Foodies in the Woods Article Ellen Nordberg am not a foodie.
I have food poisoned myself, realized after six months in a new condo that the oven didn’t work and over-cooked canned chowder so badly it exploded like foam out of a fire extinguisher on lifting the pot lid. Within the first few months of dating my eventual husband, he invited me on a camp-out in the mountains with his college friends. There was just one caveat. “There’s a food contest,” he said, eyeing me skeptically. A camping food contest? How elaborate could that be? (My normal camp-out meal prep consisted of packing tea bags, instant soup and oatmeal, and then hitting up someone with a camp stove for boiled water.) After consideration of my vast recipe file, I decided on peanut butter tofu pie. It looks just like peanut butter cheesecake, but tastes better and is better for you. A favorite with my health conscious friends, I was confident the pie would be a hit. We arrived at the campground to find stalls set up like Denver’s Civic Center Park during the “Taste of Colorado.” Dazed, I wandered past the giant pot of lobster bisque, the tri-tip roasting pit and the generator-driven Dutch oven hatching chocolate soufflés. I dashed back to our tent and fished what was left of my pie from the trough of melted ice in our cooler. I patted it down with paper towels and dug out a plastic knife. Oh no. I slipped the pie onto a table in the clearing, and a guy in a neon tie-dyed shirt handed me a ballot to vote for my top three favorites in the contest. As my boyfriend reminisced with his pals, I merrily made my way through each entry—shrimp cocktail, oxtail salad, goat cheese pizza and avocado eggrolls with Tamarind sauce. While ensuring I would vote fairly by sampling every entry, I
began to notice a disturbing trend: on the corners of each of the tables lay dessert plates with nearly complete slices of peanut butter tofu pie accompanied by hastily abandoned forks. Walking closer to the dessert table, I observed the burly tri-tip chef stuffing a forkful of something in his mouth and speaking to a friend. “Wow,” he said, making gagging noises with his tongue like the Golden Retriever in the “Got Milk” commercials. “What the hell is in this pie?” I did not claim a ribbon that weekend. And later that year, as my camper boyfriend and I discussed having a family, I felt the need to come clean. I sat down across from him in a restaurant with a list titled “Things Future Husband Needs to Know About Me,” and took a deep breath. “Number one: not a very good cook,” I said. He nodded at me, like, “Go on.” “That doesn’t bother you, or…surprise you?” I asked. He smiled. “I figured if you couldn’t hack cooking in the woods, it wouldn’t get much better in a kitchen.” Eleven years later, we’re married with twin boys. These days you can find me cruising Costco, stocking up on pre-made Paella and searching for the perfect frozen appetizer. Ellen Nordberg is a freelance writer living in Louisville. EllenNordberg.com
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