The smell of campfire cooking filled the air at Eisenhower State Park Saturday morning, an olfactory siren call for the park’s campers to come and experience a bit of Texas tradition. The breakfast was a celebration of the Dutch oven — the lidded, cast iron receptacle that was designated as the Lone Star State’s official cooking implement in 2005.

The smell of campfire cooking filled the air at Eisenhower State Park Saturday morning, an olfactory siren call for the park’s campers to come and experience a bit of Texas tradition. The breakfast was a celebration of the Dutch oven — the lidded, cast iron receptacle that was designated as the Lone Star State’s official cooking implement in 2005.


"If you like camping outside, the Dutch oven is kind of a convenience to take you from modern to outside cookin," Park Ranger John Hanson said. "Like the stove in your house, this is the outside stove, basically. If you can cook it in the house, you can cook it in a Dutch oven."


Hanson manned the main oven Saturday morning, mixing a host of traditional ingredients together to form his "Mountain Man Breakfast" recipe. Nearby, Park Host Morris Cooper worked on white gravy while a third oven cooked monkey bread.


"They let me stay out here if I work," Cooper said with a laugh. "We saw these Dutch ovens on TV one time about five or six years ago and started doing it; it’s a lot of fun."


Mark and Mary Grant, newcomers to Texas by way of Illinois, were camping at the lake while their new home was under construction near Whitewright. Drawn by the promise of down-home Texas cooking Saturday morning, they said the Dutch oven celebration was an unexpected welcome to the state.


"We just got here yesterday and found out this was going on, so we thought, ‘Why not?" said Mary Grant. "We don’t have a lot of food in the camper yet, so we just got here and this sounded too good to be true!"


Hanson said the breakfast was one of several ways Park staff is looking to expand their cultural offerings, especially in the face of a rough recreation season marred by flooding.


"We’re just trying to do something different for our interpretive programs out here at the park," Hanson said. "This year’s been so slow with the flood and everything — people not being able to come out and camp — so it’s really hurt us. But we’re starting to pick back up a little bit now."


Camper Lizzy Kennedy, up from Allen for the weekend for a few days of R&R, said her family had been able to take advantage of several of the park’s activities, but none more savory than the Dutch oven celebration.


"We went and did the fishing demonstration last night, learned how to cast, did some target practice, and came over here this morning to start the day," said Kennedy. "I’ve loved learning about the Dutch oven; it seems very eco-friendly and very doable. It seems like a really easy way to cook up a meal."