Camp cooking: From spavioli to spew

By Jeff Petersen, The Observer August 09, 2013 10:39 am
You know you’ve found camping Nirvana when the place charges $20 a night — and has no mosquitoes, deer flies, rabid bats, neighbors blaring rap music and loose pit bulls.

Osburn, Idaho, has such a place: Blue Haven RV Park. Never mind that the park is sandwiched between a busy two-lane road and Interstate 90, and has about as much noise as the Portland airport on the day before Thanksgiving. Don’t let that fool you. With time, the noise from the interstate becomes as soothing as an aquarium — full of piranhas. And the noise from the two-lane road, even accounting for the ATV convention in town for the week, is equally boisterously tranquil.

Of course, it helps if you ride a bicycle 50 miles a day and arrive back in camp a bundle of wet rags. In this condition, you could nap on the center line of the interstate.

Add to the equation two old boys who married up, way up. Both friend Bill and I found wives who love to cook in an age when cooking has mostly gone the way of the dodo bird. Unfortunately, our wives refuse to go on Bill and my annual bicycle trips, which they somehow equate to torture and misery.

Bill and I, though, eat well on our adventures. We eat so well, in fact, that I’m tempted to write a book on how to gain 20 pounds in a week and keep it on for the rest of my life. I could earn millions, or at least enough money for one tank of gas to get toward North Idaho.

Our wives are not impressed with our camp cooking. In fact, they vow never to touch our vile concoctions, made with a Coleman stove and imagination — spew, spavioli, bash and chogs. That’s OK. That means there’s more for us to enjoy.

Our four main camp food groups start with spew. It’s a combination of spam and beef stew. A camp delicacy. Food for the starving soul.

Spavioli is a mixture of spam and ravioli. Each year, the mixture gets more delectable as we add more ingredients, up to and sometimes including insects flying around the camp that crash-land in the pot.

Bash, new this year, is a combination of hamburger and corned beef hash. Another instant classic. It’s not for chefs, connoisseurs or people lacking cast-iron stomachs. It’s man-cave food.

Chogs are cheesy hot dogs. Just slice the dogs down the gut with a buck knife, add copious amounts of cheese, melt and blacken.

Wonder Woman, the person I lucked into several years ago, an expert in French-Scottish cuisine, says she would never eat any of this — spew, spavioli, bash or chogs. Her French blood warns her to abstain from these vile concoctions that insult her sensibilities. Her Scottish blood warns her about the medical costs of such indulgence.

Wonder Woman fails to understand the joys of camp cooking. She is into spices not involving spiced ham, or spam. Her idea of a balanced meal is not hamburger and corned beef hash, or cheese and hot dogs.

Her loss. Our gain. Each year, friend Bill and I add to our culinary repertoire as we seek out a bike camping trip that captures the imagination. We experiment on each other. We want to see just how much the human body can tolerate. The answer: more than you might imagine.

Out bicycling, we burn thousands of extra calories each day and need to refuel. Bill is a major proponent of refueling. Sometimes we refuel so much we ride in an almost comatose state — North Dakota.

Most of the time, however, we go to places closer to home like California, Wyoming, Montana or North Idaho. Our adventures take us to Beartooth Pass, Crater Lake, the redwoods and the Trail of the Hiawathas — places that are absolutely compelling. Each trip requires a major calorie infusion. We live large. If we gain 20 pounds in a week of camping out, it’s OK. Maybe we can get a best-selling how-to book out of the deal, or at least one that sells enough copies to pay for a restaurant meal.

Man cannot live on spew alone.

Contact Jeff Petersen at 541-963-3161 or This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it Follow Jeff on Twitter @lagrandenewsGo.