Filling the Pot

By Keith N Fisher

How was your harvest festival/deer or elk hunt? I had a blast reuniting with my brothers and extended family. Deer hunting was secondary to getting reacquainted with my uncle and cousins. In fact, I think I’ve lost the killer instinct. Sitting around talking about old times and catching up with each other was great. Basking in the warmth of a good fire surrounded by nature made it even better.

On Thursday night, there were two outfits in our camp. On Friday morning, my daughter and I, went for a ride to find firewood and visit some of my old haunts. About ten years ago, somebody closed off an area where I spent a lot of my youth. I never learned the reason, but it seemed so arbitrary and unfair. I found the gate open this time, and I felt vindicated.

Later, I set up my camp kitchen under an Easy Up, and started cooking hamburger. Soon I added three kinds of canned beans, tomatoes, peppers, and ketchup, (since there was no tomato sauce). Mushrooms, onions and chili powder went in next. It turned into a pretty good chili.

That evening, our numbers grew, and camp swelled to a large group with many outfits. We sat around the fire and swapped tales about the good old days. I decided it’s time to write the stories my father told over the years. Just what I needed, another project.

By tradition, we woke before sunrise on Saturday morning. I rode up the mountain with my brothers. It was nice to hang out with them. We didn’t really care about shooting anything. It seems that sometime over the years, we turned the deer chase over to the kids.

The teenagers stayed in camp and played games and later, under our supervision, they shot the 22’s at targets, just like in the good old days. My deer hunting cousins are several years younger than me so I remember being the only kid in camp and following my dad and uncle while they traipsed around looking for deer. It’s nice to see a new generation associating with each other.

That evening, my older brother handed me a package of pork chops and asked me to cook them. I’d planned on making roast beef with potatoes but I began to improvise. I’d taken two Dutch ovens and I was fixing for everyone in camp. Since I’d been given two spaghetti squashes to take home with me, I baked one, and spooned margarine over to melt.

I didn’t have the ingredients for any of my pork chop recipes, so I seasoned with sage and thyme. Then added sea-salt and pepper before browning the chops over a burner. Next, I made a roux with flour, water, sage, salt and pepper. Using a whisk I added a little water to the juices in the pot, and stirred in the roux to make gravy.

With the pot simmering on coals I warmed the leftover hash browns from breakfast and served them with gravy. Dinner was delicious. My cousins were pleased.

In my outdoor cooking career, I’ve cooked in mystery bag cook-offs when we were given a bag of ingredients and told to make a recipe. I’ve made shredded pork enchiladas in a blizzard. I’ve substituted many things to make a meal, and came up with great recipes. Scouring my camp trailer for ingredients to cook my brother’s pork chops, however, brought joy into my heart.

I made bacon, eggs, and pancakes for breakfast on Sunday morning. I love how cast iron skillets fit right in with Dutch ovens. You can even use DO lids to cover the pans.

Something else happened on the deer hunt this year. With all the cooking and socializing, I got away from the world and found solace. I discovered the Cast iron pot in my soul had been filled with family togetherness. My daughter got reacquainted with some of her extended family and had fun. She said, she loves her cuzzies.

Now it’s time to winterize the trailer and get ready for cooking in the snow. Keep those pots full of good food.