Fun night at Guides this week, as we did a bit of outdoor cooking over the fire – and because everything is better when you get to play with flames, all the girls had a great time :)
We split the girls up into Juniors and Seniors, although on reflection, I think we ended up with groups that were a bit large for the task – perhaps patrols would have been more effective.
Still, it worked well. We asked all the girls to bring some kindling (and about a third of them did, which given our very urban setting is not too bad), and we also decided to “throw money at the problem” (my favourite personal problem-solving strategy, although not one I use at Guides very often!), and called into our local hardware superstore to pick up one bag of ‘kindling’ (which was more like small wood than true kindling, but oh well), and one bag of reasonably sized logs. AwesomeCoLeader also raided her work stash of old newspapers and managed to bring A LOT of old papers which made things much much easier!!
It was also a night which showed the benefits of having enough equipment, and the right mix of equipment. We had oodles of boxes of matches, which meant that the Juniors could ALL sit together and have a box of matches to practice with, while we made the older girls negotiate to share two boxes between them.
In recent times, we’ve come up with a practical way to build safe, contained, and easily clean-up-able fires in our broader hall area. Most of the space we have access to is concreted or paved, and isn’t “ours” (its a church hall and grounds, not a Guides specific facility), so we need to not leave a mess. And yet, cooking on fires is inevitably messy, so what to do? Our strategy has been to invest in some heavy duty foil roasting trays (about A3 size), and set the fires in these. We’ve also added some ‘feet’ in the form of cheap pavers which elevate the fire off the ground/pavement, reducing the chance of scorching, and also improving airflow to the fire. The roasting trays generally will last 2-3 fires before they need to be thrown out. They’re not as solid as if we had a half-drum to cook in, but they’re a lot easier to store and transport!
For the Senior Guides, we added the complexity of the grill tray we purchased a while ago (one of these: http://www.anaconda.com.au/Product/Camp-and-Hike/Cooking/Camp-Stoves-and-BBQ/Camp-Fire-Cooker-Medium), which meant that they had to ensure their fire was going sufficiently to be able to heat the grill, and keep heating the grill for the full cooking time, without easily being able to stoke the fire (due to the tight angles and tricky access once the grill is over the top of the fires).
All the girls cooked chocolate in bananas, which was perfect in terms of being something that even if it didn’t cook through it would still taste good, it was easy to make (even for the 6 year olds), and it would actually have a fighting chance of cooking in the time we had available – after all, an hour and a half to discuss, set fires, get them to cooking stage and properly lit, cook food, tidy up… it was always going to be a stretch!
So, all in all, it was a good night. The girls all got to have a proper go with the fires, and almost all of them enjoyed the bananas. Even one of our fussy Guides was overheard telling one of the other girls “just try it, you might like it, it tastes BETTER cooked on the fire!”. More amusingly, one of our newbies (all of 3 weeks in) said THIS IS THE BEST NIGHT AT GUIDES EVER, which is very sweet, although possibly not the most data-grounded claim in history :)