Autumn's Splendor

by Keith Fisher

You’ve got to love the weather we’ve been having lately. A few years ago, I cooked in a Dutch oven cook off held on July fourth, in a place that formed a natural wind tunnel. We set up our booth with the cooking table between us and the hot wind. By the time we presented our "burnt offerings" to the judges it was close to one hundred ten degrees in our tent.

There isn’t much you can say about that kind of heat except, wow, or some other, more graphic expletive. I had to rest for a week after that one, and we didn’t win anything. Since then, I’ve left Independence Day open for family outings in the mountains, not cook offs. I still cook, but only in places with cool breezes and shade trees.

Now that the weather is getting cooler, it’s the perfect time for a family cookout. Get out there, and enjoy cooking on a fire. Drag your portable fireplace into the middle of the driveway and invite the neighbors over to roast hot dogs.

With school in session, it’s a great time to get into the mountains. It’s probably too late for the family reunion, but Friday night camping trips can be wonderful because you don’t have to compete with the majority of the summertime crowd. Get up early on Saturday and polish your breakfast making skills. If you’re a writer like me, it’s a great time to get those words down on paper, laptop, or AlphaSmart--before the family wakes up.

As a kid growing up in the state of Utah, I discovered I had two favorite times of the year. Spring, because of the new growth. The world is warming up, and people are getting ready to plant their garden and cast their shoes off. And fall, because we are cooling down. Nature begins to show its magical splendor with all the colors of the rainbow before the winter cold sets in and the colors turn gray.

Fall was also the time in my youth, for deer hunts and bird hunts, End of the year fishing trips, and getting ready for ice fishing. It’s the time I miss my grandfather most. He was our camp cook and I remember the breakfasts he used to make. His quiet wisdom and loving hand, his patience in trying to teach me to wait for the fish to bite instead of reeling in my line every four minutes.

I love fall. It’s the best time of year for feasts. Thanksgiving dinner, Halloween, tailgate parties, and all the little events in between, in the relative comfort of cool temperatures.

Since it is getting cooler, I decided to post a soup recipe, but which one to post? I finally picked a quick chowder I developed while serving a mission in Nova Scotia.

Tuna Fish Chowder
By keith Fisher
12-inch deep Dutch oven

2 cans Tuna
about six potatoes cubed
1 pound of bacon fried and broken into bits
one small onion diced
2 cans, or three hands full frozen corn
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
2-3 cups milk
2 pkgs fresh mushrooms
flour and water for a roux

Cook bacon, set aside. Dice potatoes and onions and boil together in enough water to cover. When potatoes are soft, drain 3/4 of the water and add milk.

Next, add Mushroom soup, tuna, bacon, and corn. Let simmer. Add extra milk if desired. When simmering, add your roux to thicken. Put mushrooms in at last minute, if desired. Add salt and pepper to taste.

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Just Give Me a Flat Rock

By Keith Fisher

Several Years ago, when I started cooking in Dutch oven cook offs, we were judged for our table displays as well as the food. In order to comply, we went looking for something that would be reminiscent of our pioneer heritage. We decided to use a full set of enamelware and a matching kerosene lantern.

I became enraptured with the look and feel of the material we called pioneer ware. It had the virtue of being made of metal with a decorative coating. It seemed to be a great idea to buy a whole set to go camping with. About this time, I needed to boil water for cooking, and for hot chocolate mix, so I asked for a coffee boiler for Christmas. Before long, I discovered I needed bigger one, and Santa complied.

Many a cup of hot water became hot chocolate. Then I noticed a chip in the enamel, and it didn’t take long for the rust to appear. Having read about some tragic deaths due to rusty spoon blood poisoning, I decided to quit boiling water for hot chocolate in that boiler.

Enamelware can be great. What’s more outdoorsy than tin plates? Isn’t that what our ancestors used? Perhaps that is true, but if you cook in it over a campfire, the surface turns the cool colored coating as black as a Dutch oven. Enamelware also costs more than earthenware, but Paper is cheapest, and you don’t have to wash it. Just use that egg encrusted plate to start your campfire.

There are many brands of paper products. Almost all of them have bowls and cups. Some brands are more durable and are made from recycled materials. To compliment our decor, there are many kinds of plastic ware utensils. I prefer good old stainless steel. It still needs to be washed, but I can’t break a steel fork, trying to cut a piece of meat or a piecrust.

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