08 February 2006

Super Bowl Wines Redux

I'm not much of a sports fan, and neither are the rest of my family. However, we gathered at my brother's house for a party. It was a little funny that we had plenty of wine and no beer, even though the latter probably would have been a better fit for the bratwurst on hoagies. Good bratwurst, though, covered in caramelized onions and mushrooms, with mustard and provolone cheese... slobber slobber...

We drank Yellow Tail Merlot and Chardonnay for a while, and I used the latter for a pan sauce for the brats. Dad brought along a bottle of the 2003 Jacob's Creek Cabernet Merlot. A really nice balance of the two grapes, I thought. Great for casual drinking and having fun. On the grill we also cooked a little meatloaf of sorts, ground venison topped with bacon and onions, wrapped in foil, and cooked over indirect heat on the fire for half an hour or so. Back when I was in Scouts, we called this a "Hobo Dinner". So now I'm going to go into storytelling mode...

Hobo Dinners were interesting yet rarely satisfying meals on camping trips. The adult leaders loved them because the boys did all the work. You'd get a half pound of low-grade, high-fat and gristle ground beef (or elk or deer or buffalo). You'd shape this into a ball or loaf on a sheet of aluminum foil. Then you'd add in some chopped carrots, onion, celery, and potato, obviously meant to simulate a beef stew. Then you'd wrap it up tight, do something with the foil to identify it as your own, and put it on a bed of hot coals. 45 minutes to an hour later, you were ready to eat.

They rarely tasted good. No one ever brought salt or pepper, and the carrots and potatoes somehow never got cooked. The beef tasted pretty bland, not picking up any smoke or caramelization from the fire. It was also easy to poke a hole in your foil and thus let all of the juices out. I even remember one time when it was raining too hard and I ended up eating a baseball-sized lump of raw ground beef and half a raw potato for dinner. In the rain, with the prospect of a night spent in a wet sleeping bag. I'd like to think that experience made me a better man.

It was generally better when we made chili or spaghetti for dinner, though burgers were always incredible. But it was breakfast that was always my favorite. I did a lot of cooking for my patrol, and I'd have multiple burners going with eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes, toast, biscuits (in a Dutch oven, in the fire), all washed down with slightly-below-room-temperature whole milk, just like God intended. We would go through amazing amounts of food, and yet somehow we were always hungry in time for the next meal.

Man, this is bringing back some great memories. I remember being on top of a mountain in New Mexico, huddled over a one burner stove so that the hailstorm wouldn't put it out or knock it over as I reconsituted some turkey soup from a dried packet. Or the time I made tacos with ground buffalo. Roasting whole eggs in a fire. Roasting a haunch of venison and eating it with friends by just tearing out chunks with knife and hand. Making a cobbler with wild blackberries.

Good times.

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