So last weekend a long-cherished childhood dream was achieved– I went camping on Blake Island with my four of my best friends.
Every summer, when we were kids, their families would head over to the island for a weekend of fun and frolics on the island. My family, however, was not a camping family: “It’s not a vacation if there is not a kitchen,” (subtext: definitely no public bathrooms) my mother would say, and therefore, we went to Sun River, OR, where we would stay in a lovely shingled cabin (one of those cabins-that-is-not-a-cabin-but-nicer-than-most-people’s-homes-but-we-call-it-a-cabin-for-lack-of-a-better-word) in the “Wildflowers” grouping.
This trip, however (being that we are all solidly into our thirties) instead of re living (or, in my case, living for the first time) our childhoods, we took their children. Two each. And their husbands (so three children each– kidding, kidding . . .)
But while it is always beautiful to watch my friends Parent-In-Action, it is particularly exciting to watch them re create their childhood memories for their children (who may go on to re-create them for their children . . . )
And the EBWINTMENIHMB, always up for an adventure in Seattle, came along for the ride (from which he is still recovering. More on that later, perhaps.)
Now keeping in mind that my family did not and does not camp, the closest I have come to the joys of the outdoors was when, in 6th grade, my beloved teacher Mrs. Martin-Yanny took us all to some mountain on a glacial lake that I went swimming in and almost drowned due to the shock of the cold water. I vividly remember helping one of the adult volunteers (a dad I had a school-girl crush on) peel and slice potatoes and carrots and onions for thirty or so hobo dinners that we cooked on the fire as lightning crashed and thunder rumbled very near after (we counted the seconds, eagerly) to see how far away it was. Dinner took a long time to cook, and I don’t remember eating it, but I do remember the thrill of campfire cooking.
I also did a few stints of the “Nanamake” version of CYO camp, where they would send you away for a few days on a sailboat with enough food for some carefully planned meals. I vividly remember making cherry pies, somehow, over the campfire, but I couldn’t for the life of me replicate that now if I tried.
Anyhoo . . . at first, what with five families going, we thought we might do planned meals. The EBWINTMENIHMB and I talked late into the night about meal plans and ways we might arrange communal grocery shopping and cooking, but then, as the day grew closer and closer, my friends and I decided we would do “Every Family Fends for Itself” (EFFFI) and a potluck on Saturday night. That was Blake Island Tradition (BIT), my friend Maddy told me, and we brainstormed a few ideas for a potluck.
I told the EBWINTMENIHMB I would feed him. “Don’t worry,” I said. “I’ll take care of you.” Famous last words.
As the EBWINTMENIHMB provided all the camping gear (the tent, the sleeping bags, the camp chairs, an absolutely ginormous cooler, the pillows upon which we laid our heads at night), I figured the least I could do was the food.
Breakfast and lunch were easy: beautiful meats and cheeses from The Husky, breads from Bakery Nouveau, fruit from the Metropolitan Market (the EBWINTMENIHMB picked out these gorgeous plumots (a hybrid of apricots and plums) and I picked four perfect peaches from a local farm. For breakfast, I got Lara bars and the home made granola at Whole Foods (and two bags of this amazing cake-like GLUTEN FREE VEGAN (I know! So exciting) bread from a brand called Happy Camper. I know. Totally gluten free and vegan and delicious . . . “it tastes like cake,” I said the EBWINTMENIHMB.
“Does it have frosting?” he wanted to know.
“No,” I admitted.
“Well then it’s not cake,” he said.
But I (as usual) digress.
Dinners were a bit harder. I got a selection of brats and sausages for the men folk for Friday (we went over early in the morning on the whaler to get a good spot), so that was easy.
But for Saturday’s potluck . . . I turned to FB for inspiration, asking for favorite camping meals. One of my friends from grad school said she liked to bring fresh produce camping. So I loaded all the stuff from my share (that is another story, what happened to those veggies– suffice to say it involves woodland creatures and involuntary feeding) and I made a beet carrot salad with a cashew dill lemon dressing. It was fucking delicious.
I just heart beets. They are so beautiful: so richly colored, so dense and yet so light. So here is my campfire rendition of the recipe . . .
