It had been a brutal two days. The first night in camp was snow and wind. The next morning we launched our whitewater canoes on the Jarbridge River, a river by name only as the water level was very low. That first day was nothing but dodging rocks and fighting an up canyon wind. The second day was worse with more rocks and the same incessant wind blowing in our face. It was just a typical April day in that high desert country along the Idaho-Nevada line. Trust me, a canoe is not a wind-friendly craft and before the day was over we had three portages, the last being over a half-mile in length over basalt boulders. When I finished the last portage the beauty of the canyon and the delight of observing numerous otters, mink, and osprey was all but forgotten. By late in the afternoon I was totally focused on my enemy, the never ending up canyon wind. I forgave the wind when it carried to me the distinctive aroma of green chiles. I sniffed again. No mistake. No river rat from the Four Corners Area could miss green chiles. I knew I was homing in on Cee Dub's camp just below the confluence with the Bruneau River. I yelled to my paddling mates and forgot the wind. As I pulled in to camp, I spied the four Dutch Ovens stacked by the fire. The wonderful aroma of green pork enchiladas and green chiles filled the river bottom. Standing next to the firepan was my old pard, Cee Dub, saying "Grub's on when you're ready, Thomas!"
Several hours later, with bellies full and bodies warm and dry, we sat around the fire re-living our adventures of the last two days. The wind, rocks, portages, snow, and cold were forgotten. Only the beauty was remembered. And that is the beauty of good food in rough conditions. Three decades have passed since I first met Cee Dub. In those thirty plus years we've shared many a hunting camp, and floated enough rivers to cross the country. For the life of me I can't remember a camp in all those years without our meals coming from a Dutch oven. This time-honored camp cookery is the cornerstone of both our kitchens.
Cee Dub's cookbooks are utilitarian. They are filled with useful tips for the experienced and novice alike as well as great recipes. Camp cooking can be the central focus of a trip or merely a part, either way the DO is the springboard to making it easy. Some of my pard's best advice is to not get hung up on details, be flexible and experiment at every opportunity! Don't worry about the timer, just follow Cee Dub's sage advice and use your own nose!
One of my most memorable camping trips was a Thanksgiving trip to SW Arizona. I remember the full moon, the ocotillo campfire, the braying of the wild burros, and the total stillness of the night. My lovely wife remembers the game hens, sweet potatoes, and wild rice cooked in one Dutch oven!! It sold her on the value of DO's. But camp cooking should not be relegated to camping trips. Don't give up on baked foods during summer because of the heat in the kitchen. Go out back. I use my DO as much at home in the summer as in the mountains. Camp cooking should be a family affair that involves everyone. I can assure you my Boy Scout cooking merit badge would have been much easier if I would've known then what I know now about Dutch oven cookin'! One tip you might not find in one of Cee Dub's cook books is this don't let small fry wash big DO's in large rivers. Diving for a sunken Dutch oven is not my idea of dessert!
However, Cee Dub's cookbooks are fun. All cookbooks have good recipes just as all stews have meat, potatoes, onions, and carrots. What separates the good from the great is the spices used. Only in Cee Dub's camp do the stories take on the flavor of a garden fresh herb. Cee Dub is truly a throwback to the days when our culture was passed along via oral tradition rather than VHS or digital technology. I have been blessed to be on the listening end of many a campfire monologue. It usually stretches my smiling muscles, which don't normally get a lot of use by this old curmudgeon As a character in many of these stories, I can vouch for their authenticity. It makes you want to have two copies of each book, one for the nightstand at home, and another for the grub box.
Cee Dub's cookbooks chronicle his adventures plus it's my guess he is hinting to you the reader to write down for posterity's sake some of your own. Follow his many hints and tips for easy camp cooking. Get outdoors, whether your back yard or the high ridge overlooking some beautiful, unnamed canyon. Your meals will be better and so will your campouts. I could go on, but need to load my camp gear in the trailer and head out for the Chircahuas. Oh, by the way, I'm going light...only taking three DO's and two cookbooks!
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