Recipe for gourmet camping

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ByRay O’Reilly

Who said camping has to be hard ground, twisted sleeping bags and Knorr’s instant pasta dishes? Here’s a recipe for gourmet camping in Burgundy.

Wednesday 10 August 2011

I’ve just scoffed a goose terrine and a fine bottle of Burgundy. In this version of fine dining, there are no snooty waiters, no starched table cloths – in fact no table at all – and no cutlery, glasses or any other standard accoutrement associated with such delicacies.

Ingredients for this dining experience:

-one Swiss Army knife

-one mug

-one artisanal terrine from the region around Auxerre

-one bottle of reasonably priced Henry de Vézelay Pinot Noir 2009

-one fresh baguette

-optional chair, plate, cherry tomatoes, local cheese

Dining ambience:

-roosting birdsong

-mating frog calls


-water feature (open spillway)


-shopping itinerary: if the ‘travelling salesman’ algorithm can’t be used to plan an efficient route for visiting cellars and towns in Burgundy, then I suggest you head south for about an hour, taking in recommended sites, then do the same in the easterly, northerly and westerly directions until back to base. You should also:

-take time to visit artisanal shops with local produce (tell them the wines you bought or ask for recommendations on wines to accompany your terrine/cake/cheese, etc.)

-key to the preparations is the right mental state: make sure you are both tired and hungry as hell (I went on a two-hour bike ride around the nearby vineyards and back roads, taking in the terroir, you could say, before visiting the cellars

-back at the campsite: open the bottle and then go and have a shower to wash off the road and freshen up. By the time you’re back, the wine is ready for drinking

-open your jar of goose/rabbit/duck/pork … terrine

-tear off a large piece of baguette (big enough to tear the roof of your mouth) and smear a ridiculous quantity of tasty congealed meat onto the bread

-wash it back with a gulp of Burgundy from your mug

-repeat above step (perhaps adding a cherry tomato or two to lighten the meatiness if you can’t handle it) until you feel totally stuffed and satisfied with life!


-a handful of mixed unsalted nuts, dried fruit and broken pieces of plain chocolate

-more wine

Then all you need to do is rinse the cup, wipe the knife and crash in your (wonderfully spinning) tent


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Poetry, nonsense or what (not)?

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By Ray O’Reilly

Beauty, failure, enchantment, … you name the emotion and poetry’s got it. But this noble art is not for everyone. And it’s by no means easy to call yourself a poet.

1 August 2009

Of course

Silenced by the wall

Of conversation all around

Fighting the desire to seek

What has already been found

In the faces of all

Who stand before

You read your cues

And keep the score

On parchment furled

Of no known source

You type the world

And set your course


“Any good?” he asks me after I’ve read his poem.

“I’m partial to a rhyme,” I tell my friend, but for the rest I say I’m not sure.

We talk about the genre and how it’s may be coming back into vogue, what with the internet and recent programmes on the BBC about poetry. He issues me a challenge.

“Give me three words to describe the poem!”

“That’s too hard,” I say but I do like a challenge so I give it my best. “Nonsense, sense, whatnot,” I offer.

He pretends to be hurt and retorts:  “Shy, observing, judging”.

“Not bad,” I say. Now it’s getting interesting, so I have another go, a real one, this time. I reread the poem and scratch my chin in the appropriate pensive manner. “Foreign, fearful, running,” I say with conviction.

“Ah ha,” he exhales, “now we’re getting somewhere.”

This goes on for a while longer until we’re both exhausted being so erudite. I see the gleam of victory in his eyes, because he has ignited my imagination with his silly name game. I now understand the power of interpretation and he knows it.

So what?

The scene so described actually happened many years ago. My friend went on to become an advertising guru and published author who hides his poetry behind a pseudonym which I will never reveal (for less than six figures). I went on to become a much less illustrious man of words whose real identity I will never reveal (for less than three figures).

You could try to guess who my friend is. I’d give you kudos if you were thinking Alfons De Ridder (alias Willem Elsschot), the Belgian poet-author who famously hid his literary activities, which included the novels Cheese and Soft Soap, from his colleagues and family. Problem with that theory is, De Ridder is dead and published his 11 works between 1913 and 1946. Yes, I’m getting on in years, but I don‘t have World War stories in my repertoire. So guess again.

To De Ridder, who worked in advertising most of his life, the art of writing came easily, but he struggled with the world that encircled it. Known for his wry and economical style, especially in his breakout novel Kaas (1933), he once wrote to a friend [not me, you now realise] that cheese was just a pretext to be able to dredge things up from his own depths. No kidding.

This humdrum business of writing was an ideal canvass “to make something out of nothing”, he once wrote. “In art,” he astutely commented in the preface to Cheese, “there are no prizes for trying. Don’t try to swear if you’re not angry, or cry if your soul is dry … One may try to bake a loaf, but one does not try to create.”

[I like the loaf bit. I’m starting to get into this poetry gambit, so maybe it’s time to have a try myself. I can half-bake as good as anyone.]


Humbled by creation

Pregnant in its haste

Like bland unleavened bread

The fault is in the baking

Not the way it tastes

Ray O’Reilly

Come to think of it, may be “Not the ultimate waste” is a better last line. Surely, The Chronikler readers are sophisticated, poetry lovers. Tell me which ending you prefer.

This article is published here with the author’s permission. © Copyright Ray O’Reilly.

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