Camping is supposed to be about “unplugging” and “appreciating the simple things,” but it has always seemed quite complicated to me. Sleeping and eating outside are actually much more challenging than sleeping and eating inside, and that first night out in the wilderness can feel a little overwhelming, especially if you’re hungry.
Using a camp stove is probably not all that complicated (I’ve never tried!), but setting up even the smallest kitchen after a long day of traveling to your remote destination is not the most relaxing way to start your trip. Enter the charcuterie board—the meal that veteran backpacker and camper, Victoria (who also suggested cheese as a hiking snack), enjoys during that first hectic evening:
The charcuterie board on the first night is just easier so you don’t have to boil up water to have a more substantial meal…hiking bars get pretty boring and this is a way to have to eat less of them. Normally the first night of backpacking comes after a long drive, trying to remember where you stored everything in your pack, finding out what gear you forgot, setting up your tent, etc.. It’s just nice to have something ready to go so it’s one less thing to do. And I honestly don’t know where I first heard of the idea. [My sister] Elizabeth and I grew up packing a bag and exploring in the woods with our neighborhood friends. My favorite snack to pack was a plastic baggy of pretzels and cheese. I honestly think they just taste better in the woods.
Despite their fancy-sounding name and bougie reputation, charcuterie boards are nothing more than meat and cheese (and perhaps some olives and pickles) on a board or plate. You can pay a lot of money for the meat if you want to, but there is no per-pound price requirement to meet for their pile of sliced meat to be considered a “proper” charcuterie board.
The hardest part of making one is choosing your meats, cheeses, pickles, and your preferred delivery system (I like the Trader Joe’s Fig & Olive Crisps). Once you’ve made your choices, all you have to do is cut the cheeses into bite-sized pieces and arrange everything to be visually pleasing. Dinner is served.
For camping charcuterie, pre-slicing and portioning makes the evening that much easier. If you want to be really “on it,” you can even pack the prepared cheese in a segmented child’s lunch container, and pickles and olives in small sandwich bags. Place the meat, cheese, and any and all accoutrement at the top of the cooler, drive to your camping site, then spread it all out on a nice platter or cutting board and enjoy while looking at some trees and listening to some birds. (Whether you do this before or after fully unpacking the car is up to you.)