Archive for the 'Let’s Eat! It’s Alimentary, My Dear' Category

Jun 04 2015

The Little Things That Mean So Much: Get a Grip!

Get a Grip

When my climbing buddy Kyle, his fingers protected only by a sodden ragg wool mitt, lifted the steaming pot of oatmeal from the roaring 111B, his reaction wouldn’t have seemed out of place in a Three Stooges comedy. But it was no laughing matter, especially when he flung the pot from his grasp and sent scalding oatmeal spraying around our campsite.

Our group had spent the night high up in a mountain valley in Washington state, almost within strolling distance of the Canadian border. The day before had been a long one. We’d made our way cautiously across a glacier, climbed a peak, and then descending by glissading down a snowfield. The snow had been firm when we set out in the chill morning air, but the afternoon sun softened it and made it sloppy, and those of us who’d failed to cover their ragg mittens with waterproof shells soon found that the thick wool had soaked through. And it was still wet when the sun woke us the following day.

But Kyle had no spare mittens in his pack, and wet wool was better than bare fingers in the frosty alpine air. It was his turn to make breakfast. And when the time came to lift the pot off the stove, he grabbed it without a second thought. His mittens were thick, weren’t they? He’d grabbed hot pots with them many times. No problem.

This time was different, however. Before, his mittens had been dry. Today they were soaking wet, and the 111B’s blowtorch burner had done its job. The pot was hot — very, very hot. The stage had now been set. Events unfolded with a tragic inevitability. Kyle’s mittened hand closed on the pot’s rolled rim. A plume of steam enfolded it, instantly parboiling his fingers. And his screams — to borrow one of John Steinbeck’s memorable lines — were enough to “make the welkin ring.” Kyle hurled the pot from his hand like a discus. It flew across the meadow, trailing filaments of piping‑hot oatmeal in its wake.

Luckily, no one stood (or squatted) in its path. And though the oatmeal was a lost cause, the pot — a sturdy four‑liter Sigg — suffered only a few minor dents. Still, there were plenty of grumbles under the cook tarp, and Kyle, who had dashed off to thrust his scalded fingers into a nearby drift of dirty snow, received precious little sympathy from any of us on his return. He was painfully reminded of his folly for days afterward, too, every time it was his turn to belay.

The discerning reader may now be wondering why Kyle didn’t use a pot grip. And the answer is simple: We didn’t have one. We did bring one, but it had gone AWOL at an earlier campsite, and none of us was prepared to pack up and go home on account of a missing pot grip. Anyway, we were doing fine with our thick wool mittens. Until it was Kyle’s turn to cook breakfast, that is. Then he got a valuable lesson, one of the first things learned by novice cooks in busy kitchens: “Side towels” make acceptable pot grips — but only when they’re dry. A wet towel (or a sodden mitten) offers no more protection from a hot pot than a square of wet bumwad. It’s not a lesson likely to be forgot.

Nor have I forgotten it. Years have passed since Kyle’s Three Stooges moment, but it came to mind just the other day, when I needed to get a grip… Read more…


Questions? Comments? Just click here!

May 21 2015

Hot Dog! Tofu Pups Go Head to Head Against the Real Deal

Hot Dog!

Summertime. A magical word. What trekker doesn’t dream of smooth roads with no traffic and no snarling dogs, or lazy, drifting days on quiet, sunlit lakes? Sadly, though, reality doesn’t always measure up to our dreams. Summertime is the busiest time of the year for many of us, and it’s hard to be lazy when the orders (or the jobs or the papers in your In‑Tray) keep piling up. Those smooth roads? They’re crammed with impatient texting motorists. And the sunlit lakes I mentioned? They’re often swept by line squalls. Some parts of the country can even count on seeing a tornado or two. And then there are the jet‑skis. They’re (almost) everywhere. These days, quiet places are few and far between.

But there’s one summertime dreamscape that no cloud can darken: The archetypical weenie roast. That name probably needs an upgrade, if only to silence the snickers, but whatever you call it, the tradition of roasting hot dogs around an open fire resonates with paddlers both old and young. It certainly played a role in my childhood summers at my grandad‘s camp, when we speared wieners on sharpened sticks before thrusting them into the flames. And there they stayed till their skins started to split. Then we wrapped them in soft buns and garnished them with heaping mounds of chopped onion, sweet pickle relish, and mustard. I don’t think I’ve ever had a meal I enjoyed more.

I’m not alone in this, either. Which is why hot dogs are often top dog on picnic menus… Read more…

Questions? Comments? Just click here!

Apr 23 2015

Ramen Redux: Making a Good Thing Even Better

Ramen Redux

Back in December, I wrote an article about the many uses of instant ramen, those ubiquitous noodle bricks that are a staple foodstuff on both campuses and campsites. And after delivering a brief, cautionary homily about commercial ramen’s high sodium and fat content, I suggested several ways to transform HyperMart ramen into something heartier and (hopefully) healthier. The article was a success, and my virtual mailbag soon contained ample proof that instant ramen stands high on paddlers’ lists of quick camp meals. The writers weren’t all “man cooks,” either.

But not everyone who wrote was an enthusiast. A few readers — their views probably echoing those of many more — made it perfectly clear they wouldn’t touch instant ramen with the proverbial barge pole. And while I continue to eat the stuff without qualms, I can’t offer much in the way of rebuttal to this blanket condemnation. Commercial instant ramen certainly isn’t my idea of health food. It’s not even my notion of healthy food. It is, in truth, a chemical feast.

Want proof? Then let’s examine the evidence… Read more…

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