Guiso What?

Guiso What?

Guiso What?  The joy of cooking – over a fire!

Campers, holiday-makers, hostesses and hosts: what is your favorite table to sit around? Is it one that you decorate during the holidays with special napkins, plates, crystal or glass? Is it the one you congregate on outside in the summer months, moving slowly to avoid catching splinters in the aging wood? Is it a picnic blanket, or a rusty old pop-up? Whatever your table, if you’re like me, perhaps your favorite memories revolve around them as well. Which is really to say, our favorite memories revolve around food.

Sharing a meal with family, new friends or old, is my happy place. I look back with nostalgia on those times; like when my best friends got their first house together, we sat huddled on the floor, with mismatched plates, eating with our hands. I look back too on the decadence of the holidays: the heavy comfort foods, the dutch salads that never really contain anything green, the warm spices. And now, throughout summer, it’s all about BBQ parties around the grill: marinating and roasting vegetables, cooking burgers. But my absolute favorite method of cooking (and memory creation) involves none of the glamour of propane, gas, electric. It lies instead, in a good old-fashioned flame… and I am certain, if you give it a try, it will soon top your list too.

When I say I enjoy “cooking by fire,” most assume I mean camp-style cooking: searching the woods for sticks, roasting hot dogs or (accidentally burning) marshmallows for S’mores. And while those are welcome, nostalgic treats, I have found that cooking entire meals around a fire is not only simple and flavorful, but an event all in itself.

I would never try to talk you out of visiting Newaygo’s restaurants (in fact, if you haven’t visited all of them, do that first!). But sometimes wrangling children or family into submission of good behavior in public, is too much a feat to take on. So next time you decide to stay in, whether you’re in town camping for the weekend, have a cabin on the lake, are hosting a BBQ, or are just looking for a way to enjoy your evening with the family around your favorite table, get cooking! The following recipe is one that you cannot ruin no matter how hard you try and can be tweaked to anyone’s particular tastes (I’m looking at you, picky eaters, spice lovers, vegans and omnivores!).

It’s called “Guiso,” (pronounced ghee-so), and is a twist of traditional South American cowboy stew. My partner’s background is a touch more interesting than my Dutch-Dutch-German heritage that is so common to the River Country area. And while the Dutch know good (er…interesting) food, many of my favorites have a touch of Central or South American flair from his side of the family.

To make Guiso, you’ll need the following:

Large Cast Iron Pot

Cooking Oil

3-4 Onions

2 Heads of Garlic

3-7 Peppers (any type, depending on size)

4-5 Carrots

One Can Tomato Paste

One 1lb Box Shell Pasta

2-4 Tbsp Seasoning Salt (I prefer spicy)

One Gallon Water



1 Package Ground Beef

Spicy Peppers like Jalapeños, Anaheim, Habanero, Serrano

Any other veggies you fancy

To get started, build yourself a fire! After 30 minutes or so, once you have a decent coal base, grab that cast iron pot and set it down on top of the coals to warm. Chop all your veggies finely ahead of time, to make for an easy cooking session.

  1. Pour around a half cup of any cooking oil into your cast iron pot. Before it starts to bubble, add your onions and garlic, and stir until they begin to soften.
  2. Next add the peppers, stirring occasionally, until they soften. Then carrots. (If you’d like to add a package of ground beef, now’s the time).
  3. Add seasoning salt to taste, usually 2-4 Tbsp. We use a Brazilian brand called Arisco, but any salt will do. (At this point, give it a sample. The flavors will continue to come out while cooking, but if you want more spice, add peppers or chipotle seasoning, or more salt, pepper and garlic to taste.)
  4. Dump in the can of tomato paste now and stir until everything is well coated.
  5. Add 3 Liters of water (shy of a gallon). Wait until the water just begins to boil, then add your box of shell pasta.
  6. Leave uncovered and cook until pasta is soft. Don’t fret if you feel you’ve added too much water. The longer it sits, the more the pasta soaks in. Same if you feel the Guiso is too thick: just add more water! Once the noodles are cooked through, pull the Guiso out of the fire and let it stand for 10 minutes. No straining required. While the traditional recipes never call for it, feel free to add cheese, sour cream, or my favorite, cilantro, to the top.

While the food is amazing, it’s the process that matters. Sitting around the fire, watching the smoke rise and smelling the mix of spices in the air, surrounded by family or friends, IS the experience. So after your meal around your now-favorite table, take your time. Throw another log on, kick back… Perhaps now is the time to find those marshmallow roasting sticks and come full circle.


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About The Author

Carmen Faulkner

Carmen Faulkner is an avid travel enthusiast who grew up in Newaygo County. When she isn’t on the road, she splits her time between her home in Newaygo and the mountains of British Columbia. Her love for all things outdoors is paralleled only to her appreciation of food, coffee, and craft beer. You can find her in our community kayaking down the Muskegon River, hiking the North Country Trail, or enjoying the small businesses of downtown Newaygo.