Post #586 The Popcorn on the Tree

August 25, 2018 at 4:24 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post #586 The Popcorn on the Tree

It seems to be time for a post about popcorn again.  I like the stuff.  It was the first thing my parents decided I was “old enough” to make on my own.  I was about seven, I think.  Maybe a little younger.  We had an electric popper that was basically an electric coil on a base with a metal pot that sat on the base.  The metal pot had a ceramic handle and a glass lid.  Dad showed me how to carefully measure out Crisco and wait till it had melted, then add the corn.  Then I had to keep the kernels moving to avoid scorching.  I had to keep that thing moving non-stop until all the kernels had popped.  All the while, I had to keep a hand on the glass lid to keep it from coming off and having popcorn all over the kitchen.  Once it was done, I had to melt a little butter and spread it over the corn and sprinkle with salt.  Hard to believe that’s the start of my brilliant cooking career.

My mom spent the first part of her life on the family farm during the Depression years.  She used to regale us with stories of the fun times she and her large collection of brothers and sisters had.  Riding on the backs of cows, jumping from the hay loft into piles of hay, sitting around the radio with a bowl of popcorn in the evening.  Many times, that bowl of popcorn would become breakfast the next morning with milk and sugar.  Sort of a puffed corn cereal.  They made candy and ice cream out of snow.  Most of the fun they had was home made.

When we kids were younger and moving around a lot because of dad’s military service, a lot of our fun was home made because we were always the new kids in the neighborhood.  So we played games, watched TV, read, told stories, listened to mom and dad reminisce, and ate snacks.  Bowls and bowls of popcorn went down our throats.  Then we hit our teen years and we all floated away like leaves in the wind.

Funny thing happens though.  Memories of fun times from childhood come back and tug at you.  Families expand, moms become grandmas, roles get reversed.  Suddenly new kids run around the house and you start remembering how to keep them entertained on the cheap.  With popcorn, usually.  At least in our house.

One day in winter, my nephew had just started school and came home with a paper chain in red and green.  It was about six feet long and was for their Christmas tree at home.  He was so proud of it!  He asked if we could make one for grandma, so we drove right out and got the supplies, all the way down to “the right glue stick” and scissors.  I was making stew for dinner so it didn’t really need any attention.  He showed me how to make the chains and we went to town.  By the time grandma came home, we had about ten feet of paper chain for her.

But during our conversation while making the chain,  I shared some stories from when we were his age, and when his grandma was his age.  I told him about the popcorn on the tree.  His eyes lit up and he asked if we could make popcorn strings for his Christmas tree.

So, a few days later, we did.  Every time he started to get bored, we’d take a break, but we kept at it almost all day and eventually had enough to drape over his tree and his grandma’s tree.  We strung popcorn, cranberries, and for added touches, we tied chocolate candy kisses in colored foil into random places.  Would have been more, but we ate a ton of them.

And I told him the story of his first Christmas, when I had made popcorn strings for the tree.  He was just learning to walk, had toddled over to the tree, found the end of the popcorn string and slowly ate his way up the string until he nearly pulled the tree onto himself.  His reply was classic.

“I guess that’s where I learned to like popcorn so much.”

Yeah, kid, it’s in the genes.

Post #585 A New Cookbook!!

August 19, 2018 at 5:10 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post #585 A New Cookbook!!

I’ve had a bad couple of weeks, so Partner/Spouse brought me a present, a new cookbook!  I love reading cookbooks.  I get a sense of how the author thinks and a sign of the times from when the book was written.  I’ve read cookbooks that are hundreds of years old and learned history in the process.  I’ve read fad diet books, and scientifically sound books, and cookbooks that continue the heritage of food.

So, what’s the new cookbook?

I’ve read dozens of cookbooks about cooking outdoors on the trail.  I’ve used hundreds of recipes from these books, invented some of my own based on those recipes.  I’ve shared recipes with friends, and fed friends in the great outdoors using recipes I’ve learned.  I’ve also adapted recipes for home use.

This book is unique for many reasons.

The first is the cover.  It’s a tactile delight.  It’s not leather, but it has an aged leather feel to it.  It’s hard to tell from the picture, but it has a grooved texture to it, and feels slightly sticky in a pleasant way.  It’s a book that invites you to pick it up, and defies you to put it down.

