The one thing I hate about camping is doing the dishes. At home its one thing, I'm very comfortable in the kitchen, camping though, nothing ever really seems fully clean. I think I'd rather stab myself in the side of the neck with a large chisel dipped in honey mustard, ewwgh, or grow a mustache than do dishes.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Barista's' offer the finer points of water quality and ratio to grounds, we just drink it, dark! The darker the better. "Broker Coffee" it's referred to in the sales world, "Martyr Coffee" in the terror arena, "Cardiovascular Bliss" in others. Water from the river makes the best morning brew.
We zipped out of our tents in the morning. The grog of more than our rationed portion of beer and cigarettes heavied the luggage underneath our eyes. No sounds of people, no traffic, no phones or clocks or responsibilities other than coffee, a leisurely breakdown of camp and the ever increasingly enjoyable "pushing off" again, the trickle of river our morning news.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
By the second morning, waking up alone not in the warmth of your
woman's coals, sucks.
Yes, you enjoy the freedom, the time with friends the adventure, the isolation and separation from routine that canoe camping imparts. The subtle but important things tend to take shape when you are away from them. The curl and smell of your womans hair, the edge of her cheekbone, the
physiological comfort she imparts grows in value. All those things that dont even enter your consciousness when you are gone, lose all respect and value whatsoever when your back and
confronted with their insignificance. Meaningless arguments and quarells, bills like cable and home phone, coworker conversations and jobs even, are worthless in the face of love and companionship.
Only knowing home is coming and she will be there in it, waiting, stokes the fire and keeps you going
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Monday, May 19, 2008
I can't believe I'm writing this down. Unfortunately, this is not the first time. Many people have asked me for this. Under duress and usually under the influence, I give it to them.
"Mom's WT Tuna Noodle Casserole"
1 block Velveeta cheese
1 can Campbell's cream of mushroom soup
1/2 stick butter
1 carton white mushrooms
1/2 package frozen peas
2 cans of tuna in water
1 Bag Egg Noodles
This is a two-burner dish.
boil water for the noodles
As soon as is ready, cook the egg noodles
On the other,
Saute the mushrooms in butter 3 min on low to medium heat
Cut the Velveeta into chunks and add to skillet.Add can of cream of mushroom soup, frozen peas and tuna and mix well
You're not really cooking anything here, rather just heating and mixing the (gourmet) ingredients
As soon as this mixture is softened and mixed to a saucy concoction add the cooked noodles and toss
Finish with fresh cracked pepper and serve.
This is the easiest, most retard proof recipe one can put into words. I know, it sounds like a drunken 3 in the morning concoction, but I promise, if you don't tell anyone the ingredients, and you are not too heavy on the sauce to noodle ratio, people will remember this casserole and ask you for this recipe. I promise guilty compliments, praise and a full stomago.
When I was young my mom made tuna noodle casserole. I had no idea of the ingredients, all I knew was I loved it. One day ten years later I asked her how to make it. I was appalled! But that could not override the wonderful memories of the dish. So I decided to make it by her recipe at camp.
Tuna noodle casserole on two lopsided backpacker stoves propped in the sand is not easy. Cooks are use to the hunch over a counter to prepare and plate. Its another thing over backpacker stoves and a cutting board in the sand. Your "mise en place" is not what i'd consider professional.
We are not talking the camp cook that has a fire pit, a full set of cast iron, spit roasting a pig along the Colorado cause he's got 24 to feed and 4 rafts with him to lug it all. That's practically military. For a small group with limited space the concerns are different.
First off, flame temperature is a bitch on modern ultralite stoves. They are meant to rapidly boil the water that will hydrate your crushed Ramen Noodles. Mmm, yumm. Simmering capabilities without hotspots now a days seems to be the bragging rites of stove makers. (which means it's a problem with all stoves)
They are meant to rapidly boil the water that will hydrate your crushed Ramen Noodles. Mmm, yumm. Simmering capabilities without hotspots now a days seems to be the bragging rites of stove makers. (which means it's a problem with all stoves)
Also, prep area. You have to practically build a kitchen every night with less than desireable furniture in less than cleanly accommodations. The canoe itself, when turned upside down provides the almost perfect work surface. Don't melt the Kevlar! Sand? Forget it. It's everywhere. As long as its not in the food. It might look like pepper........
with less than desireable furniture in less than cleanly accommodations. The canoe itself, when turned upside down provides the almost perfect work surface. Don't melt the Kevlar! Sand? Forget it. It's everywhere. As long as its not in the food. It might look like pepper........
Now I've played up the idea that canoeing can be a culinary adventure. But, just because Cheetos and cold cuts make their way onto the menu, by no means, has food not been a central feature of the trip. Who didn't love Cheetos at one point in their childhood? To refuse the foods that gave us pleasure, is denying our past, denying our culture. Taking those items from the past and reinventing them is natural for cooks. We are all guilty of this. It is a necessary practice. Thank god though, for this desire in chefs. We would still think the International House of Pancakes is a fine dining establishment, were it not for the dudes in the back getting stoned and getting creative. Nothing is better than a chef with the munchies, or the food scientists in their stainless steel dungeons creating concoctions like foi gras cappuccino.
