A Sparkling Vintage Life

31 Days of a Sparkling Vintage Life, Day 27: Cook over a campfire

campfire When’s the last time you ate a meal that had been cooked over an open fire? If you don’t camp regularly, it’s probably been quite a while.

As the weather cools, gathering around a campfire begins to sound more appealing, and having something special to eat just adds to the fun. The Camp Fire Girls handbook of 1925 said, “Outdoor cooking is being appreciated more and more every day. One of the best sports and most healthy and invigorating pastimes is to strap a few necessities on one’s back and go away for one or two days’ trip. To be able to get far into the woods, away from houses, stores, and restaurants, and depend on one’s own resources is a delightful experience.”

(CAVEAT: Safety first! Follow your local fire and burning laws and regulations, tend your fire carefully, drench it completely before you leave the area, and always make safety your first priority.)

To start, of course, you must build your fire. The manual advises, “In choosing a spot on which to build a camp fire, make sure that there is no flammable, dry grass near. Note the direction of the wind and relative locations of buildings, brush piles, roots, dry grass, etc. If the wind is high, fire should be protected by earth banks, which will prevent sparks carrying. The lee side of a rock, stone fence, or bank makes a good place for a fire where there is danger of the sparks being carried.

“A fire for cooking should be very small. Always choose dry wood. In laying the fire, it is well to make a small, tent-shaped structure of the shavings having an opening in which to insert a match. Always be sure that the finest material is at the bottom and have other materials at hand so as to be ready to lay on larger twigs or sticks, letting no bit of kindling burn up without igniting a larger stick above it. A skilled woodsman does not use paper for kindling his fire and he seldom finds it necessary to use more than one match. The finely shredded bark of the yellow birch, which is found in the northern forests, makes the best kindling known.

“Having secured some dry wood, make “fuzz sticks” by whittling long thin shavings, but not cutting them off completely. The inner bark of standing, dead cedar trees makes excellent kindling, while dead twigs from the lower branches of standing trees, especially hemlock, balsam, and spruce, if dry, ignite very easily.

“Build a wigwam of small sticks around a bunch of little twigs or fire sticks. Around the wigwam lay in cross-cross fashion a pen of sticks about one inch square. Light the fire in the center, and in a few minutes the pen will fall to a bed of hot coals. After this is burning briskly, lay side logs either parallel or closer together at one end (to hold the pot or pan). The fire is then ready for cooking.”


When you think of cooking over a fire, does your mind immediately go to hot dogs and s’mores? Those are traditional campfire fare, to be sure, but this Fudge Feast from the Camp Fire Girls sounds mighty tempting.

Menu (for six people):

Corn chowder
Bread and butter

Corn chowder: 1 can corn, 4 cups parboiled potatoes, 1 small onion, 1/4 lb. bacon, 2 cups milk, 1 cup water, 6 crackers, salt and pepper to taste. Cut the bacon into small dice, fry until crisp, add the onion diced and fry all together until a light brown, stirring constantly. Then add corn. Cook until hot. Add potatoes (diced) and water. Season with salt and pepper. Add a few broken crackers and milk. Take from fire and serve immediately.

Fudge: 3 cups sugar, 3 squares unsweetened chocolate, 1-1/2 cups milk OR 1 can evaporated milk and 1/2 can water, 1/2 tablespoon butter (if using evaporated milk, omit the butter). Cook together in the frying pan until it forms a soft ball when dropped into cold water. Set to one side to cool. Then beat until creamy.

When you’re through eating and have finished enjoying your fire, it’s time to put it out. The manual emphasized, “Never leave a fire until you are sure that it is out. If there is sufficient water near, drench them thoroughly. If there is any doubt, throw fresh, moist earth over the fire, stamping it to smother all coals”


4 Responses to 31 Days of a Sparkling Vintage Life, Day 27: Cook over a campfire

  • Avatar
    Cathy Ensley says:

    Just wanted to let you know I have enjoyed these 31 days posts immensely. I write in the same era, so these tidbits are very interesting to me.

    I also love the sound of your book. My mother grew up in Lake Forest, near Chicago, and was born in 1925. I hope your book gets published; I’d like to read it.

  • Avatar
    Jennifer says:

    Thanks for your kind words, Cathy. If it ever gets published, I will send up a great shout. 🙂

    Lake Forest even gets two brief mentions in the story: once when a speakeasy is packed “with every sheik and sheba from Lake Forest to South Shore” and once when a Prairie Avenue dowager expresses regret that all her friends are moving to Lake Forest, “way out in the back of beyond.” Which of course it no longer is, and hasn’t been for a hundred years. LOL

  • Avatar
    Jennifer says:

    P. S. That’s wonderful that you write in the same era. There aren’t that many of us; we have to stick together. 🙂 What kind of fiction do you write?

  • Avatar
    Cathy Ensley says:

    I am targeting Love Inspired Historical. The first book in my projected series takes place in 1915. I just finished plotting book four, which takes place in 1925. I’ve written the first book, but have not written or plotted books two and three. And the first book isn’t the first book I’d ever written, but number eight or nine. I’ve lost track. Others were contemporary romances, young adult, and a very long saga that took place during the French Revolution.

Here's a quick link to some of my books on Amazon:
Jennifer Lamont Leo