April 17, 2024

Grilling, Broiling, Boiling and Spitting!

They’ll give you all kinds of reasons, guys who don’t like to cook. Some may even be true, but they ignore one simple truth: as long as you depend on someone else to do the cooking, you have no control over what you eat or how it’s prepared. For all you know, they may go off on a mad binge and start feeding you stuff that’s actually HEALTHY! Then where will you be? How will you react when you realize you’re condemned to a life of tofu, bean sprouts, yogurt, Belgian endive, and julienned rutabaga? Serves you right!

On the other hand, a guy who can cook for himself is a guy who takes command of his destiny, a guy who’s in charge of his own life, a guy who charts his own course, a guy whose Tums and Zantac budget rivals his wife’s outlay of cosmetics. Now that I’ve proven it’s worth the effort to learn to cook, the question arises: how do we do to learn to cook? Many of us learn from our parents. My Daddy (who was a mountain man through and through) had his own distinctive style. Some say it was “dis-stink-tive” because of his skunk cabbage.

He worked long and hard to teach me his ways. Fortunately, I was blessed with a lot of determination so I was able, with huge effort and personal sacrifice, to unlearn just about all of his teachings. As a result, I can cook well enough to get by, but every now and then a bit of his philosophy creeps back in. To learn how to be a really good cook, I guess you could read books or sit at the knee of the wise home economics teacher at your school or even ask somebody whose cooking you like. But to my mind, there’s no substitute for the old “burn the bridges/total immersion/100% commitment” approach. Be like one devoted woodsman I know and go out to your cabin in the woods and don’t come back until you can fend for yourself in the kitchen. You’ll invent some novel techniques and spawn great ideas.

The following recipes are the result of the “fend for yourself in the woods” approach:

BROWNED BEAR: Slowly toast bear over a bed of coals until nicely browned. Baste often with a good-quality local prize winning barbecue sauce. Serve on a bed of dried oak leaves with nuts, berries and grubs as garnish.

BLACKENED BEAR: This is a Cajun version of the recipe above. Cook quite a bit longer and use hot sauce liberally. Serve with gumbo filo and red beans and rice. Blackberry wine is a good accompaniment.

GRISWOLD BEAR: Put a fresh bear in a big iron skillet. Add onions, potatoes and carrots and cook until done. This dish must be thoroughly cooked or it will turn on you.

GRIT: Some people are satisfied with store bought grits. What a cop out! Real guys know that bigger is better, so we don’t mess with stupid, little grits. We make our own version–one BIG grit! Boil a bushel of corn until it turns to a stiff mush. Cool and stuff into a cleaned pig’s stomach. Hang it in the barn over the winter to cure.┬áCome spring, peel off the casing, slice thin, toast lightly and serve with the finest grade of lard. This is much more flavorful than the Scottish version, often referred to as haggis.

Culinary note: Haggis is edible only because it’s traditionally washed down with a big glass of Scotch. Our GRIT needs only a chilled can of Mountain Dew to make it a real treat!

SORE GUM: This recipe is fairly widespread in the mountains and in rural areas and accounts for a large part of local dentists’ business. It’s easy to do and requires very little effort. Basically, all you have to do is never brush your teeth. Everything else will follow.

COW PIE: Another rural favorite. Start with a frozen pie crust, available at any fine food store. Pile the pie shell high with a generous filling of ground beef, chopped onions, pickle relish, jalapeno peppers, catsup, sour cream, bacon bits, fried pork rinds, baked beans, coleslaw, mustard, celery seed, and chili powder. Bake at 350┬░ for four days. Remove to a wire rack and allow to cool for 3 or 4 hours. Carefully remove from the baking dish and put into the pantry for a week or two to cure. Cut into serving-sized pieces with a chainsaw – a real guy thing! Also useful, uncut, as a doorstop.

POACHED DEER: This is your golden opportunity to use that million-candlepower light you got for Christmas. Go out into the woods at night and wait for a deer to come up the path. Gently flick on the light while pointing it at the deer. Be sure to have your rifle loaded and ready. Need I elaborate on this?

BEHOLD THE POWER OF MARSHMALLOWS: These things must be among the greatest creations of mankind. They’re useful for toasting on a stick, making S’mores, plugging up the exhaust pipe of your nasty neighbor’s truck, lining the bottom of your live well so the fish don’t get bruised, patching a tire, plugging your kid’s mouth when he gets too lippy, throwing at the TV when the hated rival team scores against your beloved team, rolling across the floor when you want to entertain the cat, and gumming up the bags of the neighbor kids when they Trick or Treat at your house.

What a great invention! I think I’ll devote a whole future column to the unlimited horizons open to those of us who can appreciate the “power of marshmallows.” Just a work to tickle your curiosity; have you ever visited a marshmallow farm? Do you know how to properly prune a marshmallow tree? How many days are required to cure fresh marshmallows before they’re packaged? The answers to these and more will be revealed during a future visit.

See ya around,


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