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My Brother From Another Mother

August 21, 2011
OK, so Rob isn’t technically Family, but he is the closest thing I have to a brother in this world so I included him in family week. Plus he agreed to blog. I’ve known Rob since high school and he was the best man at my wedding. We are fortunate to live close enough that we can meet up every now and again. we play cards and drink beer while the girls play and talk. And of course we eat. Rob describes our culinary experience this year at Daddy Daughter Camping.
Camping is a study in contrasts. It’s 75 degrees with a light zephyr and the sun setting over the hill vs. 48 and misty, fog on the water and I can’t get the damn fire started for coffee. It’s the perfect spot on the water where the girls can frolic naked because there’s no one for a mile or more vs. bugs so thick I have breathe through my teeth for fear of swallowing them. All of those events have happened to Mike and me (and our four girls) over our 12 years of camping – which is why I feel particularly qualified to do a study on camping cooking – Mike vs. Rob.
Mike brought his A game this year and I made sure I didn’t bring hot dogs.
Dinner on the first night is a good example – Mike cooked. We had fancy trout with scrambled eggs and burnt butter for the main course. He cooked over an open fire using his 15 pound cast iron skillet that he’s been seasoning for a decade. The trout sat in buttermilk over night and was breaded in panko. He fried it in the skillet and served with butter sauce. We had it with a side of grilled marinated vegetables. We finished the meal with homemade vanilla ice cream in a bag (tasty). My contribution to the meal was the fire.

Burning the Butter

All the girls loved dinner. Gretchen (who doesn’t like fish much) commented that it was the best fish she’d ever had.
Breakfast on day 2 came close to topping the fish. Mike cooking again. We started with his homemade granola and blueberries while he made corn meal pancakes. The granola was sweet and crunchy. It contrasted nicely with a slightly tart vanilla yogurt. Unfortunately, neither of us brought a spatula for the pancakes (me because I reasoned, “What do I need a spatula for? I’m boiling pasta.”) To flip, Mike tried the pan to pan technique and the one handed flip using the cast iron skillet method. They yielded surprisingly good results for pancake #1 and #2 respectively – disappointment thereafter. Fortunately by then he’d been cooking for 2+ hours and the group had largely gorged on granola and pop tarts. My contribution was a fire that was not up to the task Mike set out for it. It was time to start thinking about lunch.

The Pretty One

Both lunches were my responsibility. They were a largely forgettable collection of carbohydrates from the grocery shelves. Doritos, Bugles, Double Stuffs and ginger snaps with a bit of cheese and summer sausage for the carnivores.
I had to cut the trip short because I heard from Tracey that our basement had flooded from the biggest storm Chicago’s seen for in a generation. Ironic given that I’m pretty sure that in the first decade of the 21st century, we camped through 3 of the 5 worst storms Wisconsin has seen in a century. We did manage to have our fifth meal in 28 hours and I was on center stage. Time to boil water for pasta. Fortunately, Mike had breakfast for the last morning that still needed eating – Mahnomin Porridge. Wild rice and hazelnuts with Minnesota maple syrup and heavy cream. It was nutty and sweet, rich and delicious. A complex set of flavors. I closed the abbreviated weekend with boiled pasta and a jar of red sauce. Gretchen and Sarah don’t like red sauce, so they whipped their own white sauce using heavy cream, butter and some parmesan cheese. They were quite happy.
I’m already looking forward to next year.      [Editor’s Note: Me too.]
*This post first appeared on Rob’s Blog shortly after we got back from our trip.
3 Comments leave one →
  1. August 25, 2011 1:44 pm

    Sounds like fun!

  2. Janet Koplos permalink
    August 22, 2011 6:44 pm

    Honestly, Mike, I think being able to pull off those sorts of meals over a campfire is even more impressive than your kitchen/dining room work. Bravo!

  3. michael waite permalink
    August 21, 2011 10:01 pm


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