Campfire Sweet Potato / Black Bean Tacos (Vegan, Gluten-Free)

I've put off writing this post for quite some time. These pictures you see below, they were taken back in the beginning of October (yes, it's been that long). Here we are, deep into November and less than a week away from Thanksgiving dinner and I'm still struggling to get these words typed onto this platform, still tempted to backspace this first paragraph, to say screw this, dive head first onto the sofa, turn on another episode of Grey's Anatomy, and convince myself that I need rest more than I need to write. 

There's only so many days that you can say, "there's always tomorrow" before realizing that tomorrow happened a week ago and you're still sitting on the same sofa binge-watching Netflix and convincing yourself that writer's block is a condition that you can't free yourself from. The reason why I feel stuck in these "everything I write sounds unpoetic and forced" moments is because I lock myself away from the world for too long at a time. Inspiration isn't going to come out of hours Instagram scrolling, nor is it going to strike while I swoon over a romance between Meredith and Nathan (I told you I've been watching way too much tv).

I feel the most moved, inspired, and challenged when I let my heart give in to spontaneous adventure, and while I've always been one of those, I-can-do-it-myself, I-don't-need-anyone-to-help-me types, I'm starting to realize the importance of letting others into my life to learn from, and be inspired by. 

It takes a lot of patience and energy to soften, step back, and put trust in someone. With each passing season I'm finding myself entering a place of emotional expressiveness, fearlessness, and sensitivity toward others, especially females. I owe a lot of this newfound respect for other girls to Camp Gritty

Last June, I rolled my suitcase down a slope of rocks and into my cabin, C4. I felt a rush of anxiety spill over my veins as I entered into a creeky, wood-built shed, a place I would call "home" for the next five days. It was dangerously humid and I could hear the sound of my hair crimping up into dozens of embarrassing spiral curls like background music to the voice of my cabin-mate introducing herself to me. Caroline had golden yellow hair, like the sun, and enough energy to fuel my sleep-deprived body through that conversation. I sat on my bottom bunk and tried to sound cool and mature as I told her about my 5am flight from Los Angeles, while she told me about her long drive from Virginia and the secret stash of emergency snacks in her car.

There are a few Caroline things I came to know and love during camp, here are some of them: she is vegan, she has a jar of kombucha rolling around in the back seat of her car, she knows a hell of a lot about trees, she loves to hike, we both like The National Parks (a band), and she too, obsesses over living/traveling in a van. Can you say soulmate?

Five days after we met, I found myself standing at the open door of a charter bus saying farewell to all my new friends and actually crying as I parted with Caroline. I've done the long distance relationship thing, so I'm no stranger to the feeling of being gutted in the chest as you're forced to part with someone you love, but I still lost self control as I entered the tunnel walkway of the bus to find my seat. Of course we did that thing campers do where they promise to write and visit each other soon. I didn't really believe those thoughts and feelings could last, because every friendship I've ever been in has faded away almost as easily as a suntan after a vacation. So for a second, just imagine my shock when I found myself driving up to the sierras with my camp soulmate.

Here's to friends who fly across the country to adventure with you. To friends who are patient and kind to you even when you annoyingly stop at every vista point and lake. Friends who help you build solid campfires to cook over, approve of being spontaneous, and don't mind driving for hours with a soundtrack of dad jams playing at the highest speaker volume. Friends who listen to your stories, remind you to smile when things don't go as planned, introduce you to new people, run into ice-cold lakes, hike for miles to the tops of waterfalls, frolic with you in open fields, and inspire you to be the best version of yourself. You are one of a kind, love you Caroline. ♡

I've been trying to become more skilled in the realm of camp cooking. This time around, I had three nights to work on my skills over the campfire. The first night, we made pasta with veggie sausage and eggplant sauce. The second night, we roasted sweet potatoes for these tacos (recipe below), and on the final night, We threw everything we had left into a giant pot of chili. Not too shabby for a quick trip to Trader Joe's the evening before hitting the road. Although, there were admittadly a few Walmart stops along the way... who packs a load of vegetables into a car and manages to forget a knife and a cutting board? Me, that's who.  

Sweet Potato / Black Bean Camp Tacos (Vegan)
Yield: 4 tacos 

- 2 sweet potatoes, diced 
- 1 tablespoon olive oil 
- 1 can black beans 
- 1 can diced tomatoes (with green chilies), divided
- salt & pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1/4 cup diced sweet onion 
- 1 avocado, sliced 
- corn tortillas 

  1. Drizzle the sweet potatoes with olive oil and toss with salt and pepper. Wrap the potatoes in a single layer within tin foil and place over the campfire. Let cook for 20-25 minutes or until they're soft enough to easily stick a fork through them. 
  2. Meanwhile, add black beans and half the can of diced tomatoes to a medium pot and season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Cook covered either over the fire or a camp stove.
  3. When the sweet potatoes are finished cooking, lay the tortillas over a layer of tin foil and heat until warm. Then, fill them with sweet potatoes, black beans, remaining tomatoes, diced onion, and avocado. Enjoy with tortilla chips and a beer.

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Maira Gall