“I ate with my spoon in one hand and a book in the other.”
Okay, I’ll be the first to admit that Cheryl Strayed’s Wild is a strange choice for a literary food post, mostly because Cheryl spends much of the novel forcing herself to eat protein bars and unappetizing packets of freeze-dried food. I promise that nothing in this recipe is freeze-dried and I can personally vouch for it being appetizing. In fact, it was Cheryl’s lack of good food options on the trail that inspired me to write this post.
This is the meal that I would have made for her had she wandered into my camp on a chilly night in the Sierra Mountains: warm rustic tomato soup with peppered bacon and s’mores for dessert!
After finishing Wild, I, like almost every other woman seeking self-empowerment, daydreamed about hiking the PCT myself. I realize now that that fantasy was ridiculous. I enjoy food too much to ever consider eating gruel for three months straight. Plus, what would I do with all my Skymall stuff?
The longest I’ve hiked was about eight hours through the Scottish highlands, and I thought I was going to die by the end of it. After staggering off the mountain, I warmed my damp clothes by the fireplace of a pub and ate my weight in delicious, greasy whatevers. I honestly have no idea what I ate, because in my exhausted haze, it didn’t matter. The simple truth is, even bad food tastes good when you’re tired, and good food tastes even better. Just ask Cheryl: “I tried to eat at a leisurely pace…but I couldn’t do it. I was ravenous. I devoured two hot dogs and a mountain of baked beans and another mountain of potato chips in a flash and then sat hungrily wishing for more.”
This rustic tomato soup in particular would be perfect for a chilly night by a campfire, especially with a little crumbled bacon on top! If you want to get really adventurous, you could totally make this on your next camping trip. Just cook the tomatoes over an open flame then smash them with your feet (hey, if it’s good enough for the vintners, it’s good enough for all of us). It’ll make it all the more rustic! However, if you’re with friends that don’t appreciate the fine art of “tomato-stomping,” a stick blender would work, too.
- 2 lbs yellow cherry tomatoes
- 3 medium-sized red tomatoes
- 2 medium-sized yellow tomatoes
- 1 jalapeño
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 large yellow onion
- 2 tbs balsamic vinegar
- 1 generous handful of fresh basil
- olive oil
- salt & pepper
- 1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
- 2. Slice the medium-sized tomatoes into quarters and lay them and the cherry tomatoes on an inch-deep baking sheet.
- 3. Add the peeled garlic cloves and chopped jalapeño to the pan, drizzle olive oil over all the veggies, and season with salt and pepper.
- 4. Put the pan into the oven for 15 minutes until the tomatoes are slightly shriveled.
- 5. While the tomatoes are roasting, dice the onion and sautée it in olive oil in the bottom of a large soup pot. Season with a good pinch of salt. Once the onions are soft and translucent, add the balsamic vinegar and let it reduce.
- 6. Once the tomatoes are done roasting, add them to the pot with the onions.
- 7. Working in batches, blend the soup lightly in a blender (keeping a rustic consistency). Add the fresh basil to one of the batches.
- 8. Transfer the blended soup back into the pot, season with salt and pepper (if necessary), and ladle into bowls. Add chunky croutons, crumbled bacon, or shredded cheese and serve to your hungry campers!
- 9. Don’t forget to make s’mores for dessert. After all, camping isn’t really camping without them.