Star Scout Jeff Cumonow eyes his plate with suspicion. He has seen all of these ingredients before but never in this combination. He takes a bite. He searches for familiar flavors. He searches for a way to describe the unusual textures.
Then he searches for someplace to spit it out.
The offending food? Jiffy Pop Salad—a crunchy combo in which popcorn, bacon and celery mingle with mayonnaise. This goofy grub is from a batch of recipes recently tested by the Scouts of Troop 221 of Plano, Tex.
We scoured cookbooks, the Internet and our memories for strange recipes and oddball cooking methods. We kept the recipes under wraps until the Scouts arrived at the campsite at Erwin Park in McKinney, Tex.
Then we wasted no time in splitting the Scouts into teams and giving them recipes, ingredients and instructions. If all went well, we’d have a feast in a few hours.
The result? Lots of laughs—and some surprisingly good chow.
The Recipe: Orange Peel Cakes
The Challenge: Bake cakes in the coals
The Scouts stirred up some batter. Then they cut a small “lid” in the top of each of six big navel oranges and scooped out the insides, just like carving a pumpkin.
Cooking a cake on coals is a snap when you use a hollowed-out orange peel instead of a pan. The Scouts ate the orange pulp, then poured the cake batter into the gutted oranges, each about two-thirds full.
They popped the “lids” back on the oranges, wrapped them in heavy foil, and set them on the coals for about 20 minutes, turning them often.
The Recipe: Pinto Bean Fudge
The Challenge: Don’t think about it—just keep stirring
“Pinto Bean Fudge?” questioned Tenderfoot Scout Chase Hairston, 12. “Did you make this up, or is this for real?”
It’s for real, thanks to a long-ago camper who discovered that a can of pinto beans can be substituted for a pound of butter when making fudge.
Chase maintained a perfect boil (without scorching) after reluctantly dumping a can of beans into the melted chocolate.
The Scouts poured the finished fudge into a shallow pan, then tucked it in the cooler.
The Recipe: Dingle Fan Chicken
The Challenge: Can something called a “dingle fan” cook chicken at all?
Dingle fan roasting is for campers who have better things to do than fuss over their food. Rather than endlessly basting and turning a piece of meat over a fire, campers can let this fan-powered rotisserie do the work.
Life Scout Andrew Motter, 16, and Star Scout Alan Hairston, 14, wedged a long wooden pole between two rocks so that it angled very near—but not directly over—the flames. Next, they attached a short length of chain to the end of the pole.
The next step was to make the dingle fan by sticking a paper plate on the end of a metal skewer. The fan would be attached to the chain, from which a raw chicken would hang. (Be sure to leave enough space between the fan and the flames, since that plate could catch fire if it’s left too close.)
The heat from the fire should hit the fan, causing the chicken to slowly rotate throughout the cooking process.
All we needed now was a chicken, innards removed, buttered and bound in string. That duty fell to Tenderfoot Scout Matthew Motter, 12.
“This is like something out of ‘Survivor,’” Matthew says, referring to the reality TV show.
Once dangling from the chain, the chicken wouldn’t need tending over the next two hours, when it would be safely fully cooked, but there was no time to sit back and relax. On to the next challenge!
The Recipe: Solar Oven Bread
The Challenge: Bake a loaf of bread … without fire or electricity
Cooking with the power of the sun is ideal for campers who want to try something fun and different.
Our solar oven called for bending a 2-foot-by- 4-foot sheet of cardboard into the shape of a funnel and covering the inside with aluminum foil. When the funnel is angled toward the sun, heat builds up in the base of the funnel.
Star Scout William Weiner, 15, made dough and kneaded it for about five minutes before putting it into a two-quart jar, spray-painted black to make it absorb more heat.
Before putting the jar into the funnel, the Scouts slipped it into a clear plastic bag, then blew air into the bag and closed it with a twisttie. This extra step created a “greenhouse effect” around the jar, allowing for additional heat build-up.
If all went well, the dough would rise inside the jar and, perhaps, bake.
The Recipe: Ice Cream Football
The Challenge: Make ice cream without a freezer
You need milk, cream and sugar to make ice cream, plus rock salt and lots of ice. As long as the ingredients keep moving and stay cold enough, the mixture will turn into ice cream.
Now for the football part.
Andrew measured ingredients into a quart-size zip-top bag, sealed the top, then placed it inside a larger, gallon-size bag. He filled the outer bag with crushed ice, packing it around the inner bag of ingredients, then sprinkled rock salt over the ice.
The Scouts wrapped the bags in layers of newspaper and secured the bundle with duct tape. The resulting “football” was ready for about 20 minutes of passing — to keep the mixture moving — before being spiked into the ice chest.
Even after falling into the dirt a couple of times, the Dingle Fan Chicken was a thing of beauty.
The Scouts scrambled for plates as Jeff ripped off a bite. He sampled it, then gave it the ultimate compliment: “Tastes like chicken!”
The fan had worked. The chicken was golden and crispy on the outside and perfectly cooked on the inside.
And the bread?
The Scouts had kept their eyes on the solar oven all afternoon and had given it an occasional nudge to keep it in the path of the sun’s rays. Its temperature had peaked at 310 degrees.
Not only had the dough risen, it had baked to perfection, filling the jar.
Even the Jiffy Pop Salad was getting good reviews from some of the tasters (but still not from Jeff Cumonow).
For dessert, the Scouts retrieved the fudge and ice cream from the cooler. Both were delicious — no hint of an aftertaste from the pinto beans. The orange-peel cakes were a hit, too. Spongy and moist, with a hint of, well, orange.
Bellies full, the Scouts declared their meal a success. Good food, good times — and no pans to wash.