_Good Cooks / Bad Cooks!

Serves: 5



Cooks come in all shapes, sizes, and with different abilities. Over the years I've been party to some awful good cookin'. On occasion though, I've had meals placed in front of me which would make a TV dinner seem like a miracle from a high falutin' New York City restaurant. Honest mistakes can occur in the kitchen whether it be at home or in camp. Sometimes it is just a brain cramp on the part of the cook, and other times the results fall into that category of natural disasters known as "Acts of God!"

Whatever the reason, the praise when deserved goes to the cook and, likewise, the blame must also be upon his or her shoulders. It would be a dull book which just listed the good cooks I've known over the years. How ever, a couple of cooks on the other end of the spectrum deserve some recognition.

Growing up in the 50's and 60's, several of the national outdoor magazines graced our mail box each month. I remember my dad commenting on an article about some guys on an elk hunt in the Selway River country with an outfitter. Dad said, "if we ever hit the big time, we're gonna go on a hunt like that!" Dad went on to say how much fun he thought it would be to go on a hunt and let someone else do all the camp chores and cookin', leaving a guy with nothing to worry about except hunting.

Raising four kids on a sheet metal worker's wage pretty much precluded that from happening without some unknown rich relative leaving the folks a big pile of money. Reality hit me, just like it did my dad, when I went to work for game warden wages. When I hired on in 1978, I probably could've just afforded one of those hunts advertised in the 50's and 60's!

Anyway.....little did I realize, later events would unfold allowing me to experience two such hunts that had formerly just been dreams of Dad and me. You're probably wondering about now just how relative to camp cookin' this all is. Right? Well, read on!

From June of l987 until July of l989 I was the first full time undercover investigator for our department. As an undercover wildlife investigator, we focused, in part, on outfitters. Some were unlicensed, illegal outfitters and others were licensed outfitters who had a tendency to bend things. In cooperation with another western state, I hunted two different big game seasons with an outfitter who liked to bend the boundaries of one of our national parks.

The agency in question felt uncomfortable using one of their officers because of the chance of recognition by the targeted outfitter. As a result I was our agency's contribution and the other state provided the funds and directed the investigation. A dream come true, or so I thought!

Good camp cookin' can be the hallmark of any outfitter whether they a operate a hunting or fishing camp or are just a recreational outfitter. In the two years I hunted with this outfit we endured two different cooks. One washed his hands regularly but was awful short on experience and the other fella knew his way around the kitchen, but didn't wash his hands as often as I think he should have.

I kind of felt sorry for the kid who cooked on my first hunt. This particular outfitter ran an outdoor leadership program for kids during the summer months and some of these kids were later hired on as help during the big game seasons. Most of these kids were disadvantaged and came from big metro areas in the east. (Someone once asked me what I considered back east, anything east of Cheyenne, Wyoming, qualifies!)

As I was saying, as best I could figure out, this was the first job of any kind this kid had ever had. That, plus the cultural shock of a hunting camp, and some over-bearing bosses put this fella at a further disadvantage. More than once, with a cook tent full of anxious guides and hunters waiting for some grub, one of the brothers who owned this outfit would have to tell this poor kid what to do. Not good!

One incident sticks out in my mind. Jerry, my hunting partner from Louisiana, our guide and I got back to camp early one afternoon while every one else was still hunting. Jerry and I walked around camp for awhile to loosen the joints after a day of riding and both ended up in the cook tent.

Fried chicken was on the menu. Jerry, being from Louisiana, had more than just passing knowledge of fried chicken as did I, having eaten it every Sunday afternoon while growing up. Just like my first experience cooking fried chicken, this kid did all right on the frying part.

This particular outfit had a big commercial-type propane stove. Most camps wouldn't have anything this big, but our base camp was at the end of the road and they were able to haul this in by vehicle. He cooked the chicken in two big deep pans with about four inch sides. He and the two camp jacks put the chicken in the oven to keep warm, then began to discuss how they were going to make the gravy. About this time Jerry and I looked at each other with raised eyebrows.

We both started to wander so as to get a little closer to the action. In each of the deep fry pans resided about two inches of cooking oil and rendered chicken fat. We both looked on in amazement as the cook put a three pound coffee can of flour in each pan and began to stir it. About this time the two camp jacks allowed as that they thought he needed more flour, so in went another coffee can of flour in each pan. Still it didn't look right to them! While they discussed adding yet more flour, Jerry and I said to hell with bad manners and offered our advice to the cook!

At this point he had six plus pounds of flour in each of his pans which, with the amount of grease involved, would've required a twelve yard cement mixer truck and a tanker truck full of milk to make gravy. From our point of view it would have been fun to watch, but this was our dinner we were looking at. At this point we decided to jump in and help. First, we threw out about ninety percent of what he had started and had no trouble making gravy for sixteen people with what was left. Neither this kid nor I were the first or the last cooks to ever screw up a batch of gravy.

