Thursday, November 17, 2011

Camp Cook

This will be the last post until after Thanksgiving as I prepare to depart for the 19th century at our deer camp in western Bayfield County, Wisconsin, the nine days known as 'Holy Week' among Badger State deer hunters. . No electricity, running water, plumbing, or central heating at our little estate in the northwoods. The best thing about it is no connectivity for phones or internet wireless. Rumors are that as more cell towers are erected we will get service. The only advantage of that development would be that on the VOR's birthday, which unfortunately always falls during this week, I can call with birthday wishes from the camp instead of having to drive to a high spot on my wheeler and then stand up on the seat while wearing a tinfoil hat to get one bar reception. Cooking and heating at deer camp is done with propane, Humphrey propane lights and the beloved 1924 Detroit Jewel propane stove. I am the main camp cook on that venerable piece of equipment.

As deer hunting preparations reach a fever pitch, some folks are excited by a new rifle, hunting jacket, scent system, portable tree stand, or other gear that they have picked up. I'm excited by my new stock pot, a fine piece of cooking gear manufactured by Vollrath and acquired at the local restaurant supply store. The usual routine at a camp, and ours is no exception, is to bring some old piece of shit pot, pan, or knife that you don't want at home out to camp and proudly state, "Hey, we got a new (fill in the blank) at home and I thought I'd donate this one to the hunting camp". My thought in most cases is that it should have been donated to the garbage, which is what I actually do surreptitiously, one POS at a time. Please don't tell anyone. We have slowly acquired some knives that hold an edge, a fine aluminum Dutch Oven, stainless steel two burner griddle, vintage waffle maker, and some nice Revere Ware pots and pans. Along with venerable stanbys like the cast iron frying pans, good tools make for good chow and we are slowly but surely getting there after only 28 or 29 years or so.
The food that I cook has become very ritualized. If there are no burritos on Friday night, chicken and dumplings on Sunday night, or corned beef and cabbage on Tuesday night there is muttering, grumbling, and sullen bitching. Which is fine with me. Deer camp in Wisconsin is all about tradition and that's one of them. If the BearWhisperer didn't bring mom's apple crisp, and all the sandwich fixin's, if the KingOfIronwood didn't bring his healthful desserts, and if the GurneyGranny didn't acquire the Thanksgiving turkey, it just wouldn't be the same. I have my own little rituals as well. When I get to camp after the days hunt I get out of my heavy hunting clothes and into my cooking clothes, which is typically my longjohns. Over the years I've found cooking with my pants on to be very confining and have avoided the practice for decades now. The freedom of long underwear really helps get the creative juices flowing in the kitchen. Also, much like the pump in the yard, I'm much more productive if I'm primed before I begin supper. Depending on the day and the weather ouside, the primer could be three fingers of Bushmills, a glass of a fine red, or a cold bottle of Leinies. The camp is small enough so that I can actively participate in happy hour in the Eight of Better Lounge while preparing the meals. I also typically have plenty of help. This is because of the Third Commandment of Deer Camp: Thou shalt not put thy hands in dishwater if thou art one of the cooks. This where it get sketchy. Guys have opened the oven door for me and tried to count it as cooking. Cans have been opened and sauces stirred on the Jewel with similar claims. I am above it all however, letting them squabble over who cleans up the mess as I happily prepare the grub. If you will note in the lead image, there is a nice new chef's knife that will be taken to camp and cleverly hidden. It's the only sure way to keep it sharp since bad kitchen knife ideas like cutting rope, sawing at a piece of wood, or shaving the end off a piece of PVC pipe with a (formerly) sharp knife don't seem to register with some of the group.

Tomorrow I will be delivering the VOR and GraciousPartier to the airport on their way to St Louis to visit GalwayGuy. I will then head directly north to the camp. I may get out in the woods to look around but it's more likely that the necessary priming will begin immediately. I can only hope that, unlike last year, burritos are on the menu. I hate to hear whimpering on the very first night. I have also added the following very satisfying message to the Out of Office reply on my work email:

I will be out of the office the entire week of Thanksgiving on a humanitarian mission, assisting in reducing the potential for car/deer collissions in Northern Wisconsin. I will have zero connectivity for that period.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone and may you enjoy a shopping free Black Friday. I'll be in the woods both days.


Silbs said...

Stay safe and have a wonderful trip.

Erik said...

Wish I could be there!

Erik said...

Wish I could be there!