Best Served Wild | Anna Brones
Author Interview & Camp Recipe
Interview by Hailey Hirst
Just as much as food has the capacity to transform an outdoor experience, outdoor experiences transform our experience of food. Whether it’s a good cup of camp coffee, fresh caught mountain trout with lemon & garlic salt like Grandpa used to make, or simple breakfast burritos, the experience of food in the wild is just different than at home. Anna Brones and Brendan Leonard know the power of camp food more than anyone. Their new outdoor cookbook, Best Served Wild, came out in August.
We caught up with Anna last week to chat about the book and her background, and she shared her recipe for Breakfast Burritos with us.
H: Can you tell us a bit about the book and your experience working with creative partner, Brendan?
A: Brendan and I both have a straightforward no-nonsense approach to everything in life. Our writing is that way – even though we write in very different styles – our approach to food is that way, and so the book is a no-nonsense approach to outdoor cooking, reminding us to not take ourselves so seriously and just have fun. We also want people to use the book as more of a source of inspiration to challenge yourself to cook more, or eat more exciting food outside. We really want people to take it and run with it.
Brendan and I have known each other for years and it was fun to work with him on this. He’s so good at the humor part. That’s really what he brought to the table in this. And as a writer who writes alone a lot, it was nice having someone to bounce ideas with.
H: What’s your background in the outdoors? Did you grow up camping and hiking?
A: We did a lot of camping trips in the summers when I was growing up. I grew up in a small town sort of out in the country in the Pacific Northwest, so being outside and in nature on an everyday basis was very much a part of my upbringing.
H: How did you become interested in camp cooking?
A: It’s funny, I hadn’t really thought about it much until we did the book. My dad was like, “Remember when we did that kayaking trip when you were 10 and you made those quesedillas?” And I was like, “No, I’d forgotten that, but thank you for the reminder.”
My mom’s a really great cook and I always helped in the kitchen growing up. She’s Swedish and I grew up in a household where healthy balanced meals were very much the norm. Because of that I think making food was already pretty natural for me, and when we’d go on trips, [cooking] was just part of the game. I think that what’s great about cooking outside is that you get taken out of your comfort zone a little bit and you have to make do with what you have, which is a fun challenge.
H: I sometimes feel intimidated by backcountry cooking and I’m guilty of packing only freeze-dried meals on trips. Do you ever feel like that?
A: You’ve got to be comfortable with just mixing things up and just working with what you have. For me, if I look at the bottom of a food bag and there’s just an onion left and spices, I can just make something up. For some people who aren’t used to doing that it can be a bit intimidating.
I’m not a big fan of meal planning though, truth be told. That’s what I find intimidating, figuring out how much you need and how many people you need to make it for. That’s kind of always the pain-in-the-ass part.
I certainly have some go-to recipes that I always make. People would probably make the assumption that I have these really elaborate fancy things, but I don’t really, I just have a few staple things that I always do.
H: What kind of tools do you use most often? My great grandma used to backpack with a full size cast iron pan, which seems crazy with the lightweight gear that exists now. I don’t have my own favorite cooking supplies yet. What are your few essentials?
Silicone spatula – I borrowed one from my dad and it is so versatile. I use it for cooking, and it’s really nice to scrape out bowls with. That’s definitely my number one thing I use, which means I should probably buy my own!
- A small titanium pot setup – Just cooking for my husband and I, the small setup works perfectly.
- A spice kit – I always have: olive oil, soy sauce, ground ginger, cumin powder, cinnamon, salt and pepper. But you just have to find what works for you. Think about what you tend to make at home a lot. What are the flavors you cook with? For me, it’s vegetable sautés and lentils, which is what I end up doing outdoors as well.
H: How can the outdoors change the experience of food?
A: I think the great thing about the outdoors is that almost anything tastes good when you’re outside. Physical exertion leads to being hungry. When you’re outdoors you’re pushing yourself to the point where your body needs to refuel.
And then also, when you’re outside, it’s just beautiful. Your kitchen and your dining room are this incredible setting that you love to explore.
Those two things make it so you don’t need fancy food outside. I think really simple meals often are the best ones because they’re easier to make, and when you’re outside with the bare minimum, you have a better appreciation for everything you do have.
From the Book:
Breakfast Burritos You Can Eat For Any Meal
“Everyone knows that burritos are the preferred sandwich of the outdoor world. Self-contained, they travel well, and if you’re adventuring with a friend, you can congratulate each other for getting to the summit with a trademark Burrito Fistbump. Breakfast, lunch, dinner: it’s all a perfect burrito time. This recipe is perfect for when you’ve got an early morning start and want to eat breakfast on the way or at the trailhead. Just make the burritos the night before, then stash in your backpack in the morning and you can have breakfast whenever the hell you want. Burritos also happen to fit perfectly in bike jersey pockets, which makes them great fuel for long rides. You can also toss these in the coals of a morning campfire if you want to enjoy a warm burrito.
We use buckwheat in this recipe, because rice is boring, but you can tweak this recipe depending on your tastes. Get rid of the eggs and cheese if you need them to be vegan. Up the bean content if you’re in desperate need of protein. Triple the hot sauce if that’s your jam. Add new ingredients and make these your own!”
Makes: one burrito
Tinfoil (not to eat, of course)
One large flour tortilla
About 1/2 cup cooked buckwheat
About 1/2 cup black beans, strained
1 egg, scrambled
2 to 3 tablespoons grated cheese
2 tablespoons salsa
Tear off a piece of tin foil that is a little wider than your tortilla. Place the tortilla flat on the tin foil.
Evenly spread out the ingredients towards the bottom of the tortilla (the side closes to you). Gently fold up the bottom as well as the sides and roll the burrito together, making sure it’s tightly wrapped with the tin foil.
Pack. Burrito Fistbump with a friend. Eat.