Most folks on our island have a home with running water, electricity to work all those gadgets that make life easy, and cosy beds. Compared to many on earth, we are the lucky ones. We live in paradise.
Now if you want to get philosophical about it, how do you know you are in paradise if you haven’t experienced less-than-perfect conditions? This is the only reason I can think of that parents would willingly give up their solid roof and cosy beds and go camping with their children at Easter time.
In Canada, camping starts when the last frost comes out of the ground, which is usually in May. One year, that was when our kids got excited about the prospect of the first camping trip of the season.
Cramming the kids, parents and the odd pet into a tent with sleeping bags, sleeping mats, a significant amount of dusty clothing, shoes, blankets, flashlights and various toiletries is a very good way to discover how one might fall short of paradise. It might fall a long way in the other direction, in fact, which is what my husband’s desperate whisper at 1 a.m. was alluding to as he swung at a mosquito and pushed yet another little foot out of his face
“What the H…. were we thinking?” he croaked.
Well, we were thinking it would be fun of course, and so were the kids. In a weak moment at the grocery store, I let them decide the menu when my daughter pointed out that she and her siblings needed to learn about food preparation. We ended up with those little packaged cereals that the kids never got at home, and something called “Go-Gurt” — basically yogurt in a tube. All you have to do is squirt it into the box of cereal and presto, instant breakfast. Unfortunately I forgot spoons in my haste to pack for the weekend, so we used our hands. It was a sticky mess, but at least it made it easier to hang onto the ax when we were chopping wood to light the fire to save the family from hypothermia.
While my husband was taking the kids on an inspirational hike along forest trails, I hung back and tried to figure out how to prepare six boxes of Kraft Dinner — macaroni and cheese to the non-Canadians — in a pot that held about two litres of water. We had a small canister of “Camp Gaz” that took an hour to heat the water to boil the macaroni. In order to speed up the process, I threw all six packs of the mixture in the water, and waited for it to come to the boil again. It didn’t. I tossed in some butter and some of that very orange cheesy powder and stirred, which was not easy to do as the stuff was so stiff it wouldn’t move.
One should never underestimate the power hunger has on the body. Those kids picked the macaroni out of that pot and ate it with only the briefest of negative remarks. It took a day or two for the orange stain to fade from their teeth, but at least they didn’t demand seconds, which was a good thing as there was no more Camp Gaz left.
We have been invited on Easter camping excursions here, and though it is tempting to try it and compare, we’ve decided that perhaps the best way to celebrate spring is to check out how Slow Food cooking on the island stands up to our distant memories of slow food in a small pot.
Faye Lippitt is the author of “16 Chickens on a Trampoline” and the children’s book, “The Great Caribbean Chicken Caper.”