recipe for togetherness
fanciful meals over an open fire unites people and teaches the
lost art of cooking
|Beverly Moore laughs while supervising participants
in a Huckleberry Hollow Campfire Cuisine clinic. Beverly and her
husband, Dan, facilitate corporate team-building exercises and other
group activities centered on open-fire cooking. Participants, from
left, Ron Weigand and Chrissy Kerkvliet decorate a Black Forest ribbon
cake prepared in a Dutch oven while Kristen Kietzman looks on.
island chicken and rice, roasted vegetables, cheesy squash casserole
and Black Forest ribbon cake — the menu sounds
like it might come from an upscale restaurant. But these dishes will
be prepared outside, over an open fire, by people who have never cooked
pit will do a main dish, a side dish and a dessert,” Beverly
Moore explains to a group of friends and relatives seated in lawn chairs around
a fire pit. “It takes about two hours to cook your meal. And you’re
busy the whole time.”
The spectators soon
become participants as Beverly and her husband, Dan, divide their guests
into teams and turn them loose for an afternoon of supervised campfire
cooking. Before the day is done, they’ll
enjoy a veritable feast prepared in cast-iron Dutch ovens.
Participants at a Huckleberry Hollow Campfire Cuisine clinic lift
the lid of a Dutch oven to check a casserole prepared over an open
fire. Dutch ovens feature a lid that can be loaded with hot coals
to supply heat from the top.
By doing so, the
Moores’ guests will join a growing
number of Americans who have discovered outdoor cooking as a recreational
activity.Spurred in part by a Missouri-based television show, campfire
cooking is gaining in popularity and bringing friends and family together
at the same time.
not really hard. It’s just a matter
of learning how to control the temperature of your fire and not getting
in a big hurry,” Dan
says. “Once you learn the basics, you get pretty brave. You think
there isn’t anything you can’t do.”
The Moores, members
of Osage Valley Electric Cooperative, are proof that confidence grows
quickly over an open fire. The couple attended a campfire cooking class
three years ago. Two years ago, they launched Huckleberry Hollow Campfire
Cuisine, a business that facilitates corporate team-building exercises,
church retreats and other group activities centered on open-fire cooking
at their home near Freeman.
With a promise to “rekindle
your spirit,” Bev and Dan open their
idyllic lakeside property to groups as large as 50, who turn out
culinary treats beyond their wildest imagination.
The inspiration for
the Moore’s enterprise is “Campfire Café,” a
television program aired on the RFD-TV satellite network and many
cable TV systems. Based in Marble Hill, the show introduces viewers to
the joys of outdoor cooking.
|Bob Alford, right, films his wife, Pam, prepare a meal during production
of an episode of "Campfire Café." The television program, aired primarily
on the RFD-TV satellite network, teaches viewers to prepare elaborate
meals over an open fire.
“Campfire Café” is
the brainchild of Web site designer and television producer Pam Alford
and her husband, Bob, a retired pilot. After five years with an Alabama
cowboy as frontman, Pam has stepped in front of the camera to lead
the show, which has always featured her recipes. Each week, Pam and
her co-host, former jockey Larry Wiseheart, prepare a main dish, a
side dish and a dessert over an open fire.
“What we do
is not just campground food. It’s not bacon and beans,” Pam
says. “It’s gourmet campfire cuisine.”
the recipes she presents on “Campfire Café” — as
well as in her cookbook, “Over the Open Fire” — rarely
fit the mold of camp fare. Apple and herb-stuffed pork chops,
lemon-poppy seed pound cake, creamy artichoke chowder and seafood
quiche sound like dishes that would be difficult to make in
the kitchen. But regular viewers pull these and other delights
off the campfire with ease.
|Pam Alford and
Larry Wiseheart are the hosts of "Campfire Café." Each week they
prepare a main dish, a side dish and a dessert using cast-iron
cookware and an open fire.
“There is no
reason why you can’t eat like this outdoors. It’s
not that big a deal,” Pam says as she slices into an
olive-stuffed pork roast prepared for an upcoming episode. “This
was less effort than throwing together a pot of chili.”
and her EMG Productions company have taken the “Campfire
on the road, filming episodes at Opryland, the Jack Daniels
Distillery and the Hank Williams estate. In nearly 150
half-hour shows they’ve prepared meals
on campfires, backyard fire pits and over an open hearth.
In 2006 they conducted a nationwide tour of campfire cooking
clinics held at KOA campgrounds.
Many of the dishes
Pam features — the same recipes Beverly and Dan teach
their clients to make — are prepared in a Dutch
oven. Also called a camp oven, the Dutch oven is based
on iron cookware produced in Holland in the 1600s, but
Europeans were baking in metal pots centuries before.
American Colonists added a flanged lid and legs to lift
the Dutch oven off the coals. The most prominent feature
of a “modern” Dutch
oven, the lip allows coals to be placed on top of the
pot to provide heat from above.
|This meal of Olive-stuffed
pork roast with roasted vegetables was prepared over an open fire
for an upcoming episode of the “Campfire
Café” television broadcast.
an outdoor oven,” Beverly says. “Anything
that you can cook in your kitchen, you can cook in
your Dutch oven over a fire.”
