On September 8th I asked my readers to host picnics and to send me the results. The following is one of 27 amazing submissions, the best of which will win an entire cow, courtesy of US Wellness. Vote for your favorite on October 8.
What happens when two Primal families go camping together? All the other campers get jealous 😉
We arrived at dusk on Thursday, two moms, two dads, three kids and an aunt, and split up into groups setting up camp, wrestling toddlers in the dirt, and making dinner. Lime juice, herbs and veggies were mixed into a jar, and seafood was speared and lightly grilled over our open fire. We ate by camplight, in the dark quiet of the valley, and stargazed while the little ones dreamed.
Thanks to a brilliant bit of inspiration, the crisp morning greeted us with the smell of bacon and herbs, and the sight of fresh figs caramelizing in the pan. We feasted in silence…well, the adults did, at least. The kids were too busy jockeying over positions for the last bits of fig and bacon to revel. After cleaning up, we set out on a hike, at a relaxed and easy pace. We found a shady spot strewn with boulders, and, with a glance, the two mamas were racing up the biggest one. Friendship won over competition, and they helped each other find footholds and make it to the top. The kids were quick to imitate, scaling every rock possible around them. The morning passed naturally, equal parts rest and play.
The group split up again, the kids and dads continuing on their hike while the moms and aunt went back to camp to begin prep for the evening meal, rabbit stew. Herbs and vegetables were spread out across two tables, and we got to work, chopping and laughing. When we pulled out our main ingredient, a whole, fresh, pastured rabbit, a family we didn’t know was walking by our table. We saw their eyes widen and their jaws drop as we stretched out the carcass and began removing it’s organs. So much for packaged camping food.
The stew was magnificent. The broth that was intended for it had been forgotten at home in the flurry of packing, but we stewed enough tomatoes and vegetables to make a delicious base for the rabbit. We feasted, truly, and the large pot was quickly emptied. Bellies full, we couldn’t help but pick over the bones, unwilling to let even one piece of the moist, flavorful meat go to waste.
The next morning found our bellies still full, and the adults unanimously chose to skip breakfast. We fed the kids, and set off for another mellow hike. Ambition got the better of us, however, and three hours later we had gained about 1500 feet in two miles, three of us with sleeping toddlers on our backs. Not quite the easy hike we had envisioned, but none of us wanted to turn around. We rested at the top of a waterfall, while the kids chased the overbearing squirrels away from our snacks. This was when another brilliant idea came. We combined two of the snacks in our packs, and came up with a new favorite trail food: homemade beef jerky with pastured butter. Like pemmican, but better, somehow; salty, chewy, creamy goodness. Adult and child alike huddled together, ravenously devouring our newly discovered delicacy. Refreshed, we played on the rocks, explored the area, and the older kids stripped down to enjoy the cool water of the lake above the waterfall.
After a somewhat exhausting hike down (why is down always harder than up?), we relaxed by the river that wound near our campsite, stopping on the way back to watch a young deer and its mother grazing on the side of the road. We set up our campfire early that night, and built it for lasting heat rather than flame, so that we could roast our final feast above it’s coals. Watching the meat cook above the fire, we felt a bit excessive; how could the eight of us possibly eat this much? We didn’t need to worry. The finished meat exploded with juice once pierced beneath its well cooked exterior, perfect and pink within. Our appetites, healthy after the long hike, combined with the perfectly cooked beef and lamb meant that we were left with little more than bones for leftovers. We kept the fire going into the night, enjoying, once more, the stars, our dear friends, and some well deserved wine.
To all those who balk at the idea of living a primal life, who think only of the hardship, of saying goodbye to pizza and hamburger buns, I ask you this: Do we look like we were suffering to you?
Heat a cast iron (or other heavy bottomed) pan over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until fat is rendered and bacon is crispy. With tongs or a slotted spoon, remove the bacon from the pan and set aside. Return pan to heat and add figs, cut side down, and cook until just beginning to brown. Flip figs over and place 1/2 tsp of chevre on top of each piece (optional). Sprinkle chopped rosemary evenly over the figs and cover. Cook 3-7 minutes longer, until figs and cheese are soft. Plate and serve with the bacon pieces.
Heat fat, butter, or oil over medium heat in the bottom of a heavy stock pot. Add onions and a pinch of salt, cook until translucent. Add sausages and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to brown. Add zucchini, carrots, and another pinch of salt, and cook about 5 minutes more, stirring every minute or so. Add the tomatoes along with a couple more pinches of salt, and stir to incorporate. Bring to a simmer then cook, covered, about 30 minutes, until tomatoes are soft and they have released their juices. Meanwhile, remove the organs from the rabbit and stuff the cavity with thyme. When the tomatoes have cooked, curl the rabbit around the open cavity (trying to keep the thyme inside) and submerge into the center of the pot, covering it in the liquid and vegetables. Simmer, covered, for at least 1 1/2 – 2 hours (longer is better), until rabbit is tender and flavors have melded. Remove rabbit from pot, separate meat from bones, and return the meat to the pot. Salt to taste and serve.
Bruce and Brianna Livingstone, and their son Soz (2).
Paul and Jamie Russell, their sons Jonah (3) and Galen (1), and Auntie Denise Russell.