Food tastes better outside. Any camper since Hemingway’s Nick Adams, swooning over a humble tin of apricots after a long day of trout fishing — “better than fresh,” he says — knows this. Maybe it’s the open air and campfire smoke, the *au naturel* seasoning of trail dust and wayward pine needles. Or maybe it’s the primal memory of ancestral meals, of captured prey, of dinners on the savannah, proof of man’s power over nature. We have tamed fire! And we use it to toast marshmallows.
If a stump for a table and stars overhead can work wonders on canned fruit and GORP, imagine what god’s own dining room can do for the gourmet fare in this month’s crate. Best of all, you don’t have to to huff and puff it into the backcountry, and you won’t need to hide it from bears. Just hungry campmates.
Cinnamon Molasses Cashew Butter // Reginald’s Homemade // Rockville, VA
Another backcountry staple with newfound top-shelf chops. A dollop of peanut butter is the original energy bar, smeared on a pita or scooped with an apple slice, fuel for flagging feet. But its protein power boost often comes with extra baggage: sugar, salt, and preservatives. Not here. Reginald’s Cinnamon Molasses Cashew Butter is, well, exactly that: spicy cinnamon, sweet molasses, heart-healthy cashews and a bit of oil. It’s like cinnamon toast in jar — just add bread. Or a spoon.
Oatcakes // Effie’s Homemade // Hyde Park, MA
This old family recipe goes back four generations to a wind-racked Nova Scotia farm. But that barnyard chef knew his cookies: these snacks are a far cry from field-hand hardtack or the stale and mealy graham crackers you carry to camp (and that inevitably, inescapably get wet or crumble along the way). Rustically made but refined in taste, they’re crispy, nutty, just a touch sweet, and won’t lose their crunch even when smothered in melted marshmallows. Rain, though, is another story.
S’more Marshmallows // Wondermade // Orlando, FL
As after-dinner campfire spook stories go, there’s none scarier than the ingredients list on those Jet-Puffed. And while yes, part of the pleasure of s’mores is in the making — the flaming gobs of sugar, the chocolate stains on hiking shorts, the bits of bark stuck to the graham — what these pre-made chocolate-and-vanilla-flavored marshmallows, coated in crumbled cracker, lack in DIY appeal, they make up for in purity. No corn syrup, no chemicals; nothing to fear here but the bottom of the bag.
Drinking Chocolate // Treehouse Chocolate // Portland, OR
No backpack leaves the trailhead without a bag (or ten) of cocoa powder, easy comfort after a day’s trek. Or should we say, brown-colored sugar. Because most hot cocoas are just that. Not here. Company founder Aaron Koch had his chocolate epiphany at the source, living in a treehouse (whence the name) on a Hawaiian cocoa plantation. These bars are just as direct, sustainably sourced from small Peruvian farms — no workarounds, no fillers here. And at 72% cacao, they don’t skimp on flavor either. You’ve never tasted a richer cup, so deep and warming the sleeping bag seems overkill.
Brunswick Stew // Mrs. Fearnow’s // Sanford, NC
The one canned good we’ll allow at Mantry’s gourmet campsite, Fearnow’s was first simmered by a Hanover County, North Carolina farmer’s wife on her white enamel kitchen stove in the 1940s. What began as a family feast soon started racking up the state fair ribbons, and Sunday supper turned into a business. But even as the stovetop pot got bigger, the soup has stayed the same: Chicken, veggies and beans slow simmered to rich, creamy, rib-sticking potency.
Smoked Pepper Bacon // Broadbent’s Hams // Kuttawa, KY
Made with a hundred-year old recipe so simple it can’t be much of a secret, Broadbent’s famous bacon is rubbed full of cracked pepper, dry cured, and hickory smoked for an extra campfire touch. On the trail, a humble skilletful is a feast for a king, but at home your options grow. Why channel any old royal when you can summon the King himself? Nut-buttered bread, sliced banana, bacon (and more bacon), fried until gooey. Cue the campfire sing-a-long.