An outdoor cooking group is a great way to spend time in nature

campfire picnic
© K Martinko -- Campfire picnics are the best kind for all ages!

Take picnics (and friendships) to the next level with a cooking fire.

Here’s an idea for your next community project – start an outdoor cooking group! While I’ve long been a proponent of outdoor cooking with my own family, a.k.a. elaborate picnics, I had never thought of it before as a group activity until I read an article by Rain or Shine Mamma, one of my favorite nature-centric parenting bloggers.

Author Linda McGurk tells the story of Swedish dad Mats Hellman who came up with the idea of starting an outdoor cooking group while on paternity leave. The group met once a week in the forest or park, and each participant would bring his or her share of ingredients, based on a recipe that Hellman posted online ahead of time.

No one knew each other ahead of time, but there was something about standing around a campfire and sharing food that created connections and a cozy sense of community. It also made cooking a lot more fun for the adults. McGurk cites Hellman, who has five kids under age twelve:

“I never thought cooking inside with a bunch of kids was very enjoyable. Outside, the cooking becomes an experience in itself, instead of being a chore. When you’re outside the kids can run around and be wild and it’s okay. It’s a little more laid-back, and even though the food is simple it usually tastes really good.”

I love this idea because, as a parent to a child who’s too young to leave unsupervised, I’m always looking for ways to keep myself occupied when we’re outside. My kid is happy to putter in the dirt, but I need something to do – a gardening chore, yard cleanup, a book to read. Outdoor cooking could fill that need, and provide an excellent teaching opportunity for older siblings, not to mention tasty food at the end.

McGurk gives some tips for forming your own outdoor cooking group that include forming a group on Facebook, figuring out how often and where you’ll meet, and acquiring the proper materials for cooking, i.e. a Dutch oven and a tripod for cooking over a fire. Visit Fresh Off The Grid for great cooking ideas.

While it may seem daunting at first, you'll realize that cooking outdoors isn't that much different from cooking indoors, and that, for some inexplicable reason, food always tastes better outside!

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