Best Trail Meals

    A few of my fellow bloggers here at the News Tribune rated their favorite local sandwiches in a recent feature for the printed version of our newspaper. These writers are the young and the hip, and their work appears on our "Duluth Current" blog. A fine bunch of good reporters and entertaining writers. But since they didn’t ask me, a blogging colleague, for my favorite local sandwich, I thought I’d share some of my most memorable meals in the outdoors.
    I visited the late Dr. Julius Wolff’s deer camp near Finland many years ago, where I sampled some smoked muskrat. It was a dense, dark meat, but I’d have to say that smoked it was excellent.
    On a dogsledding trip in the Northwest Territories, my partner shot (legally) a caribou one afternoon, we fried its heart for supper over a Coleman stove, and it was very good. The boiled caribou tongue we had for breakfast was somewhat less appealing, but when you’re in the woods, you’re ravenous at every meal and it all tastes good.
    Paddling the Gods River to Hudson Bay in 1983, two of my partners got the dried eggs mixed up with what they thought was dried cheese. The meal they prepared was supposed to be macaroni and cheese, but it was a congealed mess of reconstituted eggs and macaroni. We called it egg-a-roni. It wasn’t the tastiest dish I’ve ever had, but we were so hungry we ate all of it.
    Cinnamon rolls baked on a titanium woodstove while winter camping were outstanding. So was the marinated beef tenderloin that Tom Bell pulled out of the cooler on Lake Superior one evening. Pheasant breasts marinated in Italian dressing and cooked over a charcoal grill after a day of hunting are difficult to top.
     Ptarmigan is ptasty. Northern pike livers not so much. Blackened channel catfish not so bad.
     But I think that fresh fish, an hour or two from lake to campfire, has to be the best. I’m not particular about the brand of fish. Walleyes, lake trout, northern pike, crappies — yes, even smallmouth bass when it’s fresh — fried in light batter or seasoning are all worth drooling for. Don’t forget to pack along the lemon/pepper. Coho salmon from Lake Superior, grilled, is like candy.
     Maybe it’s because we’re usually on the trail when we eat those meals that we appreciate them so much. Fresh fish is usually much better than anything else we could pull from a Duluth pack — especially egg-a-roni.
     Want to nominate a favorite trail meal of your own? Post a comment.

7 Responses

  1. dharma bum

    I can’t say I get to experiment with a lot of game recipes in the woods, but you’re right that fresh fish fried up as shore lunch being about as good as it gets. I fondly recall a late night dinner on Slim Lake hungrily gobbling chunks of walleye right of the pan.

    My wife and I were on Kekekabic Lake a year or two ago and on a layover day did a little cooking with some of the random food in our pack. We had dehydrated cheese tortellini, powdered pesto sauce (made with powdered milk) and dehydrated chicken (in a foil packet). It was a great meal that I still remember, though I’m sure if I ate it in more “civilized” circumstances (my kitchen table) I might find it wanting… Who knows though.

  2. Sam Cook

    As one respondent to this post suggested, I neglected to mention another wild-game delicacy. One October, reporting on the Minnesota moose hunt, I happened on to Bill Peterson, then the Department of Natural Resources area wildlife manager at Grand Marais. He was registering moose for hunters in a garage near Tofte, as I recall. He always asked the hunters if they would mind sharing the testicles from their bull moose. If they did, Bill would slice them thin, batter them in some fish breading and toss them in a skillet over his Coleman campstove.
    A moose testicle is somewhat larger than a golf ball, not quite as large as a tennis ball, if my memory is correct. You can get a lot of slices out of two testicles, which, of course, is how a bull moose comes equipped.
    Peterson would share the finished delicacy with the hunters and anyone else who happened by, including a reporter. Sure, I figured. Life is short.
    They’re not bad, I must report. Firm, but not too chewy. And, breaded right, pretty tasty.
    “Tastes like chicken,” you’re probably thinking.
    Well, no. Not exactly. And different than chicken in another way, too. When you eat a chicken drumstick, you really don’t envision that chicken’s leg when it was still attached to the chicken.
    When you’re eating moose testicles, however, there’s an image that’s difficult to get out of your mind.
    I miss Bill and his Coleman stove.

  3. dreamboatannie

    Two Grouse. Shot, cleaned, seasoned with lemon pepper (always on the ready in my game pouch), grilled over an open fire a meer 10 feet from the Superior lakeshore, all within 30 minutes. One for John and one for me. Nothing else needed.

  4. Sam Cook

    I like the grouse meal, dreamboatannie. Nice setting, too. Is there any seasoning better than lemon pepper, by the way? (Even though the first ingredient listed is “salt.”) A friend of mine has another seasoning we used on the trail that’s so good we now use it at home in the same form. He called it SPOG. It’s a mixture of salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder. He figured since he used those spices so much, why carry them separately? He mixes them in a container about the size of a lemon pepper shaker and sprinkles all four on at once. I use it on all kinds of things. And especially on the trail, it saves packing four separate containers of spice.

  5. Sam Cook

    I like the grouse meal, dreamboatannie. Nice setting, too. Is there any seasoning better than lemon pepper, by the way? (Even though the first ingredient listed is “salt.”) A friend of mine has another seasoning we used on the trail that’s so good we now use it at home in the same form. He called it SPOG. It’s a mixture of salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder. He figured since he used those spices so much, why carry them separately? He mixes them in a container about the size of a lemon pepper shaker and sprinkles all four on at once. I use it on all kinds of things. And especially on the trail, it saves packing four separate containers of spice.

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