Note: The cooks from the Clean program have precise measurements. I just threw stuff in a bowl by eye.
a half bag of organic baby carrots
a package of dill
cashew butter (Yes, I took a package of dill, a jar of incredibly expensive organic cashew butter consisting ONLY of cashews, and raw beets camping. The EBWINTMENIHMB DOES have a gigantic cooler, if you know what I’m saying.)
Olive OIl (Yes, I took a bottle of unrefined organic olive oil camping as well. And Plu Gras– it made some mean mac and cheese for the kids.)
I peeled the beets, staining my hands bright red. Awesome. I then chopped them into sixths with someone else’s knife, my little paring knife not being adequate for the job, while the EBWINTMENIHMB watched nervously (my knife skills make all my lovers nervous), imagining, I’m sure, driving the whaler back to the mainland with at least one severed digit packed on ice (perhaps inside the gigantic cooler.) And me, bleeding profusely, of course.
Fortunately, the only thing that got chopped was the beets. Phew. The carrots were no prep whatsoever. I threw them into foil wrapped packages (which, one of my friend’s husbands who was an eagle scout, informed me were wrapped all wrong and he gave me a proper lesson in wrapping food that it to be flipped as it sits on a grate over a fire) with oil and white wine (I borrowed a splash from one of the friends) and lemon and salt and pepper. I told another friend’s husband to put them on the hottest part of the grill– he obliged. The beets were cooked perfectly.
My carrots did not fare as well, but that is because I took too long, what with my inexpert folding, and so we had to rekindle the fire to be sure they cooked. They were still a bit too crispy, a bit too raw carroty for my liking, but, as the EBWINTMENIHMB put it, “Sweetheart, we’re camping. No one cares if the carrots are too crunchy.”
While the beets and carrots were cooking, I threw some hefty dollops (yes, that is indeed the technical term) into a bowl. I added a good handful or so of chopped dill (I like dill, and I had a lot of it.) I then put the hot beets and carrots and all those luscious juices on top of said ingredients.
It was a delicious salad. Everyone loved it. And the beets were beautiful . . . but I had had a glass of wine on an empty stomach . . . AND I was hungry, AND my iPhone was dead. Such is life. Therefore, no pics.
Then, on Monday morning (we left the island on Sunday morning and drove back to Vancouver in mid 90 degree weather and the air conditioner in my car stopped working– the EBWINTMNIHMB is a saint for what he puts up with in our not-a-relationship) my students had drafts due. At 7AM.
So we talked about revision, and I just happened to read aloud to my students (I am fond of reading key snippets to my students and then riffing on them in regards to their unique writing situation) a few lines from Bruce Ballenger (I’m using his book The Curious Researcher in my English 102 class) where he likens student desire to revise a research paper to eating cold, day old beets.
While I told my students that every time I read Bruce Ballenger’s book, particularly his section on using “I” in the research paper, I feel like I have discovered my Imago, my long-lost twin, my mirror . . . the man I have been waiting to meet all my life– I have to take umbrage with his metaphor. Cold spinach from a can, gritty with sand . . . maybe.
But not beets. Never beets!
Had there have been any beets left over the next day, I am sure they would have been delicious, day old, cold, whatever . . .
At any rate, inspired by the weekend, the synchronicity of Ballenger’s metaphor, and plain old desire, I recreated the dish on Tuesday in my kitchen so I would a) have some pictures for this blog, and b) I was craving it.
The carrots were fully cooked this time (I doused them with olive oil, salt, and pepper this time, omitting the wine and lemon, and roasted them in the oven in parchment paper alongside the beets) but despite my following the recipe more closely this time, the results on Tuesday afternoon were not as good as they were on Saturday night.
That said, they were good enough for me to a) eat the whole bowl, and b) want to make this dish again, immediately, continuing to experiment with techniques (like roasting them with lemon this time, and maybe a bit of white wine, as I did when I was improvising at the campsite.)
And as for the revisions . . . well, my students went through various revision activities this week, and they turn in the results tomorrow for my feedback. One of my student’s reactions (tears) to an activity (I call it “Running with Scissors”) was enough to inspire a new version of my Great American Novel About England.
But that is another blog entry (that I may or may not write, as I am in the throes of writing again (thank God for her tears, beets, camping, Bruce Ballenger . . . so many things!)
And now there are drafts to respond to . . . and beet to roast (again.)
As usual, everything is recursive.