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Cookbook author Linda Ly a.k.a Garden Betty travels, camps and shares great meals around a campfire while writing her cookbook.

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RV Business Style: LINDA Ly A.K.A Garden Betty

Woman With A Passion For Gardening, Outdoor Cooking  & Traveling Gets Inspiration On The Road While Creating Recipes For Her Cookbook 

Linda Ly, Author Of "The New Camp Cookbook" [Courtesy/Linda Ly]

Food cooked on a campfire can be more than just a can of beans and hot dogs. That’s what Linda Ly had in mind when developing her new book, The New Camp Cookbook. Linda combined her love of the outdoors and entertaining to create easy elegant recipes to make while camping. Linda says that her new book “is a dream of mine because it combines everything that I love—traveling, camping and sharing great meals around a campfire.”

Linda has a small urban homestead in LA. She grows a variety of vegetables and raises chickens all on her 1920’s bungalow’s double lot. She pulls inspiration from her garden when she develops new recipes. For The New Camp Cookbook, she incorporated seasonal freshness into her recipes as well. When it came to testing and photographing the recipes for the book, like a true outdoors woman, Linda took her kitchen on the road. “I thought it would be disingenuous to write my recipes and present them in a camping cookbook if I had not actually camped with them,” says Linda.

Cooking on a camp stove or in a fire ring is very different than cooking on a gas or electric stove in the comfort of a modern kitchen.   “You don’t have as much control over all the different variables like the wind, how sticky the grates are, or how much weaker the flames are on your stoves,” explains Linda.  She wanted to make sure that her recipes would work across a greater variety of stoves, campfires and various outdoor environments. Testing her recipes on the road had its benefits. “It was a great excuse for us to go out and do something that we love,” says Linda.

Behind The Scenes Making "The New Camp Cookbook" [Courtesy/Linda Ly]
The Garden Betty Enjoying Her Travels [Courtesy/Linda Ly]

Linda and her family took every opportunity to turn every trip into an outdoor excursion. “All the trips that summer; say we had a wedding in Colorado; we turned it into a two-week road trip,” Linda explains, “we camped along the way and worked on the book at the same time and develop recipes.”  With all her endless testing of her recipes, Linda guarantees that every recipe works outdoors.

Camp cooking does have some obstacles, but it’s part of the charm of cooking outdoors. “I’m a sucker for campfire cooking just because of how different it comes out each time,” says Linda. Variables like water, type of firewood or elevation can affect the way a recipe turns out. That doesn’t discourage her, “it’s an interesting, organic, natural process,” says Linda, “it makes the recipe so much more special.”

One of the main reasons Linda wrote a camping themed cookbook is for her love of a good road trip. She has racked up many miles traveling up and down the California coast and across the country. Her favorite is what she calls the “Dream Drive”. It’s a big loop that takes you from southern California to northern California and back. “You go along the eastern Sierra and see gorgeous grand vistas of these huge peaks,” describes Linda, “in springtime and winter time especially are my favorites because they’re just filled with snow.” She also gets to pass some of her favorite places on the Dream Drive. “You see the best of California, like the big mountains and the big ocean views all in one drive,” she says.

Linda Gets Inspiration From Her Garden For New Recipes [Courtesy/Linda Ly]
Linda Getting Photographs For Her Book As She Cooks Outdoors  [Courtesy/Linda Ly]
One Benefit Of Staying On the Road Is Being Able To Stop At Places Like This [Courtesy/Linda Ly]

When Linda went on a signing tour to promote her first cookbook, she skipped the planes and decided to take a road trip.  She spent seven weeks on the road traveling to major cities all over the US. “I tried to stay off the highways and interstates as much as I could and take these smaller roads to get someplace,” she explains.   Linda chose scenic byways and national parkways, “it opened up a whole new view of all these different states that I had preconceptions of.”

Some of the best moments on the road were the people she met. “I am very much inspired by unfamiliar things,” she says, “I like to be out of my comfort zone a little bit and traveling takes me there, as far as seeing new places, meeting new people, doing something different.” Linda became quite popular around the campgrounds when on the road for The New Camp Cookbook as fellow campers caught wafts of delicious food roasting on the campfire. She, of course, shared.

For those wanting to take a long road trip and are apprehensive to start, Linda advises to start within just a couple of hours of where you live. “Just like put your finger on a map and go,” encourages Linda, “have some rough ideas of where you want to end up but all other plans just let them fly out the window.”  Some of the best moments she has had on road trips are places that she never even had known were there.  Linda says, “you’re either a vacationer or a traveler--be a traveler. She says, “it’s the little discoveries; the pleasant surprises along the way that really make the road trip for me. Keep your plans very loose and flexible.  Just go with the flow.”

Linda is busy concocting new recipes and taking care of her garden and family. But, when she gets the itch to travel, she pulls out her trusty map to plan her next adventure. “If I’m looking at a map and I see a highway,” she says, “but then I see this little squiggly line next to it I’m always about the squiggly line.”


Debbie Wolfe

A graduate of Northland College with degrees in Creative Writing and Earth Sciences, Debbie has written for HGTV, DIYNetwork, Sheknows and more. She enjoys gardening, reading and fostering dogs.  

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