the 55-MPH-generated breezes, would have been hilarious. Heck, he could have likely pulled over alongside the road and charged tourists good money for a ride in his plane-mobile. But to us? His chronic lateness stripped him of any comic relief. I can laugh now, but not so much at the time.
Bill’s extra snooze time each morning cost us precious minutes at Carol’s Coffee Cup. Carol’s was famous for its fresh pie straight out of the oven and its hot cinnamon rolls the size of small dinner plates. You might think I am exaggerating, but it’s true. One of those rolls could send you into a sugar coma for the rest of the Crummy ride up the mountain to the unit. And it then took some serious suggesting to get us roused and ready to tackle the Whip-It work that lay ahead of us for the day. We would still be in that big of a stupor from all of Carol’s sugary goodness.
We loved Carol’s Coffee Cup — there was no other way to put it. We stopped there every morning before heading up the hill. Carol’s was a Dream Way to start out the morning. It made the morning tolerable, or as Bill would say: tol-uh-ble. I have mentioned the memorable pie and the cinnamon rolls and, even better yet, Carol’s version of a refill-to-go- was having one of the cheerful be-calico-aproned waitresses fill each of our Stanleys to the brim with Carol’s Signature Yuban before we loaded our sorry asses back into the Crummy.
Carol’s Signature Yuban had an extra sort of something to it that I could never quite put my finger on. One day I just up and asked one of the Aprons — what all of the regulars affectionately or otherwise called the be-aproned waitstaff — what it was about Carol’s coffee that made it taste the way it did. Pink Apron said that Carol sprinkled ground cinnamon on top of the grounds before it started to percolate. Carol figured that the cinnamon made it kind of special that way. I am guessing that it was Carol’s way of making Designer Coffee out of a sow’s ear, being that Yuban wasn’t what I would call the most premium hipster bean on the coffee house market.
I can’t really say that I was ever that fond of Carol’s coffee additive, but I had to hand it to her for pure ingenuity. And those cork-booted boys loved Carol’s coffee, cooking, and service. When they saw a piece of hot apple pie with a slice of cheddar cheese melting on the top set before them, they felt like no less than King Solomon.
Snooze Button Bill was one of those annoying patrons who thought he owned the joint. He would cluck about the downside of our cinnamon roll rush while he ordered himself his standard 2 eggs (sunny side up), 2 sausage links, and 2 slices of white toast. Every single morning.
When Bill ordered, he would state his preference as to the runniness of his sunny side uppers, the brownness of his links, and the degree of toasting that should be accorded his toast. His order wouldn’t have been so bad for the Aprons if he had simply stuck to the same script each morning. But he didn’t. It was all a Lesson of Degrees with Bill. He wanted the eggs pretty firm or kind of runny or clucking back to the cook. The sausages were pretty straight forward, but he would send back the toast if it wasn’t Pure Palamino Gold.
Suffice it to say, none of the Aprons liked taking Bill’s order. Bill would extol his Varied Reasons for the Inadequacy of the Toast when he sent it back. He would go off on some commentary, saying that there is just something about burnt toast that says someone didn’t care enough to check the setting before pushing the lever down. Or someone simply was neglectful. Or someone had gotten up on the wrong side of the bed. Silly stuff that only cemented the Aprons’ and our opinion of Bill’s backsidedness.
Of course, the cook could hear Bill’s Toast Soliloquy, and I swear she would send out at least one Burnt Trial Balloon — all designed to get Bill’s dander up — before Bill finally got the Palamino-Gold toast that he demanded.
Out on the trail was something different. Cookie would pull out the campfire toaster and, after having had to listen to two consecutive mornings of Bill’s Palamino-Gold laments, we were all left on our own when it came to toast. We were wisely allotted two pieces of bread each morning for our toasting pleasure. If we weren’t mindful and we ruined our Toast Prospects by burning it to smithereens, we were on our own. Cookie’s philosophy was pretty much Eat the Toast or return it to the ashes from which it originally came. You can’t argue with good sense like that.
I actually enjoyed the whole Mindful Process of Toasting Bread on a Campfire. You would be keeping a steady eye on your bread and it would be just about perfect for consumption and then — whoosh! — an errant draft would kick the flame into high action and your toast might get a dandy scorch. I have to admit that I liked the Uncertainty of the Endeavor. And when it came to toast, I pretty much ate any degree of toasting — burnt or otherwise — that went with the benefits of butter and jelly. And it is always true that food — as is life — is always pretty darned great when you are eating in the Fabulous Outdoors.
