This is OPENING WEEKEND of deer season and, needless to say, we’ll be out at the hunting camp. It’s surprising how much I’m looking forward to it, the cooking, planning, packing, and the trip to the camp. My deerslayer seems like a different person at this time of year, happier, more kid-like. He likes to plan, too. But he really likes BEING out at the hunting camp with the family. He grew up with several generations of deerslayers pulling campers into a circle around a great campfire like covered wagons in an old western. When the deerslayer and I met and had been dating for a while, I was invited to participate in this ritual. I have to admit that I hated it. It was totally foreign to me…. and wayyyyyyy too rustic. I moped and was sucked dry by mosquitoes. I was not willing to be seen in clothing that would keep me warm enough to enjoy the experience and keep the bugs at bay. My sinuses exploded and I was a virtual sneezing, dripping mess. Flexibility was not my middle name. Looking back, I’m surprised he was willing to marry me.
Over the years, my attitude has changed. Hunting is such a huge part of who my deerslayer is that I had to make some changes in the way I looked at the hunting experience. I realized that I had to put up a good front so that our future deerslayers would grow up to be exactly that. It would break my deerslayer’s heart if his daughters were as wimpy as their mom! After a few hits and misses I discovered that it’s all in the planning. For example, if an allergy sufferer heads out unprepared (no meds, no tissues) all is lost regarding a positive experience. Bringing plenty of books, magazines, games, journals, yummy snacks (and wine) and well-planned meals can ensure a great hunting experience even for the “hunting challenged”. I made sure that my girls were appropriately clothed and snacked. It seemed to work. I discovered that there were foods that could be prepared ahead that would provide a wonderful, home-cooked environment. I’ve already mentioned in my last entry that Bean Soup and Fresh Cornbread will make any deerslayer’s wife the “belle of the ball” if you will. I learned how to percolate coffee with the best of ’em. (If any of you would like a tutorial, just hollar!) A steaming pot of coffee and real cream can’t be beat. Cream is much more do-able now that Land-o-Lakes has come out with “Mini-Moos”; individual serving sizes of half-and-half that don’t have to be refrigerated. Another trick that I have learned is to cook thick-cut, maple bacon ahead of time and toss it in the skillet at the camp to heat and crisp it up. Talk about wonderful smells wafting from the tiny kitchenette of the camper! The veritible Chanel #5 of hunting camp.
I always prepare my bacon on a cooling rack set over a foil-lined cookie sheet. I can usually cook as many as 10 slices at a time. I put the cookie sheet in a pre-heated 400 degree oven for approximately 20-30 minutes depending on the oven and the thickness of the bacon. The bacon doesn’t even have to be flipped over. Sometimes, though, I lay strips of foil over the ends of the bacon to prevent them from cooking too quickly. After I’ve cooked up several batches of bacon and left them to drain on paper towels, I place them in gallon-sized plastic zip bags and refrigerate until the trip. When I’m ready to prepare the bacon, I simply heat a skillet and warm the bacon. The camp smells great and everyone is happy! Don’t forget that Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato Sandwiches are easy and wonderful, too.
As the years went by, I discovered that my deerslayer genuinely appreciated my effort, no matter how pathetic it seemed. I also discovered that it really didn’t matter if I was freshly coiffed, my attitude was what made the difference.
I also discovered that a person’s threshold for pain and grossness increases with each child one bears. Now, I will sit around the campfire wrapped in a tablecloth or quilt, or dirty tarp with a scarf encircling my entire head except for a small opening for a sip of wine periodically. I know that my deerslayer loves me no matter what. Perhaps even a little bit more if I’m not quite as concerned about my appearance and can laugh at the often-told stories and jokes since I’m comfortable and warm in front of the fire. Don’t get me wrong! I’m very excited about some awesome new “hunting” boots that my deerslayer bought for me. When I told him that they were going to be “my new hunting boots” he knew better than to laugh, but he smirked pretty visibly. These new boots are damned cute and I do, in fact, look like I just stepped out of an Eddie Bauer catalog. I may have to dedicate an entire entry to them!