Food in the Great Outdoors: Royal Tine Outfitters Camp Cook School
The chronicles of Ruth and Greg’s June 2011 vacation.
Have you ever noticed that when you are out in the wilderness, everything tastes better? Well, you haven’t lived until you’ve had some good old-fashioned camp food made like they did back in the days of Lewis and Clark, chuck wagons, and the like. I pride myself a good cook but I had not yet mastered the art of outdoor cookery. Recently, however, this started to change.
In June 2011, my husband and I attended a camp cook school as offered by the Royal Tine Outfitters—Phillipsburg, MT. We loved the experience and learned tons. The camp cook and guide school operated by Royal Tine Outfitters is located a short jaunt away from Phillipsburg, MT, in a beautiful mountainside setting. Our luxurious accommodations included a Lodge Pole Pine country cabin for two overlooking a luscious meadow and the rush of a cool mountain stream.
The camp kitchen was a short walk away and had everything a camp cook would want and more—counter space, tables, a propane stove/oven, a griddle and camp stove/fireplace. It is here that magical food and fond memories were made. Our resident camp chef and co-owner of Royal Tine Outfitters, LeRee Hensen, has been cooking in the great outdoors for several decades under varying conditions. She is an absolute hoot and has stories that will leave you in stitches. She’s chased mountain lions and wrestled grizzly bears single handedly and lived to tell about it.
Does this sound like a tall tale? Well, it’s not and she has some pictures to prove it. She is a wild one. Cody, her husband, is the quiet one of the group—that is until you get him going. He’s got a wonderful sense of humor that sneaks up on you. He got me a few times and we are still laughing about it. Cody teaches the guide school students and seems to do an excellent job: He is very knowledgeable and passionate about his career. The way the program works is that the camp cook students learn how to prepare and cook camp food for the guide students and teachers. It is real life scenarios at a base camp. They don’t take short cuts and will cook in wind, rain, snow and hail. The weather does not deter a camp cook from feeding their hungry hunters.
Back in the days of the Wild West, Dutch ovens were like gold. If weight needed to be dropped from the wagon, I think a camp cook would kick their kids to the curb before giving up their ovens. They were that important. No matter where their travels took them, all they needed was some hot coals and dinner was in the making. Nowadays, the mere thought of trying to survive in the wild sends shivers down people’s spines. The only shivers Greg and I have, though, is the shiver from tasting excellent food when far away from home and without the luxuries of modern day life. At the Royal Tine Outfitters camp cook school, we learned that pretty much anything you make at home in the traditional oven and on the stovetop can be made in the wild in a Dutch oven. Bread? No problem. Pie? Absolutely. Stew? A no-brainer. Baked Alaska? OK… You got me on that one but mostly because there is no way to keep the ice cream frozen (unless you are camping in winter with below freezing temperatures).
We came home relaxed and ready to cook all summer long outside via Dutch ovens. Now, whenever we want fresh baked bread during the summer, we can. We don’t have to worry about heating up the house. I’ve already made Montana Mud (an insanely delicious molten chocolate cake). Normally I wouldn’t have made it on the 4th of July with the temperature soaring over 100 degrees. This year, though, I did and we topped it with homemade French vanilla ice cream. It was awesome.
If you are interested in learning how to cook in the wild, contact LeRee and Cody Hensen at Royal Tine Outfitters. [www.royaltine.com] You can also find them on Facebook. I am glad we did. It was a GREAT experience.