Second, it’s a book for cooking outdoors whether it’s on the trail or in the backyard.  It makes no distinction.  However, the recipes can be made quite easily at home.  I’ve done that with two recipes I’ll share later.

Third, at it’s heart, it’s a fusion-styled cookbook.  The recipes fuse styles of cooking so that whether you’re eating at home, in the back yard, or in nature, you’re not going to be eating the standard bill of fare.  You’ll be eating Mexican, or Asian, or vegetarian.  The recipes are easy enough so that you can have it all when not at home.

But the fun doesn’t end there.  They have the first section where they tell you the “basics” for cooking outdoors.  They tell you how to set up a campfire, or a barbecue.  They talk about car camping and backpacking.  They even talk about bringing your furry friends along and how to cook for them.  They have a dog biscuit recipe!

The different sections are all chock full of tip and tricks, ghost stories, fun things to do around the campfire.  They have a section for camping’s traditional menus, but then they flip it on its ears.  For instance, they tell you have to make a S’More (which I hate), then give you a dozen more ways to make them that you probably never thought about.

There are the standard sections on things for breakfast, things for dinner, and things for snacking.  But they also have sections for Sides and Fortifications.  Sides is where the two recipes below come from and is what you’d expect.  Fortifications are of the liquid variety, very bracing.  Again, full of tips and tricks to keep things interesting, chilled, or hot, and tasty.  I mean, who wouldn’t love a chilled thermos cocktail after a long day hiking?  I used to take cleverly camouflaged bottles of wine with me when I hiked.

So, the first recipe is hiking variation of Hasselback Potatoes.  Hasselbacks are those potatoes that are slices not quite through, and baked until crispy so they fan out.  In this version, set your oven to 350.  Wash and dry two medium russet potatoes.  Slice a thin slice off the bottom so the potatoes don’t rock and provide a firm base to slice.  Place two wooden spoons or two chopsticks one on each side of the potato and use a sharp knife to slice through the potato until you hit the sticks.  This will keep you from slicing through the potato.  Cut the entire potato into quarter inch slices.  Spread vegetable oil over the top and into the slices of the potato making certain to coat the entire cut surface.  Sprinkle with coarse salt and fresh cracked black pepper.  Bake the potatoes for 30-45 minutes until not quite tender then take out of the oven to cool.  Once they’re cool enough to handle, carefully press crumbled blue cheese into the slices and wrap tightly with heavy duty foil.  To finish off, either 1: bake at 375 for 30 minutes or so until cheese is melted and potatoes are tender; or 2: place in campfire embers for 30 minutes, moving and turning every ten minutes to avoid charring.  Here’s a pic of the midpoint.  I didn’t take a pic of the finished product because we ate them too fast.

The next recipe is a salad.  I’ve taken salad on the trail many times, but I’ve always packed it carefully to avoid bruising the lettuce.  This salad avoids that pitfall by using veggies that don’t bruise.  The base is a cabbage slaw but it adds a ton of other flavors.

First, the vinaigrette is made with 4 tablespoons of lime juice, mixed with one tablespoon or so of zest, a tablespoon of honey, a teaspoon of cumin, 1/2 tsp of kosher salt, 2 tablespoons of canola oil and 2 tablespoons of high quality olive oil.  Put all ingredients into a very tight closing container and shake to emulsify.  Let stand either in the fridge or at room temperature for at least four hours.  If you let it chill, remove from fridge an hour before use to bring to room temperature.

Finely slice, or shred, a small red cabbage to get four cups.  Slice 10 radishes very thinly using a mandolin or food processor.  Roughly chop one bunch of cilantro.  Thinly slice on the bias one bunch of cleaned scallions.  Peel one small to medium sized jicama and cut into julienne strips to yield one to one and a half cups.  (Jicama is pronounced Hick-uh-muh and is a root vegetable resembling an oddly shaped round potato and tastes like a combo of apple and potato.  It’s very good.)  Remove the seeds and rib material from one large Anaheim chile then slice into strips and cut the strips into one inch pieces cutting diagonally.  Set aside about a quarter of the chiles and a quarter of the scallions greens for garnish.  Place all other ingredients into a large bowl and gently mix.  Sprinkle a handful of roasted and hulled sunflower seeds over the top, add the vinaigrette and gently mix.  Allow to stand for 30 minutes and gently mix again.  Sprinkle a few more sunflower seeds over the top and then sprinkle the reserved scallions and chiles.  Set aside until ready to serve.  Just before serving, completely drain a medium can of Mandarin oranges and arrange over the top.  Add one more tablespoon of lime juice over the top and serve.  It’s very good.

