As the office food snob (not my label, but I'm sure many others' for me) I stand in judgment of all things edible. So, when campfire cooking emerged as a story idea during a monthly magazine planning session, eyes turned in my direction.
The plan would be to solicit readers' favorite campfire recipes through an Almanac item in the February 1995 Missouri Conservationist. When the responses began to pour in, I would select the tastiest and most creative sounding recipes and organize a group to cook them. We would do the testing and eat the results during an annual magazine review committee meeting on the Current River.
Since 99 percent of my cooking experience has been in a kitchen, and not over an outdoor fire, I thought that organizing a group campfire cookout was a bit outside my territory. However, I reasoned, if James Beard could cook dinner on top of an upturned iron (I don't remember the circumstances, but that was the only appliance at his disposal), then surely I could get a reasonable spread out of 75 mostly handwritten recipes from unknown sources.
Fortunately, readers sent in a nice selection of recipes that covered the meal spectrum from appetizers to dessert. Some were quite ingenious, a few were puzzling, and most we tested were highly edible. I made recipe assignments at the meeting to the 12 "cooks" based upon their skill levels, avocational interests, personalities and how kind they had been to me lately.
For instance, we gave the manly-sounding "Venison Steaks Dipped in Coffee Grounds" to our most macho cook (we'll just call him CD). He prepared them beautifully. Here's the recipe from Dave Brouk of Fenton:
Venison Steaks Dipped in Coffee Grounds
Wrap a slice of bacon around each steak and secure bacon with a toothpick. Dip each steak into a bowl of fresh coffee grounds. (Dave, this recipe just screams "accident." You invented it when you accidentally dropped the deer into a can of coffee, right? It's okay - we all loved it.) You may brush off some of the grounds, then place steaks on hot hardwood or charcoal fire. Cook 'til done.
For our house artist, Mark Raithel, we selected the colorful and creative "Silver Casserole" sent to us by Larry Hasenbeck of Jefferson City:
Cabbage leaves; carrots; potatoes; hamburger (1/2 pound per serving); sliced onions; seasoning. Clean carrots, potatoes and onions. Cut carrots into strips; potatoes can be sliced or cut