Sunday, July 29, 2007

Camping, S'Mores and Slugs

So, I'll resume my summer program of acting like a David Lebovitz stalker soon. Particularly since another batch of nephews (who I hear are looking like promising candidates to take the Incredible Eating Nephew title for themselves) arrive on Tuesday. And they want to bake. This dovetails almost perfectly with Curly and my boy wanting to make home-made ice cream sandwiches. Making ice cream, and the wafers to sandwich them.

We took the kids (car) camping this weekend. To say we are not hard-core campers would be an understatement. My husband and I (back in the day) have, indeed, hiked in with all our stuff in our packs, and both of us have cooked over our share of campfires. And worn Serious Looking Hiking Boots. And been alarmed by large, aggressive herbivores and hungry-sounding carnivores. Ah, the wilderness experience. Nothing like being reminded that you’re not at the top of the food chain. Except… I can go surfing and be reminded of that (hi, sharky, what big teeth you have), and there are less bugs, and certainly less in the way of freakishly large slugs that continue to make me not want to eat escargot. Ever again. Ugh. I get how oysters and other mollusks can be off-putting, since they look like snot, but watching a big slug move is like watching a really nasty piece of snot. In motion. I may have gotten used to the weather out here, but I don’t think I’ll ever get used to the slugs. And I’ve said it before but: gastropods. Just like snails. So think of dicing a slug and frying it in butter and garlic. Yeah. Not so tasty-sounding. And that’s before you learn that local kids will dare one another to lick a slug, since the slime apparently has something in it that will make your tongue go numb (yeah. gross. and no, I haven't tried it to confirm it. although I'm sure I could have Snapdragon get Curly to give it a go). In Chicago it was the dare to lick the flag pole or other metal object in below zero weather. Here it’s disgusting slug-licking dares. Why do both dares involve licking?
Anyway, these days I mostly like to camp within easy distance of somewhere that sells lattes (I know. I’m a loser. Moving on.). This doesn’t make a lot of sense, since our little stovetop caffetiera can quite easily be used over a campfire, but… I don’t much like making campfires in the morning. I’m tired and I want hot coffee right then, and crouching over dew-damp tinder and wood to coax a fire to life just makes me cranky. And I know, that joins the looong list of things that make me cranky.

Last night, there was a screaming baby in the campsite. The baby performance, which I think everyone who’s ever camped has heard, went something like this:

BABY: [baby’s dialogue is, obviously, translated] This is fun! I’m so happy! Yay! Woo! Look! I can eat the dirt! And there’s so much of it! Yum!
PARENTS: Shhh. No, we don’t put that in our mouths.
BABY: What a blast! How awesome is this!
PARENTS: Not near the fire, sweetie. That’s hot. Shhh. People are trying to sleep.
BABY: Hot! Fantastic! Check out the flames! I love this!
PARENTS: No. That’s hot. No.
BABY: What? What do you mean “no”?
PARENTS: Time for bed.
BABY: Here? This isn’t my house. What are you talking about? I’m not sleeping here, you morons. It’d be like sleeping at the playground.
PARENTS: Time for bed, sweetie. Shhh. Shhh.
BABY: Ahhh! No! This place is freaky! I was having fun, but now, are you kidding me? You want me to sleep on the ground? Near that freakishly large slug? Ahhh! Noooo!
PARENTS: Shhh.
BABY: Ahhhh! No! No! Ahhhh! Get me out of here! (repeat baby’s line for twenty more minutes at top volume.)

Surprisingly, given the number of things that make me cranky, this did not. I’ve had the opportunity to play the role of Parent in this impromptu campground performance, and I can say, really, it’s much, much better to be in the not-very-enthusiastic audience than it is to play a part in that sucky little play. Also, I prefer the baby performance to the Drunk People Trying To Set Up Their Tent In The Dark performance. Which, though funny in a way, tends to be quite loud and sometimes involves the not-so pleasant sound of someone puking before they all give up and stagger away.

After a pleasant weenie roast over the fire (my parents drove out to join us - the kids were thrilled), followed by a dessert of s’mores, I was feeling pretty content. I am a girl who loves fancy food, but sometimes (especially when there’s pickle and tomato available), a good hot dog is a good thing. They weren’t good old fashioned Chicago red hots (and I adore a good char dog with a side of good cheese fries), with poppy seed buns, but we were all pretty satisfied, anyway. And the kids, already ecstatic about setting up the tent and making a fire, and using sticks to cook dinner came rather close to peeing their pants with excitement at being allowed to have s'mores. Because that's chocolate. After dinner! I love how easily scandalized they are.

It rained Sunday morning as we were getting packed up, which is when I finally thought of really getting some pictures (in the gray, as we were trying to get out of there before it got really wet), so I used the pictures from last year's expedition to the same place. The suspension bridge is a pedestrian-only one, and the kids get a huge kick out of crossing it, and hearing it creak and moan.

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