Cookbook Review: The Campout Cookbook by Marnie Hanel and Jen Stevenson

Note: I received a digital advance reader copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

After reading this book, all I could think was, "Where do I sign up to go camping with these badass ladies?!". They truly take campfire cooking to a whole new level and put my meager attempts at outdoor cuisine to shame. Granted, I've always done backpacking, not car camping, but they make a convincing (and delicious) case for why car camping is the way to go.

Being native Portlanders and camping experts, Marnie Hanel and Jen Stevenson are uniquely poised to teach everyone, from the green beans to the seasoned camper, how to elevate their outdoor grub. They do so with enticing, gourmet recipes and playful, down-to-earth writing. They manage to describe the less glamorous aspects of camping (poison ivy on the tush, dogs farting in the tent) in ways that had me giggling as I read. It's this candid writing style that won me over from the first few pages. They instantly become your new camping BFFs, though sadly, only in the imagination.

The recipes are not your typical campfire s'mores and tin can eggs. They range from comfort food done better (Dutch Oven Roast Chicken, Backcountry Beef Stew, Green Chile and Cheese Cast-Iron Cornbread) to creations that will impress your foodie friends (Wheat Berries, Plums, and Golden Beets with Walnut Oil Vinaigrette; Corn on the Cob with Chili Lime Butter; Skillet-Fried Rainbow Trout with Lemon and Fresh Dill) to international dishes adapted for the campfire (Bootstrap Bulgogi, Catchall Carnitas, Furikake Fury). Even the camping standbys like banana boats and pie iron pies are given a modern spin with loads of variations. Have you ever had s'mores with chocolate chip cookies, cherry jam, and crushed smoked almonds? I consider myself relatively creative in the kitchen, but I've never dreamed of some of these combos. There's no shortage of cooking inspiration within these pages.

The sections cover snacks, sides and salads, main courses, desserts, drinks, and breakfast. Interspersed are also menu ideas incorporating dishes from the book. Every recipe is so well-thought-out for both camping and the home kitchen. Yes, there's home instructions in case you want to skip the camping and just make the recipes from the comfort of your own kitchen. Another brilliant move--with each recipe, they list the necessary camping equipment to bring along.

Buy this book for the recipes but stay for the camping advice. The beginning of the book is dedicated to teaching you how to build up a mobile pantry and an outdoor kitchen. For someone like me who is clueless as to how to build a campfire, they walk you through every step so you don't have to look like a dunce at the campsite. Throughout the book are pages with helpful camping tips, such as how to pick a good spot to pitch your tent, how to bear-proof your food, how to take your dogs hiking with you, and more. The less useful things were some of the sillier inclusions, like the road trip games (we've all played these before) and others.

Instead of your typical food photography, there's charming little watercolor pictures sprinkled throughout the book. Not a photo in sight. I thought I'd never love a cookbook that didn't have plenty of photos, but I found that I didn't miss them here. The pictures are perfect for the nostalgic, quirky tone of this cookbook.

If you couldn't tell, I absolutely loved this cookbook. It's made me excited about camping for the first time since my last exhausting backpacking trip. Hanel and Stevenson are confident campers, and they pass this confidence along to you, the reader. The publication date isn't until May 15, 2018, and I can't wait to get my hands on a physical copy. It will no doubt be on my shelf and under quite a few Christmas trees next year. This would make the perfect gift for your outdoorsy friend, your friends with kids, or your retired parents. Even if they never make it outside, it's a fun read and provides delicious inspiration for even the most outdoor-allergic people in your life.

Overall Rating: An enthusiastic 5/5 stars

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