I love hiking and I love finding new recipes and new versions of old recipes that I can use outdoors.  I’ve made grilled mushroom burgers that rivaled the flavor of any hamburger.  I’ve made homemade hot chocolate in winter and drank with a friend on the side of a mountain while watching the Shenandoah River wind lazily by a mile away.  I’ve shared what I had in my pack during a day hike with someone who’d been on the trail for over a week (and smelled like it) and was hugely appreciative of the fact that one of my Bota bags was full of white wine.  I was really happy to read a cookbook that showed me how to get whole other palettes of flavors into the backcountry.


Post #584 “I Could Murder A Bacon Buddy”

August 11, 2018 at 2:10 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

In our household, we are Anglophiles.  We love practically everything about the United Kingdom.  About 75% of our television viewing is British, from documentaries to comedies.  We’ve watched our favorite British stars travel across the island on trains, in cars, on bicycles, and on foot while chattering about their favorite food, or architecture, or park, or farm, or whatever else.  We learn more British history than American.  We laugh harder at the British humor.  One of our favorite “BritComs” the nickname for British sit-coms is Keeping Up Appearances.  It’s about a fussy British housewife who longs for a life much higher than her current station.  While she struggles daily with the dream, her reality keeps her grounded, and none more so than her disreputable brother in law who is constantly in his vest watching TV and drinking beer.  And always asking for a bacon sandwich:  I could murder a bacon buddy.

We got to wondering what the heck a bacon buddy was.

It’s pretty much what you’d think.  It’s a bacon sandwich with not a lot of anything else.  Fry up an drain some bacon, toast a roll and slather it with butter, jam the bacon into it, and eat it.  Nothing fancy.  It’s commonly called a bacon buddy, but it’s also known as a bacon butty, bacon bap, or a rasher sandwich.  You can put ketchup or other sauces on it, but usually it’s just plain.

A bacon sandwich is not the that rare.  Here in America we have a very popular bacon sandwich called a BLT.  I’ve blogged about it before.  I love them and it’s one of my “go to” orders at a new restaurant.  And we throw bacon on everything these days.  I’m old enough to remember when putting fried bacon on a cheeseburger was an innovation.  Now, I’ve seen taco shells made out of bacon.  I haven’t eaten them, but I’ve seen them.  I’ve also seen bacon soda, bacon ketchup, and bacon toothpaste.  Bacon has a long history of being added to everything.

So, recently Partner/Spouse and I were both laid up with the flu.  Fevers, coughing, throats that felt like hot coals were being jammed down them.  The TV was on and we found another British documentary.  This one was about trains throughout the UK, and the presenter was one of our favorite actresses, Julie Walters.  You may know her better as Mrs. Weasly, or perhaps as the successful cookbook author in Mama Mia, or maybe even from a long time ago as Rita.  The thrust of the show(s) was on sentimentality and nostalgia.  In one segment, she visited the coal-fired steam engine car, and demanded a bacon buddy!

Apparently, this train is well known for making coal-fired bacon buddies.  And it seems there are many of these sandwiches being made in coal-fired engine cars all over the UK.  Who knew?  And as you breeze through the pictures, you’ll see exactly how a standard bacon buddy is made.

They’re frying up the bacon on a clean coal shovel.  Two pieces of bacon fried up nicely, jammed into roll, and eaten immediately.  Julie proclaimed it delicious!

Clarissa Dickson Wright, one of the Two Fat Ladies (TV chefs popular in the 90s about whom I’ve blogged) once said that more vegetarians backslid because of bacon than anything else.

I think I understand that.

Post #583 More Food Funnies

August 4, 2018 at 2:49 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post #583 More Food Funnies

Yesterday while I was at work, Partner/Spouse had the day off.  He spent part of the day cleaning and one of those jobs was clearing out the fridge.  I received a funny food text later in the afternoon once the job was done that set me to grinning.  In that spirit, I thought I’d search the ‘net to find some food funnies to share with you all.  So here:


And here are my two favorites:

Hope you got a guffaw or two.

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