Enamelware

The smell of burning plastic plates in a campfire was one of those nostril burning aromas that I associated with a campfire when growing up. Back when I was younger and better looking, plastic was this incredible product that found its way into everything in our lives. Plastic cups, plates, and utensils became a staple at parties, campouts, baby showers, weddings, and literally every get-together held for any reason under the stars, and still are. When the party was over some strong fella would set down his Lone Star beer and hoist a 50 gallon plastic trash bags full of plastic cups, plates, forks, spoons, and knives over his shoulder and walk proudly to the dumpster with it over his shoulder. He’d look around the crowd to make sure folks were seeing this act of chivalry like he had just performed open heart surgery with a pocket knife. The ladies who actually did all the work would look up and force gush their thanks through clenched teeth just enough to make Mr. Helper’s chest bulge.

Amazingly with all the information on just how cataclysmically awful single use plastics are for our health and our environment, we Americans still choose convenience over common sense. The older generation would say shrugging, “Well, that’s just how it is,” which I’ve noticed is a common go-to for inconvenient truths especially when it comes to litter and recycling.

Growing up in our tiny western village, there wasn’t (and still isn’t) any waste management services because a population of under 30 residents obviously can’t sustain such an operation. The transfer station (recycling center) was a full 30 miles away but who would want to haul their junk that far then pay for it to be recycled or just buried in another county? Inconvenient as hell. Therefore, someone with a bulldozer attachment on their tractor pushed soil aside creating a shallow pit where the townsfolk would come to throw away all that plastic and everything else from car batteries to deer carcasses. In the ditch digger’s infinite wisdom, he had decided digging this dump about twenty feet from a creek was a solid idea.

Once in a while when the wind wasn’t blowing, the Volunteer Fire Department would set it ablaze with the water tank truck waiting just in case one of the embers set the surrounding pasture on fire, which it did on several occasions. Black pungent smoke and embers would rise into the atmosphere, because “it ain’t hurtin’ nothin’.”

When the pile of unburnable junk got too high and started blowing all over the place, the tractor man would dig another trench next to the old one, using the new soil to cover up the old pit and its contents, to be discovered by future archeologists or I assume, aliens. Sweeping it under the rug, year after year while battery acid and cans of paint slowly seep into the water table a few feet away.

“That’s just how it is.”

Maybe it is convenience that has driven us to Keurig capsules and double plastic bagging a gallon of milk with a perfectly good built-in handle. But my fellow earthlings, we have a choice, and that choice whether you know it or not is a vote. Every time we don’t use our own bag at the grocery store, we vote. If we decide to buy organic, non-GMO products, that is a vote for a farmer making just a little bit less than his neighbor. Every time we bike to work instead of driving, that’s a vote for cleaner air. Exercising is a vote for your health. Buying a sleeve of Solo cups for a keg party, that’s a vote. A vote for or against the only planet we have.

Years ago we voted against our camp ware being single use plastic, and started investing in something timeless. Enamelware. Immediately I became an enamelware slut. If Best Made was having sale I was buying bowls, cups, plates, and even more cups in bulk. And not just for us but as Christmas gifts for family members and gifts just because for friends in our camping community.

Balanced diet

We became aware after a few uses these handsome vessels didn’t only hold hot coffee, hearty chili and strong whiskey, but a metric ton of memories. Some of our best memories. I’ve never sipped a high ball out of a plastic cup and been soothed by the dull knocking of ice cubes against its soft, lifeless walls. But the delicate clinking of the same ice against steel and baked enamel congers memories of deep campfire conversations and tipsy late evening escapes to a tiny mountain stream for one more brook trout on an elk hair caddis by headlamp.

My big tentree mug. Coffee, water, whiskey. Maybe in that order, maybe not.

Without a doubt, I love the Best Made brand (sold to Duluth Trading), but if you want the absolute sexiest and most original of cooking and eating and serving goodness then go with the classic Falcon line of products with its wide selection of unique colors and endless array of shapes and sizes. They still make the classic of classics; white with the blue rim, which leaves me rationalizing why I need a $10 espresso cup, which I don’t. Other amazing makers of this snazzy stuff includes Crow Canyon and Riess. You can even get your cups personalized by some great folks on the internet. Want to reduce your footprint even more? Look on Etsy or Ebay for cool vintage stuff, or even your local Goodwill store.

Mac n cheese with fried up sausage. Warm on the hands through the steel and enamel.

If my rant against plastic didn’t convince you to get on board the enamel train, then take these arguments into consideration because you are obviously a stubborn son-of-a-bitch. Enamelware, besides making you look like a camping/picnic professional, is eco-friendly, lightweight, durable as hell, naturally non-stick, shatter (kid) proof, and easy to clean. It can go from the oven to the table, or campfire to your lap (with care not to burn your junk of course). And if it ever does wear completely out, it’s steel and therefore recyclable.

Double fisting

The thing about a product that will last 100 years is there is literally no excuse for not making such an investment. Since I’m a nice guy, I’ll do the math for you. Spend $15 on 100 plastic cups twice a year for 10 years. That comes to $300 and 2000 plastic cups in the landfill forever. Buy a set of 10 enamel cups for $100 (on the high end) one time and they will be passed down through generations donating to hundreds of memories with each chipped edge. A total of ZERO cups in the landfill.

Breakfast on enamel

You know that heavy tinge of guilt you feel every time you throw a plastic cup in the trash? Once your camping or picnic box is outfitted with enamelware, that’s a feeling you’ll never have again. So do it for your planet, your children, your conscience, or your love of timelessly beautiful objects. But whatever you do, do it with intention. Because no one can argue it isn’t the right thing to do.

United by Blue mug and dirty camp fingernails.

Published by willbarch78

I grew up in the middle of nowhere Texas. The nearest Walmart was a full two hours away. My family still runs a ranch back home that I grew up on, but at some point in my treasured youth I hung up the idea of becoming a cowboy, and pursued my passion for architecture. Today I still find myself trying to fit in to a life that has treated me with the average ups and downs one can expect after a certain number of years. My wife and I moved to Denver after attending Texas Tech School of Architecture in Lubbock as we needed a grade change from the Llano Estacado. We camp with our three growing girls all summer and into the fall while I write and create and fly fish to maintain sanity. Life is moving fast as our careers and children progress in all areas, so being outdoors with each other keeps us mostly grounded.

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