Soap & Water

By Keith Fisher

There once was an old sheepherder who had a nephew visit him. During the visit, the old man made dinner for the nephew, teaching him how to cook in Dutch ovens. During the mixing and preparing, the nephew kept trying to clean up. He went to wash a mixing bowl and the old man said. "Don’t worry about it, soap and water will take care of it."

Every time the young man tried to clean up, the sheepherder reminded him that soap and water does a good job. Finally the meal was done, and it turned out to be delicious. Once again the nephew offered to help clean up. "No need. Soap and water will do," the old man said.

After awhile, they sat around the campfire swapping stories when the Nephew saw a big dog come around the corner of the wagon. The Old sheepherder noticed him, and called the dog. "Come here Soap and Water," he said.

I know the temptation is great to use a dishwasher when you’re in the mountains, but please refrain. I’m sure the nephew threw up when he discovered the source of all his uncle’s clean dishes.

I often wish all Dutch oven enthusiasts would compete in a Dutch oven cook off, because one of the judging criteria is to have a clean kitchen. Judges watch the cooks to make sure they use rubber gloves when needed, wash the dishes frequently, and wash hands constantly.

Not so much anymore, but in the old days of cook offs, the food was distributed to the spectators as samples gratis. So the food needed to be free from problems. The judges watch these days, because it’s bad news to give a judge food poisoning.

Because of this concern, and because the cooks are an example to the public, the World Championship event requires a current food handler’s permit issued from the county where they live. Dutch oven competitors have become knowledgeable in safe food preparation and I would eat at any of their tables.

All you need to do is take a class (see a film), take an open book test, and pay the fee. I got mine in an afternoon. It has been invaluable to me. The things I learned made me a cleaner cook. I can cook anywhere with pride, knowing my food is safe and my guests are protected.

Little things like a three-tub dish washing system can kill 90% of all major problems. In the three-tub system, you have one tub filled with hot, soapy water. Another with rinse water, and a third tub, filled with one tablespoon of chlorine bleach to one gallon of water.

Clean countertop surfaces with the same solution in spray bottle. But don’t re-use contaminated sanitize solution. Wash hands frequently and sanitize. Wear rubber gloves when handling meats and other raw foods. Don’t use the same knife on your vegetables that you use to de-bone the chicken.

All these things will help make your next cookout a happy experience. And you will be hero instead of the Blankity-Blank who poisoned your guests. When you get a minute, take the class, get your food handler’s permit. Then you can claim to be a professional.

Return to the Neighborhood.


Another Chance

By Keith Fisher

Let me be the first to wish you Happy New Year. Isn’t it amazing that each year we get another chance to do all the things we neglected to do last year? We take a calendar off the wall and tack up a new one. Twelve pages of unfilled boxes, lines to fill in our commitments, promises not yet made.

What a great chance we have to do it right and fill those calendar pages with things that matter. 2009 promises to be one of the best years of our lives. True it is, that our country faces economic uncertainty, but it seems it’s only a matter of positive confidence.

Economic recovery during the Great depression came through confidence. The people of our country began to believe in themselves again. With that in mind, we can turn things around. I know it works, because it worked in 1940.

Now, it’s time to celebrate. Yes, of course with Dutch ovens. I ask you what better way to ring in the New Year, than by tapping a Dutch oven lid with your fork. Seriously, take the family to the nearest hillside. The snow will reflect the light—it’ll be like daytime. Let the kids slide down the hill on inner tubes and you can cook a tasty treat. Even if it’s only hot cider, It’ll be fun for you. When the big moment comes, light the fireworks, and ring your Chuck wagon dinner bell.

Let me take the liberty of filling your calendar for you. First is the Super bowl party. A great Dutch oven feast can be had while you and your guests watch the big game on tape, fast-forwarding the commercials.

Next, of course is human rights day, followed by Presidents Day. I think a cherry pie would go well with the beef roast.

If you forget to get a gift for Valentines Day, don’t delay, run out to the carport and start cooking a great Dutch oven dinner. Tell her/him you are cooking it especially for them. Then when you have to run to the store to retrieve a forgotten ingredient, remember to get a nice greeting card.

St Patrick’s Day in March gives you an opportunity to learn some Irish recipes. Spring begins in March this year. Throw a spring party—cook a leg of lamb.

There’s Easter, and Passover. Good Friday, and Secretaries Day. Start thinking of theme meals you can cook. Our family usually goes camping when Easter falls in April. I can make cheesy potatoes with boiled eggs. I’ll give you that recipe in April. Don’t let me forget.

Of course cooking for Mom on Mother’s Day, is one of the best things you can do to show you appreciate her. On Memorial Day, gather on Grandma’s front lawn, for dinner after you visit the grave.

You get the picture. Make this year the one to remember. Cook low fat if you have to, but get out there and have fun in your backyard or favorite campground. You have to eat anyway. You might as well enjoy the preparation. And have fun, show the world you have confidence and the economy will follow.

Return to the Neighborhood.