Camp bread. The recipe is simple, mix flour, milk, baking powder, oil, and salt. It's quick and easy to cook, put it in a skillet on top of the stove, heat for 5 minutes on each side. That's it, you're done. A delicious compliment to any meal, or add honey and it becomes a tasty dessert.
My love for camp bread stemmed from childhood. It wasn't a staple in my own household, but in the house right up the street from mine. A lot of good memories of delicious food came from my grandparent's home. My MaMaw was an excellent cook, making everything homemade from butterhorn rolls to chocolate sheet cake to chicken fried bacon, but camp bread.... that was my PaPa's domain. I remember him standing in that old kitchen, his cane propped up against the cabinets, rolling out the dough, and then setting it into the hot skillet. The smell of freshly baked bread filled the air, and although the bread was ready in no time, it still seemed like an eternity before it was done. My favorite things to pair with camp bread? A bowl of pinto beans, or some peach jelly.
There's only been a handful of times that I've attempted to make this simple bread. The first time, still a child, my brother and I had a craving for camp bread. We decided that it would be quicker to make it ourselves instead of trekking just up the street to see if Papa could make it. It was way too salty. Another time, during my "everything should be healthy" phase, I made whole wheat camp bread. Not bad, but not great either. Several other failed attempts, and I determined that camp bread was beyond my cooking abilities. Well, today my daughter asked if I could make "that bread you make on the stove, in the pan." So, I pulled out my cookbook, turned to page 31, and with determination, started to prepare the dough. I made sure everything was measured to a tee, and I tried not to over mix. I placed the dough in the heated skillet, covered it, and even set the timer to make sure each side of the bread was cooked just so. I removed the bread from the heat, cut it into manageable pieces, and tasted. It was good, really good!!
My daughter asked me if it was just how I remembered to which I replied, "Almost." I want to pass this tasty tradition down to my own children, but I can't seem to get it quite right. Trying to figure out what it could possibly be missing, it finally hit me. The camp bread will never be perfect. It can come close, but never perfect. It's not because I've missed an ingredient, or that I overmixed it, or undercooked it. It's because it will never again be made by that man who stood in the old kitchen with his cane propped against the cabinets, who told us countless adventures of his days as a Texas Ranger, who swore my eyes were green when I just knew that they were brown, who played some of the best pranks on his grandchildren, who always greeted me with a kiss on the large freckle on the side of my nose.
No, it will never taste like it did when I was a child, but at least, in my kids' eyes, it's perfect.