Please do not compare this desire with the value of the traditional. "Oral tradition is not manifest only in words." Recreating a dish, no matter how novice it might be, that had been cooked for you as a child or has some significant memory, is revealing of your past. Your young self might not have enjoyed as sophisticated a palate as you might now have, but those memories are no less valuable than your most expensive dinner to date.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Thursday, May 8, 2008
In the presence of a river or stream I have always felt in the
presence of some inexplicable, spiritual and creative power. Watching
water travel by, in the middle if its own expedition, with its own
divergences and obstacles, is the nearest thing to religion or church I know. I felt in the presence of whatever it was that inspired Octavio Paz's masterpiece "Sun Stone/ Piedra Del Sol", or Neruda's "Macchu Picchu."
The perfect beach. As soon as it came into view we knew we had found the spot. It spread out across the bank on river right in the shape of South America. Parts of its sandy banks were falling off into the water in shelves. The water was quiet and shallow there, the sand soft.
There were no river bend stores, no corner convenience. We had to bring everything. Our own Manhattan sized apartment. As for the important things, we brought 3 packs of smokes and a case of beer each. That's 8 beers a piece a day. That's it! We had to ration.
By late the second day even beaches suitable for camping were in short supply. We started to worry.
We were told before hand and were reminded when asking others, beach space is slim for day two. We paddled nearly 15 miles looking for a beach worthy of two tents, our canoe, a camp kitchen, a chess set and two city punks.
Around every bend the mirage of a perfect beach disappeared. On and on, bend after bend....no beach. The sun was going down and we were anxious to find a spot to set up camp for the night. Bend after bend we saw nothing but steep muddy banks and private property signs posted.
Experience after experience continued to be left behind us. The trails the stern left behind us were ripples which they disappeared into. Such was the nature of the river. Part of the beauty was pushing on. The further along we went the more valuable the experiences.
Sunday, May 4, 2008
Saturday, May 3, 2008
Around us one of the most memorable dining experiences of my life floated by. The ferns that lined the banks of the river were gorgeous. They seemed to consume the light that made it through the treetops and shade in massive pillars. They glowed in spots, like unattended green campfires scattered along the banks. Nowhere had ferns been so vocal before, so vibrant to me.
The sun eeked smiles from our faces, so much so we could have been shoving a moose lip and bever dung sandwiches down our throats. The meal didnt matter a bit. I was half way through my sandwich before I realized I never took the paper out from between the slices of cheese. Man, paper never tasted so good.
We put our oars aside, tied the anchor line to the to the stern, spread out its collapsable teeth and tossed it overboard. It immediately straitened us out in the middle of the river and slowed our forward progress.
We lost track of our selves in our chess game but every time we looked up we realized the anchor wasn't working. We were inching our way down the river, like the drag on our boat was being let out slowly by the mountains behind us. This continued the entire meal and game.
We tore a trench into the floor of that river that must have been a mile long. The faulty anchor and the current steered us though. Only the occasional straightening with a paddle saved us from the annoyance and cost of hiring a little person as a professional steer-er. We were very happy.
It wasn't 'till after lunch when we pulled in the anchor. we realized we never locked down the collapsible teeth of the anchor properly. No wonder it never caught, never kept us stationary.
We created a psuto table out of the Mikasa foldable table wear and the thin cuttingboards from the camp kitchen, a chair for the bowman from a bundle of wood, set up the chess set, hurriedly assembled our sandwhiches, cracked a kuurs an moved pawn D-2 to D-4.
The chessosphere, or sangwichsphere was amazing. The Cheetos were like a classic French wonder of culinaria. Even the paper stuck to the slices of cheese that we had forgotten to remove had a wonderful oaky finish and was complimented by ambient mountain peaks reaching up over the treetops that lined the banks.
Nowhere had dining atmosphere been so overwhelming.
Thursday, May 1, 2008
The plans changed. We wouldn't float, cause it would be too expensive and annoying to have to lug around a midget to steer for us while we played and ate. Rather, we would anchor in the middle of the river at the most beautiful stretch we could find. Also, we wanted to have everything preped, so as to minimize the fuss of setting up a chess set, creating a seat for the painter in the bow, plating and eating a meal worthy of the place, all while in a very unstable canoe.
What to cook? That was the question. The more and more we thought about it, the more we kept coming back to the idea of a meal that complimented the fine beverage we brought along, kuurs, the banquet beer. The choice was obvious. Spam and cheese sandwiches on wonderbread with a canapé of cheetos. Perfect!
Unfortunatly I couldn't bring myself to actually purchase spam or wonderbread for that matter. Cheetos on the other hand I had absolutley no problem with.
We ended up with packaged presliced, with paper between each piece black Forrest ham and muenster cheese sandwhiches. You know the kind, the stuff you get when the deli line is way too long and you are in a hurry. You buy the presliced because its convienient even though you know its incredibly inferior to fresh sliced deli meats. Why is that?
I waste much breath on the importance of food. I'll romanticize, I'll personify a skirt steak, a salty queso fresco. I'll argue its value over atmosphere. It is most certain, in my mind, that several Wellfleet oysters with a minionette can make any back alley dumpster seem like elegant dining ambiance - but - the right atmosphere CAN make even paper taste wonderful.
The idea was to have lunch relaxing and floating IN the canoe AND play chess at the same time. A painter, a poet, a retard or a nerd, you pick. The difficulty seemed to be in how we might steer the boat while eating a gourmet meal, drinking a bottle of wine and playing a game of chess. Another obstacle was prep. I've never sliced or plated anything in a canoe before.
I was facinated by the idea. It was so outrageous and rediculous sounding to me that it was perfect. It became one of the sales tools used against the painter, unbenownst to him, to convince his participation in the canoe trip originally. (not that he needed much coaxing)