The next year though the cook was different. The kid had obviously cooked in camp before. The first two or three days, the grub really stuck to ones ribs. But, as time wore on I noticed he seldom, if ever, washed his hands.

Elk hunting can be hard work and big appetites result. Before I go further, let me give you a better mental picture of our camp. The road I mentioned earlier dead ends right on the border of a National Park. It was situated in a large meadow with a crystal clear creek running within just a few feet of camp. We hunters and the guides slept either two or four to a teepee.

Besides the large cook tent, there were two smaller tents for tack and supplies. The horse corrals set on the south edge of camp and a portable toilet set on the north side of the camp exactly eighty seven steps from the door of my teepee!

Anyone who's hunted elk knows how physically demanding it can be. When you are an undercover investigator hunting elk, there is an additional mental challenge.

According to my notes, things started to go hay wire the afternoon of day four. I didn't really feel sick that evening, I just knew that I didn't feel good either. I hit the bed ground just after supper about 9:00 pm. Few things in life hold more terror than waking up in the middle of the night realizing two things. First, you're not sure of where you are at or where the door is. The second is even worse, your belly is telling your brain you have a very short time to locate immediate seating where the place setting consists of a roll of soft paper 4½" in width! This happened to me about 3:00 am after waking from a deep sleep. I didn't count the steps that first trip, that came later. Counting the steps was just something I did to break the monotony of the trip! To say I slept uneasily the next hour and a half would be an understatement.

At breakfast, I felt just so so. Before we left camp I broke into my own private stash of "paper place settings" and stuffed a whole roll into my saddle bags along with my lunch. Diarrhea under the best of circumstances is very unpleasant! Riding a horse and hiking are not recommended activities when one is so afflicted. The side effects induced by a saddle are most unpleasant! Day five of my hunt wasn't D-Day, but it came close to the "Longest Day" in my life up to that point.

I caught some good natured ribbing in the cook tent that night because of my prowess in dismounting a horse, tying it up, and locating suitable cover in record time. Two others in camp mentioned at dinner they weren't feeling all that well themselves. Due to my condition, I ate very sparingly that night. Before dawn the next day I'd made two treks of a hundred seventy-four steps each.

Day six I spent in camp within easy walking distance of the privy. When the other hunters came in that night I had company. One of the owners and one of the hunters were in the same or worse shape than me. In fact, I'd started to feel better and there was more time between treks. Feeling a little better and being very hungry nearly spelled catastrophe. Mexican food is one of my favorites! Despite feeling better, I made three round trips of one hundred and seventy four small steps before dawn. Now another problem began to surface. It came as a great surprise to find a line for the privy about a eighty small steps into my third journey.

Day seven was spent just like day six but with more company. When the hunters came in, it appeared the grub was only sticking to the ribs of half the camp.

Day Eight saw me over the hump, so to speak, and able to get on with the hunt/investigation. To this day, I'm not sure what caused this "adventure", but I do know for sure it made a bunch of people miserable. It might have been clear cold creek water which caused the problems, but since then I've avoided cooks who don't wash their hands very often.

A Back Country Guide to Outdoor Cooking Spiced with Tall Tales

This _Good Cooks / Bad Cooks! recipe is from the Cee Dub's Dutch Oven and Other Camp Cookin' Cookbook. Download this Cookbook today.

More Recipes from the Cee Dub's Dutch Oven and Other Camp Cookin' Cookbook:
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_About The Cooks!
_About the Author
_As Close To Heaven As One Can Get
_Barbeque Texas Style
_Bread And Horse Wrecks
_Brother-In-Law Duck
_Camp Creations
_Camp Crock Pot
_Camp Kitchens
_Camp Robbers
_Campfire Cash
_Chicken ala S*#T
_Chili, The Controversy And The Recipes
_Common Sense And Cards
_Cookin' With Kraut
_Cooking From Cans - Menu For Day 16
_Culinary Bombs
_Don't Critize The Cook...
_Dry Camps
_Fanny Pack Snacks
_Game Meat
_Game Warden Dog
_Game Warden Scramble
_Garlic & Her Poor Cousin "Onion"
_Getting Bread In Camp
_Good Cooks / Bad Cooks!
_Good Humored Cook
_Hank's Spaghetti Sauce
_Hank, Jack And Me
_How To Cook A Coot
_Hungry Ridge Chicken
_Jerky And Smoked Fish
_Las Piedras
_Making Do
_Middle Fork Spareribs
_Modern Day Pilgrims
_No Name Creek Baked Beans
_Pitch In And Pitch Out
_Potatoes aka Taters, Spuds
_Redhot Rhubarb Upside Down Cake - The Story
_Religious Bedroll
_Roast Coot
_Rubs For Meat, Not Backs
_Shoestring Bull
_Something Soft For Dinner
_Sugar And Spice And Other Things Nice
_The Adventures of 'Two-Story Tom'
_Things I Don't Care To Eat
_Twas The Week Before Elk Season
_Two Reluctant Cooks
_Veggies For Camp
_Warden Stew
_Where Do You Buy Scratch

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