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I have sometimes heard people suggest cooking long meals overnight while camping. For example, the book "Gastronomie en plein air" written by Odile Dumais, talks about cooking pea soup or baked beans over a fire in a pit dug in the sand.

Historical writings about the French Canadian voyageurs describe their meal of pea soup cooked overnight over the fire.

Odile Dumais has guided remote expeditions over the entire Canada and Greenland for more than 50 years. She is clearly aware of bears.

Does anyone have experience with this type of cooking method? From my experience with bears, this seams like the best way to attract them.

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  • Wouldn't this mean leaving an unattended fire all night? Mar 30 at 2:05
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    Or they tended the fire through the night…
    – Jon Custer
    Mar 30 at 4:07
  • Keeping a fire running will retract most animals, but it requires keeping a watch. For obvious reasons, watchkeeping isn't really what people want to do during vacation, but sometimes there are no ways around that.
    – PMF
    Mar 30 at 7:18
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    According to stories I read you would bank the fire with the pot of food on the coals under the covering layer. So not an open fire.
    – Willeke
    Mar 30 at 10:05
  • You can try out those recipes if you have a fireplace in your house that allows you to leave a fire going, or banked, throughout the night.
    – Willeke
    Mar 31 at 18:30

2 Answers 2

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I actually got in touch with the writer of the book I am referring to in my question. Here is a free translation of her answer :

I always managed my excursions, however long they were, by taking care to manage the situation so as not to get into trouble. Especially when cooking. The cooking technique starts with a deep hole with very hot stones and embers on the bottom. The pot is added, then hot stones and embers are added on top of the lid. I often bury the whole thing in the sand. The intense heat stays intense enough until the morning. It is the heat that will be the greatest repellent for the animals. This oven does not show any flames, it is an oven so there is no need to keep an eye on it. There is no possibility of setting fire to the environment. Even odours do not penetrate the thickness of the sand. You have to try it to understand it.

I feel the need to point out that, in my opinion, the risk of starting a forest fire is not as low as she claims. Having witnessed fires spread by roots, I would make sure to do this technique ONLY on a sandy beach away from trees and other vegetation. Forest fires are a real risk and too often overlooked.

Be careful guys. Starting a forest fire is very uncool.

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  • uncool? It is also a crime (as it should be) - arson, in many if not most areas.
    – dakini
    Apr 1 at 20:44
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The Voyageurs would be carrying big old guns along with them in the wilderness so that's got to be factored in when assessing how well this applies nowadays.

Also we have had questions about leaving fires unattended and the overall consensus was a resounding no due to forest fire concerns (especially if this a Canada specific question). People do recreational camping in the summer, when forest fire risks are at the highest. Yes, you can cover fires and the like, but it's still easy to get this wrong. Yes, you can watch the fire all night, but is everyone really going to be watchful all night?

The fact that some highly skilled people can do this, probably in very specific contexts, doesn't mean it's an overall good idea for Joe Everybody to start doing this. If you gotta ask you're probably not in the right skilled group, no offense. I know I'm not.

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  • And there’s always the option to tend the fire in shifts overnight if you really need to have something cook that long. Bonus is that you can watch for any animals that try to make off with your food. Mar 30 at 17:48
  • I certainly don't like watchkeeping, but there are recreational activities where this is a vital part of it. I wouldn't go on such an activity with a group I don't fully trust that they won't fall asleep when taking shifts.
    – PMF
    Mar 30 at 20:24
  • @PMF you just need to go with a group of people where one regularly stays up until 4 am and another regularly wakes up at 4 am (this may not work as well if it's after a long day of exercise however) Mar 31 at 7:04
  • @fyrepenguin ;) and I don't think that's going to work so well when the hike should be continued together every morning. And it also doesn't work when those that stay up until 4 am keep up the party with lots of beer and other "liquids".
    – PMF
    Mar 31 at 7:16
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    My buddy read about the whole burying food with hot coals thing, tried it on a camping trip with me, and long story short ended up getting really sick, vomiting and explosive diarrhea at the same time and ruined a perfectly fine tent of mine XD I opted for the more normal campfire cooked meat and potatoes and had a great time.
    – Nate W
    Apr 22 at 22:08

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