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A Pony Kind of Weekend (And A Meal to Remember)

August 13, 2013

A camping meal to remember

Last weekend was blissful. A group of us headed to Assateague Island to soak in the sun and salt water and to see the ponies.

I’ve mentioned before that Mark and I have trouble packing light. (Really, it’s not Mark at all. It’s all me. I am not a camping minimalist.) But we somehow managed to add three adults to all of the gear in our little car and headed for the Bay Bridge.

On Friday evening, we arrived and set up camp, keeping an eye on the looming black clouds. Sure enough, around 10:00, a storm hit. I’m not talking about a little rain. For a while, it sounded like we were going to have to get an Ark. Torrents of rain beat against the sides of our tent. The wind lifted up a camping-neighbors’ canopy and placed it neatly into the middle of our camp.

Did I mention that K, one of the members of our party, had never been camping before? I was pretty sure that, after the storm, we were going to have to take her right back to D.C. but she survived the storm with amazing enthusiasm.

That was the low point of the trip. After surviving being drowned or blown away, Saturday’s sunshine had a fresh appeal.

We sat in the sun, splashed in the water, rented bikes and kayaks, and spied on the ponies, ate lots of bacon, and garnered lots of mosquito bites.

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I read the Misty books as a child and was ecstatic to see the famous ponies in real life. In the Misty books, cheery ponies romp along the beach, happy to show off for nosy tourists. In real life, though, the camp rangers warned us that the ponies were worse than bears. Pictures of cars and children who had been mangled by upset ponies covered the walls of the ranger stations and site bathrooms. The stories and pictures seemed a bit inflated but, needless to say, we kept a respectful distance.

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The Assateague ponies have very little sense of personal space. They are utterly unafraid of campers and would just as soon walk over an overly eager tourist as the beach sand. They even randomly saunter into the campsites, providing several minutes of suspense while the campers wait to see if they plan to trample on a tent.

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Ponies did, in fact, rumble through our camp in the middle of the night to check out the contents of one of the ice chests. Another one decided that he wanted to partake in our festivities as we sat munching oranges on the beach. He aggressively walked towards us until we abandoned our towels for safety and then he happily enjoyed our remaining orange.

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Mark and I camped for an extra day after the rest of the group left. I was so excited to try out our Dutch oven for the first time. We didn’t really know what we were doing but now I am utterly hooked. I might even dig a fire pit in our front yard so that I can cook with the Dutch oven every night.

First, we chopped up some red potatoes. I doused them with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, then added some garlic. Next, we added a pork loin, pre-packaged in a peppercorn marinade. I added a dash of red wine that I had smuggled into the park. After the potatoes and pork had cooked for about 30 minutes, we added a pile of chopped red bell peppers and half a pound of small tomatoes.

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Folks, the meal was one of the best I’ve ever eaten. The flavors blended together perfectly, the vegetables and meat cooked to perfection.

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I think the meal would work in a covered stoneware pot almost equally well. Of course, you’ll miss out on the smoky-fire-salt-air flavor if you cook this in the oven. For that addition, you’ll have to go camping on the beach.

One-Pot Pork and Potatoes

1 lb. of small red potatoes

1 pork tenderloin

1/2 lb. of cherry or grape tomatoes

2 large red bell peppers

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tbl. garlic

1 tbl. pepper

1/4 cup red wine

Quarter the potatoes. Spread them on the bottom of the pot and cover them with the olive oil. Add the garlic and pepper. Add the pork tenderloin and red wine. Cook at 375 with the lid tightly sealed for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, chop up the bell peppers. Add the chopped bell peppers and tomatoes, stirring only gently enough to ensure that the potatoes aren’t sticking to the bottom of the pot and to help spread the moisture. Cover the pot again and allow it to cook for another 30 minutes or until the meat is completely cooked. 

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