~ Totally Undeserving of the James Beard Award

~ Completely Undeserving of the James Beard Award ~

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Expedition to Terra Ingonita

Latitude 48.4895899, Longitude 120.1431384, Altitude 2,096 feet, Attitude 100%.

The coals glow, becoming ashen in their pyramid while the biscuit dough with it's musty flour is mixed and kneaded. Flip, push, turn, push, flip. No rolling pin so I mash the dough with floured hands, more organic, more feel. I find a suitable biscuit cutter in the form of a Tupperware cup and cut a dozen round dutch oven ready pieces of dough, ready to be set inside the 12 inch cast iron heavy pot over the coals. The Lodge branded oven, new out of the box is being pre-heated, pre-seasoned and oiled for the biscuits. Eight briquettes under the oven, seventeen on the rimmed lid, same ratio for any Dutch oven baking, 1/3 under, 2/3 on top. Heat rises.

I quickly realize that dutch oven cooking is slow. Cooking which you have to pay attention to and yet leave alone at the same time. You have to pay attention to the heavy pot and it's temperature - do you have enough coals?  Do you have extras at the ready in case you need to raise or maintain the temp?  No turning a dial out here. Then when you have it set and your meal is cooking away, you need to be patient - don't lift the lid to check on your progress, you just let your valuable heat escape. Smell. Does it smell like baked biscuits? Certainly over time you will get a feel for it.

Cooking with a dutch oven is very much a different type of cooking, different in time and different in method. You, your pot, the food and the fire are all, hopefully in sync - each one doing their designated part.  It requires big spoons, tongs, a heavy oven mitt (many use welding gloves).  And camp cooking is different all together, usually you are outside, the campfire smoke wafts, a breeze blows the quaking aspen leaves to life, you hear people fidget with squeaking camp chairs - vying for the spot of their choice, sun or shade or view. Someone is reading, others have taken up a game of Yacht-zee. The cook, sipping a choice of beverage from a plastic cup, slices and dices at the picnic table and leaves it for to find more ingredients, he leaves it for the breeze to add it's own earthy-ness. He drops a piece of food on the grass, a feast for the ants!

Dinner is ready as paper plates are set around. Cheap white and brown plastic salt and pepper shakers.  "Hurry...eat, it's getting cold".  Slap!, "dang!...I'm getting eaten alive!" The meals is over, usually in a tenth of the time it took to make. It's getting chilly, distant peaks are becoming purple and pink in the summer dusk.  Someone puts on a sweatshirt, others pull on jeans, some for warmth, others for fortification against mosquitos. "Who's on dishes?"

"Wanna go on a walk?".

Music of choice to cook by: Laughter around the campfire.