We’re a bizarre species. Gifted a three-day weekend rather than spend the extra day sleeping-in or phoning mom, we pack up and drive off to the middle of nowhere. And it can take as many as three days to organize the whole ordeal including, of course, meal planning. Now a long weekend camping trip is its own beast. I don’t camp, so I can’t advise you what to pack. I don’t even regularly go away for long weekends—I serve brunch to the sad souls still left in the city. Nonetheless from my few weekend-away experiences, I share with you a list of unlikely pantry staples to toss into the cooler or tote bag. Note: I trust that you’re smart enough to load up on seasonal offerings from famers’ markets and roadside stalls on your long, boring drive to wherever.
No, I don’t classify anything “canned” as a summer food, but pantry staples are staples for a reason. Canned chickpeas save you the trouble of overnight soaking and cooking, yet still offer a filling source of protein that can bulk up any dish or tide you over from one meal to the next. Not based on any official survey, chickpeas are the most beloved of the legume family. They can form the basis of burgers, dips, salads or, when roasted, trail mix. Just don’t forget the can opener!
Jam and chutney
Like canned goods, preservatives shine throughout the winter months. However, also liked canned goods such as chickpeas, a quality jam or chutney can wear numerous hats on a summer weekend away. In the morning, it can top oatmeal or toast. At lunch it can add a subtle sweetness to sandwiches. Meanwhile at night-time, warmed and thinned out, it can dress a bowl of ice cream or serve as a layer in a smore. While you should refrigerate your jam over the long-term, it’s sturdy enough to survive at room temperature for a day or two given a malfunctioning cooler or non-existent cottage fridge.
Solid coffee requires too much paraphernalia. Why substitute lousy instant espresso, when you can source your caffeine from respectable bagged tea? I know, I know, I just sent a shudder through the spines of the entire coffee community. But in my books tea is tolerated by more than coffee is. And not only does the easily pack-able alternative to the loose leaf variety still deliver on flavour, it can also fill out your weekend meals in other ways. Brew ten or so bags in a jar and chill for homemade iced tea. It’s perfect on its own with a squeeze of lemon, splashed into a salad dressing or mixed into a cocktail. Toss a bag or two into anything you braise, boil or steam over the course of your weekend for added flavour without the hassle of packing your entire spice rack. Best of all use any leftover bags over your eyes upon your return to the city to ease irritation or redness from the weekend.