Sunday, November 21, 2010

Tasty Meat

Two women and six children on the road for two weeks--and we never stopped at a grocery store.  I owe part of that to my friend Martha who gave me a little booklet called Camp Cooking Without Coolers by Lacey Anderson.

I didn't put Anderson's Fruity Breakfast Rice on the menu because no matter how delicious instant rice with dried apples and butter flavored Crisco might be, my kids are unlikely to try it even without the optional chia seeds. 

But I did get some key tips from this book.  One was soup.  "Soup is an excellent appetizer because it helps to ensure group members stay hydrated," Anderson writes.  "I like to serve soup as an appetizer...."

Can I say that on a chill evening soup seems like man's highest achievement?  Quick and satisfying--delightful to cradle in your numbed hands.  When it was cold, when everyone came down with colds, a lunch of hot tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches hit the spot.  And butternut squash soup as an appetizer when we arrived back at camp late, after a long hike, cold and hungry, was a balm to the soul as well as the stomach.

We were lucky the foraging was good.  I didn't have to worry about fresh fruit intake as it was all around.  Blackberries, blue huckleberries, red huckleberries, salal berries.  We saw thimbleberry plants but no fruit.
Evelyn identified berries with the help of a dichotomous key.
We had so many berries we stewed them with sugar.

After a very rainy night--look at our accidental rain gauge!--
a breakfast of crepes with huckleberry blackberry syrup gave everyone the energy to break a soggy camp and hit the road.

Below, in the hat, is Yakov, our crepe chef extraordinaire.  Sadly I didn't get out the camera until the crepes were gone.  On the table you can see the beer bottles from the beer that, the night before, went into me...ok, just a little...most of the oatmeal lager went into the Trader Joes beer bread batter. 
I wish I had brought more of that!  Just add a bottle of beer, stir and pour into a greased cast iron skillet and cover.  I put an extra cast iron pan under the skillet to distribute the heat better.  The kids fell upon the hot fresh bread like wolves.

I don't want to sound like a Trader Joe's advertisement, but my friend Marina brought a coolerful of premarinated meat from TJ's which became known as tasty meat.  We would whip out the camp stove and have a hot lunch of tasty meat anywhere.

On the drive from Shasta to Lassen I saw a sign that said "Wildlife Viewing" with an arrow pointing right.  On an impulse I hung a hard right because, hey, we want to view wildlife.  The wildlife at this place turned out to be golden mantled ground squirrels.

But it was a spectacular spot on a river near Lake McCloud in Shasta National Forest.  It was so spectacular that the parking lot suddenly filled up and a flock of painters with easels swarmed the rocky riverbank.

You can see them on the bottom left of the photo below.
The children walked around them loudly critiquing while we set up our stove in a light drizzle and offered up tasty meat for lunch.  A group of teen girls wandered by and one said, "These people have some good food going." 
As we were packing up the artists swarmed away leaving us in an empty parking lot. A game warden pulled up and I asked him what wildlife we could view.
"Ospreys, but they left."
After admiring the scenery...
...we got back on the road. Our plan, since it was still raining, was to get a motel. But we never saw a place to stop and then, with dark coming on, we were at Lassen. In the rain. With wet sleeping bags. Ok, there were some cute cabins fifteen miles back. I used my only quarters on the pay phone--no cell coverage. It was the first week of hunting season. No room for us.

I stood in front of the pay phone wondering what we could do. I spent $60 on 3 phone calls to my husband. Ouch. Watch out for those pay by credit card pay phones. They are pure evil. Mike found us a motel room in Burney 40 miles away. Wasn't there anything closer? What on earth does one do without the internet and cell phones? How do you find out about things? It would be nice if they had some list of local places. You know, a sort of book with listings in it. Lightbulb. I looked down and there was the slim plastic cover. And inside it. A phone book. I had forgotten all about them.

But we decided to stick it out. There was a 24 hour laundry there by the store at Lassen. I dried our sleeping bags, burning huge holes in one in the process--it had been Greta's but it became mine. The rain turned to drizzle, then cleared. We set up camp and went to bed.

The next day we would be joined by more friends. It would be great to see friends we were missing, for Marina and me to share our stories, to hear news from back home. For the kids to have different playmates.

And another great thing. They brought salad.


Zoltan Buddy said...

You do more with a skillet in a rainy campground than I manage in my fully-stocked kitchen. Wish I could have been there to see the "wolves" descending on the warm bread.

patricia said...

You are brave. Once, when I was a camp counselor, we were camping under the stars when it rained. We had kids as young as six with us, probably fifty of them, and there was no where to go but closer to the redwood trunks. The next day we had to decide whether to go home or brave it out, but the rain stopped and our grisly old busdriver rigged a rope around a campfire and dried all of the sleeping bags. (And no holes!) We stayed.

Camping in the rain is not a lot of fun.

But soup and hot bread sound good! I'll keep those ideas in mind for our next trip.

Funny how Trader Joe's has weaseled its way into both of our blog posts...

Judith said...

I want this on my tombstone: "She brought salad."

Susan said...

Zoltan, aw, I know you know your way around the kitchen. Hunger is the best sauce, as they say, and we had plenty of it.

Tricia, you are right! Your TJ reference was poetic, tho', and made me laugh, and mine was strictly about the pre-marinated meats.

Judith, no! It should read: She was great company. And she brought salad.

I'm still thinking about that arugula with persimmons of two weeks ago.