Ellen Nordberg, Author

Foodies In The Woods

Boulder Lifestyle

Boulder Lifestyle 2/14.

Climbers on a rock

I am not a foodie. I have food poisoned myself, realized after six months in a new condo that the oven didn’t work, and over-cooked canned chowder so badly it exploded like foam out of a fire extinguisher on lifting the pot lid.

Within the first few months of dating my eventual husband, he invited me on a camp-out in the mountains with his college friends. There was just one caveat.

“There’s a food contest,” he said, eyeing me skeptically.

A camping food contest? How elaborate could that be? (My normal camp-out meal prep consisted of packing tea bags, instant soup, and oatmeal, and then hitting up someone with a camp stove for boiled water.)

After consideration of my vast recipe file, I decided on peanut butter tofu pie. It looks just like peanut butter cheesecake, but tastes better for you. A favorite with my health conscious friends, I was confident the pie would be a hit.

We arrived at the campground to find stalls set up like Denver’s Civic Center Park during the “Taste of Colorado.” Dazed, I wandered past the giant pot of lobster bisque, the tri-tip roasting pit, and the generator-driven Dutch oven hatching chocolate soufflés. Oh crap.

I dashed back to our tent and fished what was left of my pie from the trough of melted ice in our cooler. I patted it down with paper towels and dug out a plastic knife.

“Everyone’s been drinking,” my boyfriend assured me.

I slipped the pie onto a table in the clearing, and a guy in a neon tie-dyed shirt handed me a ballot to vote for my top three favorites in the contest.

As my boyfriend reminisced with his pals, I merrily made my way through each entry – shrimp cocktail, oxtail salad, goat cheese pizza, and avocado eggrolls with Tamarind sauce.

While ensuring I would vote fairly by sampling everything, I began to notice a disturbing trend: on the corners of each of the tables lay dessert plates with nearly complete slices of peanut butter tofu pie accompanied by hastily abandoned forks.

Walking closer to the dessert table, I observed the burly tri-tip chef stuffing a forkful of something in his mouth and speaking to a friend.
“Wow,” he said, making gagging noises with his tongue like the Golden Retriever in the “Got Milk” commercials. “What the hell is in this pie?”

I did not claim a ribbon that weekend. And later that year, as my camper boyfriend and I discussed having a family, I felt the need to come clean.
I sat down across from him in a restaurant with a list entitled “Things Future Husband Needs to Know About Me,” and took a deep breath.
“Number one: not a very good cook,” I said.

He nodded at me, like, “Go on.”

“That doesn’t bother you, or.…..surprise you?” I asked.

He smiled.

“I figured if you couldn’t hack cooking in the woods, it wouldn’t get much better in a kitchen.”

Eleven years later, we’re married with twin boys. These days you can find me cruising Costco, stocking up on pre-made Paella and searching for the perfect frozen appetizer.

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