My friend Jan died this week, and her passing has stirred up all kinds of memories and people from the past. It has been very bittersweet, but leave it to Janny in her final act to arrange for a big reunion of old friends.
Jan was a great outdoors woman. And she knew how to camp. I was pretty lacking in that area, to say the least. I didn't really grow up camping. My family's idea of a camping trip was to drive the truck a mile from the farm into the canyon and have a "weenie roast" with hot dogs burned over the fire on willow branches we had just cut with my dad's dull pocket knife from the edges of Toad Springs. We weren't even fancy enough to have s'mores. And we always had to go back home to sleep so dad could get up to milk the cows at 4 a.m.
So when Jan and Diane and a group of friends decided to go camping in Moab together, I couldn't have been more excited. This group was crazy and funny and full of life and I would do just about anything to tag along. So when Jan told me to just bring my camping gear and a tinfoil dinner, I wasn't about to ask too many questions--especially not "what's a tinfoil dinner?"
We caravanned our way to Moab, laughing and playing tricks on each other as we drove. I think Lan and Tam at one point took their shirts off and pretended like nothing was up just to see if Di and Jan would notice when they passed us.
We made it to Moab and finally settled in to a camping spot after pushing and digging one of the cars out of sand up to the doors. Everyone deftly produced their tinfoil dinners to cook on the fire. Mine looked pretty much like everyone else's except maybe a little lopsided and unstable and long like a log. I was anxious to see just what was inside everyone's mysterious tinfoil dinners. The mouthwatering smells of savory stews were wafting from the fire and I could see my dinner starting to smoke. I pushed it around with a stick and tried not to call too much attention to it, but it soon became pretty obvious that one of those dinners was not like the others.
Jan asked me, "What exactly do you have in there, Wendy?" And I'll never forget her peels of laughter when I opened it and she saw my blackened Rice-A-Roni and beans along with some random vegetables like broccoli and mashed potatoes. I was experimenting with veganism at the time and hadn't had meat in months. I had just packaged up leftovers from the fridge and sealed them in tinfoil.
Jan and Di were good enough to share some of their perfectly cooked dinner, even some forbidden meat, but my first attempt at tinfoil cooking was never to be forgotten. My stint as a vegan was over and I still haven't lived down that tinfoil dinner to this day.
I've had many a tinfoil dinner since then and have even learned some tricks to make them incredibly tasty, but I'll never be able to eat one without thinking about Jan.
8 months ago