On one of my fishing trips to the interior lakes of Isle Royale, my 15-year-old nephew Andy and my 16-year-old brother Eric refused to eat any more freeze-dried beef stroganoff. We had eaten it for four straight days. They also refused to do the dishes or portage canoes. It was approaching lunchtime, but I had dealt with mutiny before (see last month’s Hot Socks Insurrection).
Our menu problem arose from having each individual purchase whatever he wanted to eat on the trip and, once we were in the backwoods, we planned to share what we had. Unfortunately, we all shopped at the same store, but at different times. At that store, the stroganoff looked better than anything else.
The strategy of buying what you wanted was in response to a previous menu failure. On that occasion, we had appointed my brother-in-law Dennis-an Oreo lover-as camp cook. He purchased four things in bulk: Oreo cookies, hotdogs, Doritos and canned baked beans. Since no one ate anything besides Oreos for breakfast, these were soon gone. The Doritos followed, and then the hotdogs. The menus for last the three days of the fishing trip were beans for breakfast, beans for lunch, and beans for supper.
As a compromise to the mutinous crew, I offered to fry up any fish we caught for lunch. We had been doing catch and release, mostly because we were catching bony northerns. They wanted to know if I knew how to filet a northern, and I pretended like I did.
I subsequently caught one of the largest northerns I have ever caught. After pretending to filet it, I dropped pieces of it into a frying pan with a little water.
“How come you’re not using the cooking oil?” Andy asked. I said we were out of oil, but that you could fry fish in water and it was the same thing. He said it was not frying fish, it was boiling fish. I said the fish was oily, and it leaked into the water and so it was frying. He said he was not going to eat boiled fish. My brother said he was not going to eat boiled fish either. They also renewed their pledge to not do the dishes or portage anything.
Instead, they secretly ate up the last of the Oreos and skipped lunch and supper.
That evening, the people in the adjacent campsite once again cooked one of their gourmet meals. It smelled French to me. When I talked to one of them later (a man in his 50s), I asked him what was in the giant, metal containers I saw them portaging.
They were insulated containers with dry ice in them. Each contained pre-prepared meals made by his son, a highly respected chef. That night they had chicken fricassee. The previous nights included ratatouille and quiche Lorraine. The barrels were portaged by his son and his friend’s son. He never portaged anything heavier than his camera.
The next morning, there was an investigation in our camp into the missing Oreo cookies and, for the rest of that morning, no one was talking to anyone.
I had shopped at one other location for my food: the army surplus store. There I bought two MREs (meals ready to eat) just in case we ended up in another all-beans situation. Since we were not talking to each other that afternoon, I dug out one of the MREs for lunch.
The smell of Salisbury steak in gravy, mashed potatoes with gravy, buttered corn, and a tiny apple pie heated over my little stove soon had all three of them standing over me with pleading eyes. I knew right then that I could quell the mutiny with a piece of steak.
Rhinelander District Library Director Ed Hughes is available at (715) 365-1070.