Need some cookbook inspiration in the kitchen from a guy who truly loves his real foods? Do you want to learn more about the process of meal creation and how all the products you have can be used right down to the last leaf and bone? Are you an open-flame enthusiast who would like to expand your repertoire of campfire foods from foil pouches to full course meals? Then This is Camino – the weirdest and coolest cookbook ever – just might be for you.
This is Camino the Cookbook – Is Camino for You?
Right off the bat, let me tell you – this cookbook is not for the basic, beginner level cook.
If you’re just starting out on the process of making friends with your kitchen I think this cookbook will inspire you, perhaps, but confuse you overall. However, if you need of some direction as you learn to cook real foods in your real kitchen, there are other books that may be of more benefit.
For now, you can try two of my favorite real foods cookbooks, especially as you’re transitioning to homemade meals:
Incidentally, This is Camino is a suggested resource in the off-grid cooking section of our book The Do It Yourself Homestead. More on why this cookbook is useful for preparedness/outdoor cooking in a bit. To learn more about the book, click below.
A Real Foodie Cookbook
For those who’ve been experimenting with real food recipe production and creation for awhile, I encourage you to take a look at This is Camino. Why? Because This is Camino can teach you how to prepare foods in an intuitive way.
Camino is a restaurant that doesn’t use written recipes and doesn’t provide grilled cheese sandwiches or Coke. The restaurant isn’t open seven days a week and they don’t have a pastry chef on staff. The food is a result of what’s rumbling around the proprietor’s head.
His name is Russell Moore and he’s the author of the cookbook, This is Camino. As his wife and partner, Allison Hopelain, notes in the introduction:
“For you, the reader, all this adds up to a cookbook that might feel unconventional at times. The recipes might not look like recipes you’re accustomed to. You’ll find Very Specific Feelings About How to Cook interspersed with instructions to go off and improvise. There are recipes that are suggested and then more suggestions on how to rearrange all the components into something else entirely….Most of all, you will encounter hints for how to think about food like we do at Camino – to be dogmatically flexible in your cooking, to think ahead to your next meal, to take the little extra step to make your food the tiniest bit better, to enjoy yourself, and to not compromise.”
What’s Real Food Cooking?
What do I mean by real food? I mean whole, raw products produced as naturally and as locally as possible. You interpret from there and find what that means for you and your family, however that might include
- veggies grown in your garden
- herbs from your farmer’s market
- organic fruits and grass-fed meats from your local growers
- or any number and variety of those types of items
Real food is really subjective, so just make it meaningful for you.
One of my favorite things about this coookbook is how connected all the food and recipes are.
For example, fresh herbs are used in abundance at Camino (you’ll see them featured in many recipes in the book). The chefs noticed that they ended up with a lot of leftover stems and herb-y bits. So, they developed a recipe called “Egg Tea” that uses all those bits and now it’s an indispensable part of their menu.
Learning to use all the parts of the pieces in your kitchen is a vital skill for a homesteader who is, quite often, producing a great deal of those pieces on their own land. To “waste” any bit becomes intolerable. So, learning to re-purpose leftover foods is a useful and thrifty skill to practice. As Mr. Moore notes,
“[Other restaurants] miss the fun of utilizing all these different skills to cook all these different parts. It’s a constant puzzle. You’re figuring out how not to waste anything and at another level you’re taking part in this delicious alternative to a nondelicious screwed up system….This isn’t thrift for thrift’s sake: It lets us spend more on better ingredients in the first place.”
Cookbook for the Prepper and Off-Grid Cook
My favorite part of this book is that it details how Mr. Moore and his crew cook on open flame. Camino doesn’t have microwaves or a conventional line. They cook everything on an open flam or on coals. There’s a massive, wood-fire hearth where a restaurant’s grill line would be.
This is Camino details what tools the chefs use and how they use them. My personal favorite is a rebar, four-legged basket that holds the burning wood, allowing the coals to fall freely through to the bottom so they can be moved around. Anyone who’s ever cooked on open flame before can tell you that coal production is one of the trickiest things to manage perfectly, especially over a long meal. However, it’s a vital skill to have for successful, open flame cooking.
We’ve been trying to improve our open flame cooking skills because, unlike Mr. Moore, this is NOT something that comes naturally to me. I like my stove. A lot. However, I really wanted to get a handle on off-grid, alternative forms of food preparation. Not only is this an intricate part of our preparedness plans, but it’s also just a lot of fun!
You can read about our adventures here.
And here. (This one involves cookies, just so you know.)
This is Camino has so much detail on open flame cooking, especially with meats; the chef covers chicken, duck, lamb, pork and fish! I really feel this cookbook would be of use to the average, inexperienced outdoor cooking prepper who wants to improve their skills. Also included are simple vegetable dishes, as well as desserts. There’s a whole chapter on just the fire needed for cooking. I marked that one up with a pen as I took a bunch of notes.
The one real drawback to this book isn’t one I normally run into in a cookbook. The language can occasionally turn salty, even down right offensive to someone who doesn’t care for foul language. I appreciate the conversational tone of This is Camino but find, as I often do with swearing, that it detracts from writing of the book. My biggest objection is that I cook with my kids and would like to use this cookbook as I train them to think in the language of food preparation. I took a pen to the potty-mouth words but it would have been nice to not have to do so in a cookbook.
Having done that, though, I’m confident that my family and I will continue to use the techniques and food philosophies taught so beautifully in This is Camino. I was pleased to receive a copy for review from Blogging for Books.
Just a note – I emailed the media representative for the restaurant to learn more about the specifics on the equipment, especially that rebar fire basket, so that at least readers local to the restaurant could avail themselves of the products. I never heard back but if you’re local, you might stop in and talk to someone in person.
To get your own copy of This is Camino, visit the good folks at Amazon:
I received a complimentary copy of This is Camino from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review. Receiving this book in no way influenced my review – these are the actual thoughts that I thunk.
The cover graphic for this post is gratefully attributed to this Pexels user.