Happy campers (+ recipes)
There's a wonderful sense of freedom in the great Kiwi tradition of "going bush" over the summer holidays. Whether it's camping or tramping, this is the time when we get out of town and "unplug". No gadgets, no technology - it's all about getting back to basics and taking time to recharge.
I never really realise how much I need this nature fix until I actually get it, and feel myself slowly letting go, winding down and chilling out. For me, nature acts as a salve - the sounds of a stream or a wave, and the smell of the bush or the sea, cooking over a fire, washing in a river, days that start with the sunrise and end with darkness falling.
As Kiwis, we are more connected with nature than many other Western cultures, but we often take it for granted. Years ago I was lucky enough to stay at a fabulous eco resort in Mexico that's totally off the grid - you can get there only by boat, there's no electricity, no Wi-Fi, the food is cooked over a fire, and everything is transported by mule or boat. The driving principle behind Verana is the idea of biophilia - a word the dictionary defines as "an innate and genetically determined affinity of human beings with the natural world".
Biophila and biophobia sit at opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to human responses - snakes and spiders can have the effect of bringing out a phobic response, while the beauty of a natural view and the irridescent colours of butterflies and tropical fish touch us in a positive and uplifting way. Aristotle talked about biophilia as a love of life, "philia" being all about the ways we feel good about something.
Beyond our practical dependence on things like clean water, soil, air, bees and fresh food, there is also a deep happiness and satisfaction derived from our direct interactions with nature.
Establishing, or re-establishing, this connection, isn't just a feelgood thing. It is critical if we are to in any way reverse the habitat destruction and rapid species extinction that our world is facing. If your life is spent in front of a screen, or in worlds of virtual reality, you have no reason to marvel at the diversity of nature and the splendours of the natural world.
The great Kiwi camping holiday is our chance to reconnect with the world, and at its heart is simple, resourceful cooking that can be done over a campfire or gas hob using simple, portable storecupboard ingredients. Here are a few of my favourite camping recipes.
Couscous is the perfect desert island food. Cover with an equal quantity of just-boiled water, allow to absorb, add flavours of your choice, toss and serve. If you want you can make this with a gluten-free grain like quinoa instead - just use a ratio of 2 parts water to 1 part quinoa and boil for about 15 minutes until the water has absorbed and the quinoa spiral has separated. Get the recipe
This richly flavoured tomato sauce uses simple pantry ingredients that don't need chilling. If you can't access fresh tomatoes use a couple of cans, preferably canned cherry tomatoes. If you don't like anchovies, don't worry - their flavour disappears into the sauce, leaving behind just the rich, lip-smacking satisfaction of all the umami they contain. Get the recipe
This American fireside treat translates well to a Kiwi summer barbecue or campsite. Cooked over the heat of the embers, S'mores require nothing more than a packet of plain sweet biscuits, a block of chocolate and a bag of marshmallows. Once you've had one you'll definitely want s'more! Get the recipe
For more great Annabel Langbein recipes see her new winter annual Annabel Langbein A Free Range Life: Share the Love (Annabel Langbein Media, $24.95) or visit annabel-langbein.com