One morning in camp, Bill asked us to watch his toast for him. He must have thought we were Better People than we were — otherwise he wouldn’t have given up his Toast Autonomy to the likes of us. Maybe it was all of those mornings that we had to wait for Bill to show up at the Crummy. Maybe it was in honor of the patient Aprons who had been putting up with all of Bill’s Toast Nonsense. Maybe it was Juvenile Revenge — pure and simple. We waited for Bill to vacate the campfire premises, and we proceeded to incinerate Bill’s toast to the color and texture of a charcoal briquette.
The mind has a tendency to wander back to the Glimmers of Unexplained Irrelevancy, and I am guessing that this is what has happened here. Bill’s role in this post’s Ode to Toast is obtuse at best. He merely serves as the MacGuffin that brings Toast to the Campfire in this story. The real story here centers on how great Campfire Toast is when you are out in the woods . . . or when you are sitting around your own home firepit.
And I’d like to say that there is some kind of moral to share about Respect for Timeliness or Be Kind to Waitstaff, but there isn’t. All the Great Incineration gained anyone was the way that we laughed our asses off until we snorted when Bill came back and saw his Beloved Toast nothing but a wafer of carbon.
Bottom line: You can’t expect generosity from others when you are always riding their butts or acting all inconsiderate. We finished the contract but after the Carbon Toast Experience, Bill’s demanding ways grew to be more humorous than harmful. He still arrived late to the Crummy and we still complained about it, but there you go. There are times in life when you can’t change circumstances completely and this was one of them.
Simply put: There are times when you just go with the flow . . .and I am thinking that this is the Way of Toast.
Bill the MacGuffin aside, take a look these awesome camp toasters. I know that some of them might look like Rube Goldberg mouse traps, but they are so warm and fuzzy and reminiscent of times gone by. You can watch your toast brown or burn, depending on your tolerance for carbon. Get on board and get one of these for camping. They are reasonably priced and they are fun!
UST Blue Sky Gear Toaster, Silver
Camp-A-Toaster CT1 Camp-A-Toaster
Chinook Plateau Folding Toaster
Jacob Bromwell Original Genuine Pyramid Toaster (Tin)
And you don’t want to burn your fingers!
Heat Resistant Oven Mitts Set – Hot Gloves for Cooking BBQ Grilling – Flame Retardant Kevlar Provides 662F Protection – Bonus Ebook
And what goes better with toast than a hot, steaming cup of Joe that is brewed to perfection. Imagine it. You are taking in the sunrise, the air smells so clean you could have sworn that it had been manufactured for this very moment, the birds are tweeting and twittering in the forest, and . . . wait! . . . was that a marmot you just heard whistling? Yep. You’re in the high country, your fire is crackling just right, the smoke is blowing just-so toward your blowhard Uncle Phil that is always waxing eloqent, and all is right with the world. Pour yourself another cup and get another piece of toast a’toasting. It’s the biggest goal you have to meet today. Life is pretty good, isn’t it?
And check out this functional and adorable coffee percolator. It is hearty, fun to use, stainless steel so it’s easy to clean and easy to pack!
Texsport Stainless Steel Coffee Pot Percolator for Outdoor Camping
And did you know that there are entire cookbooks dedicated to toast?
And on a side note . . . in case you indulged a little too heartily with the brandy flask last night around the campfire . . . did you know that burnt toast will help a hangover? Yep. It will settle your tummy-brain upset just like that. Works every time! Maybe Bill should have switched his order from Palamino Gold to Burnt Black!
And you must watch this . . . I love this video! I guarantee that if you watch it once, you are going to watch it twice. So lovely of a tune and so imaginative. And that’s a heck of a lot of toast that went into the making of this very artistic video. Kudos to OK Go!
Boots here, signing off.
Wishing you happy trails of perfectly-toasted toast and a satisfying tale to go with it.
Life is a lively event. Watch your toast, drink coffee, and get to it.
What’s stopping you? xox Boots the Badass Coffee Babe
[Here is Cakespy’s link to some ginormous, easy-to-make cinnamon rolls: http://www.cakespy.com/blog/2010/6/26/big-fun-an-enormous-and-delicious-cinnamon-roll.html]