Camping Soul Food - a recipe for success on your staycation Summer '21 road trip


The Buggans family from Galway turned the adversity of the lockdown to their advantage when they took the opportunity to finally getting around to writing their new book, Camping Soul Food. It's already proving a big hit and will be a soundtrack to the summer.

I just love this story. From the get-go I was full of admiration for the Buggans crew from Galway. These avid campervan enthusiasts have nourishment for the body and soul with their cookery hacks and playlists. They put the restrictions of the lockdowns to their advantage by turning their quirky ideas scribbled on scraps of paper into a delightful new book. Here in this week's Vanhalla - Camper Heaven guest blog they share their recipes for successful camping cooking to the accompaniment of a soundtrack to their ongoing road trip... If it sounds like great fun, it's because it is!

Summer 2019…

“That Jambalaya recipe is definitely going in the book” says Malachy, ever the optimist, as he stands proudly by the gas hob in the campervan. “Like we’ll ever get the chance to write a book!” Carrie scuppers Malachy’s daydream. “Sure, maybe someday.”

Fast-forward to March 2020 and the entire world shuts down. With Malachy’s pubs closed and Carrie’s consultancy work massively reduced, we (the Buggans family) settle into a life of homeschooling, Joe Wick’s workouts and 2km walks around the block with our daughter Easkey. And it was during one of these walks that the idea for Camping Soul Food was cemented.

Summer 2021…

We are the Buggans’ family – a little family of three who love driving our 1990 Volkswagen T3 high-top campervan around Ireland. 

Over the last five years, we’ve taken countless trips, which started with us surviving on burgers and pasta-pesto. We also packed wheelie suitcases and way too many clothes!

As we got more experienced, we learned so much about cooking hacks with limited space, prioritising the fridge to store beers for us and our friends, and how much more enjoyable brilliant tunes are when you’re outdoors with tasty grub. 

What started as random collection of notes and scribbles and promises of “one day, we’ll write a book” has finally come to fruition, due in no small part to the last 12 months.

We have always loved camping, and spent many a long weekend driving around Ireland and setting up camp wherever the mood took us. There are so many fantastic places to explore around this lovely country. And we haven’t even seen half of them yet.

When the opportunity to buy a campervan from a local friend arose nearly 5 years ago, we jumped at the chance. We had dreamed of owning our own campervan (we even had a campervan as our wedding car – a gorgeous Volkswagon T2 in two-tone with a luggage rack on top). So we bit the bullet and bought the van (which needed some TLC… and a new engine!). Easkey was only 4 at the time, and we couldn’t wait to hit the road. We hadn’t been camping as much since she came along, so the campervan (creatively christened “Campie”) was going to bring us out onto the open road again. And so began a five year adventure, full of summer holidays on Lough Derg and along the Wild Atlantic Way, day trips to Connemara and weekend getaways to explore Ireland’s hidden outdoor swimming pools (there are more of them than you’d think!)

Over the years, we had always had the idea that we should write a book based on what we have learned so far. We would keep scraps of paper in the van, or notes on our phones of recipe ideas or hacks we came across on our travels from other campers. It was a pipe dream until the world stopped turning in March 2020 and we thought “we could actually do this. And what better way for Easkey to remember that crazy year when she didn’t have to go to school and she saw her parents 24/7”.

During one of our 2km walks, Malachy had the brainwave of pairing each recipe with music. We had recently bought a record player for the campervan, and he had been picking up soul records as soul music is ideal to listen to when you’re cooking outdoors. So we decided that this would be a fun project to work on for a few weeks as we dreamed of being on the road again. We put together an eBook with some recipes, playlists and hacks to share with friends and family. It also had some of our favourite holiday snaps of the last few years, which were happiness personified.

And the feedback we got was really good. It was May 2020 and we were all suffering from cabin fever. I think people knew that travel outside the country wasn’t going to be on the cards that year, so they started to think about staycations. We got comments back saying we should write a real book. People wanted more recipes, more hacks and tips, and of course… more music.

We loved this idea, but how were we going to be able to incorporate the music into a physical book? Malachy, who has always embraced new tech developments, started to think about QR codes (I – Carrie – had told him back in the early noughties that they were just a fad). After some testing with Spotify, he knew he could make customised QR codes and link them directly to playlists. Eureka! We had liftoff!

What happened next was the stuff of fairytales. Malachy’s friend Joanna (who runs Irish Socksciety) had used a photographer for a shoot in his Blue Note pub a few years ago, and knew she would take amazing photos. Her name was Julia Dunin. We were able to secure a place in the gorgeous and rugged Carraroe through our friend Eanna to take some shots of us and of food and Julia agreed to be our photographer. By amazing chance, Julia knew a Galway-based designer who designed books, called Amelia Walker. And she knew a printer in Kilkenny who could print hard-back books in Ireland. 

Camping Soul Food, available at select outlets nationwide and online.

“Hello Amelia – we have this little project we’re thinking of doing. A book for some friends and family about camping and food and soul music. Maybe 50 copies, a memento for Easkey when she grows up”. Fast forward 6 months, and we have almost sold out of our first run and we are about to order our second run to meet the demand from local shops around the country. It has honestly been a whirlwind. And I think the book is just the ray of light that people need to put some cheer in their lives after the last 14 or 15 months.

So enough about us – what is actually in the book?

Rather than tell you, we’d like to share some of the recipes, hacks and playlists with you here.

And here is an introduction to each of the Bugganss’sss -

Name: Malachy
Role: Chief wanna-be mechanic, worshipper of coolant, caller of friends to say “we’re heading off in the camper for the weekend, come and join us. We’ll keep the beer cold”
Favourite recipe: Chorizo, Onion, Pepper & Potato Hash because it is so simple, but so tasty!
Favourite soul tune: California Soul, Marlena Shaw

Name: Carrie
Role: Resident parking expert, food organiser, encourager of activities that involve any kind of physical activity
Favourite recipe: Halloumi breakfast bap, it is the perfect breakfast to set you up for a busy day
Favourite soul tune: Sliced Tomatoes, Just Brothers (instrumental)

Name: Easkey
Role: Kayaking queen, maker of new pals on any campsite, chief taste-tester of anything that involves marshmallows
Favourite recipe: Jambalaya (on the days when she isn’t a vegetarian)
Favourite tune: BBQ, by Wendy Rene

Check us out on Instagram for tips and photos of our trips, and info on where you can get the book. We’re (almost) nationwide.
If you’d like to learn more about us, check out this video

CREDITS: Photogaphy by Julia Dunin; Book design by Amelia Walker; Book printing by Modern Printers

Camping Soul Food is available (almost nationwide) from a select number of outlets, bookshops, music stores and cafés, or you can order online directly here from the Camping Soul Food website The cost is €20.

SEE ALSO: Fancy hiring a campervan or motorhome this summer? Here's How to go about it...