The Alfords sell
Dutch ovens, cast-iron skillets and an array of devices
for suspending the cookware above a fire pit on their
Web site. But Pam is quick to insist the “Campfire
Café” broadcast is not about equipment.
use Dutch ovens, but we are not a Dutch oven cooking
just a cooking show,” Pam says.
up near the Gulf Coast of Mississippi and learned
to cook at an early age. She got a crash course
in outdoor cooking after Hurricane Camille ripped
through her hometown. History came full circle
in 2005 as viewers of RFD-TV wrote the Alfords
to say the show helped them survive Hurricanes
Katrina and Rita.
|The proper tools — a cowboy cookset, cast-iron Dutch ovens,
gloves and a swing-away grill — allow cooks to prepare any
meal outdoors that they could cook in their kitchen.
a life skill. Ask the Katrina survivors,” the Black River
Electric Co-op member says. “In an instant,
life as you know it can end. Then how are you
going to feed yourself?”
While some view
campfire cooking as a survival skill, most
people do it for other reasons. Flavors from
foods prepared in cast-iron cookware seep
into the metal and continued use results in a savory
sensation that’s hard to compare.
And whether it’s the smoke or the fire
or just the fresh air, most people agree
that food simply tastes better cooked outdoors.
it seems, especially enjoy learning to
expand their outdoor cooking beyond grilled steaks
and burnt hamburgers.
“I was so proud
of my first cake,” says Dan, who
made a pecan cake topped with brandied
peaches at a Campfire Café cooking
camp he attended with Beverly. “I
don’t think I ever baked anything
in my life. But it just seems like a
manly thing to do over a campfire.”
Moores hope to tap into a growing resurgence
in outdoor cooking with their Huckleberry
Hollow Campfire Cuisine enterprise.
The couple has constructed four fire pits
on their property south of Kansas City
and use campfire cooking as a way to
bring groups together. Although Bev
and Dan keep a close watch on their guests,
it’s the participants themselves
who prepare the meals. Often, guests
are surprised at what they produce.
|Beverly and Dan Moore introduce their guests to Dutch oven cooking
at a Huckleberry Hollow Campfire Cuisine clinic. The Moores offer
group cooking classes on their idyllic rural property south of Kansas
think your initial reaction has to
be, ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t
believe I’m eating a Black
Forest ribbon cake that I cooked
over an open fire,’” says
Nancy Owens, a neighbor who has attended
a number of Huckleberry Hollow events. “People
come out here and go away amazed
at what they just did and what they
Sharon Miles, another
recent Huckleberry Hollow participant,
are more elaborate than I would have
says. “Everything was so
delicious and it was so much
fun. My gosh, I don’t
know why people would not want
to do it.”
Moore, a former executive at Sprint, created Huckleberry Hollow
Campfire Cuisine to facilitate team-building exercises based
around outdoor cooking.
in 18th-century cookware has
long been popular with Boy
Scouts and cowboy cooks, but the pastime
has really taken off in recent
years, says Mark Kelly, a spokesman
for Lodge Manufacturing, the
only company still producing
cast-iron cookware in America.
are discovering a renewed
sense of community by cooking outdoors,
and sitting around the campfire
and having a good time,” he
Interest in cast-iron
cooking has exploded, fueled
in part by safety concerns
about Teflon and other
non-stick cookware. But outdoor and
camp cooking are especially
popular, with outdoor cooking
festivals and organized
Dutch oven gatherings, or DOGs,
held nearly every weekend,
somewhere in the county.
is particularly well suited for families, the Alfords say. Whether
to lure kids away from their video games or as a way for divorced dads
to entertain kids on weekends, campfire cooking is an ideal way for
families to reconnect, they say.
“Even a surly
teenager, when you get them to making a pizza over the open fire, they’ll
do it and they’ll enjoy it,” Pam says. “And
what you’ll see
is the attitude changes.
We’ve seen it
time and time again.”
Pam and Bob Alford
say they regularly
receive e-mails and
letters from grateful
viewers who say “Campfire Café” has made a difference
in their lives.
host Pam Alford tends the fire at an outdoor film location behind
her home near Marble Hill.
in this to do a
good thing,” Bob
the longer we’re
in it, the more
I begin to understand
beyond our control.
finding out it
that, more than
the great taste
of fanciful recipes
an open fire, is the
reason the Alfords,
Moores and others recommend
taking up outdoor cooking.
The skills involved
in Dutch oven cooking are not difficult to master, proponents say.
With the help of cooking clinics like those the Moores provide, or
the television show the Alfords produce, there is plenty of guidance
to get newcomers started.
and Mike Owens make their way through the buffet that concludes
each cooking clinic at Huckleberry Hollow.
“We want people
to just do it, to try it,” says Pam, who often provides
advice and moral support to individuals like the Moores who share the
joy of outdoor cooking. “We encourage it and support it because
to do it.”
who want to try
on their own,
offer additional instruction
through an online tutorial,
instructional DVDs and
their cookbook — which
sold by the Boy Scouts of America. The Moore’s business is directed
at groups, but they agree that with a little determination, a good fire and
the proper cast-iron cookware, there isn’t any reason why anyone
cooking tips, cast-iron cookware or information about “Campfire
Café,” log onto www.campfirecafetv.com, write EMG Productions,
RR 4, Box 1775, Marble Hill, MO 63764; or phone 1-800-556-0414. For information
about Huckleberry Hollow Campfire Cuisine, write to 26401 S. Owens Lane,
Freeman, MO 64746; call (816) 779-1125; or log onto http://mypeoplepc.com/members/drahtharr/huckleberryhollowinc.