Boots here, your Badass Coffee Babe, hoping that life is treating you in a kindly manner on this very lively Friday morning.
You know how it is with travel. There’s something about any kind of travel that makes coffee even better. It looks better, smells better, tastes better when I am away from home — be that out on the trail and listening to some early-morning loon song echoing out over the lake or sitting at some busy sidewalk cafe in France or simply parking it at my favorite coffee bar in my adopted hometown. It’s all good.
Location is irrelevant. What is relevant is how travel makes my senses take a second look at something. And then another. Do some comparisons. Scribble down some notes in my Pay Attention Book. Take the time to just think about what is happening all around me. All while sipping my favorite beverage.
I sometimes think I don’t take this Better Sense of Newness into account when occupying my Home State. You know the place . . . we all have a Home State. It might be your front porch, your desk that looks out at the bird bath, your office with the funky view of the brick wall of Nash Hall. It’s your over-sized yellow kitchen table that is tucked into the too-tiny breakfast nook or your kind of messy desk in the loft or your easel with the broken leg that is balancing on an upside down apple crate. It’s that deck chair that wobbles funny while you are parking your back side. It’s the long bus ride to work or school.
The places that we call Home State are the comfort food for our senses. We go to them each day without a lot of thought. We sit and we think, write, paint, eat, take in the passing view from the car, train, or bus.
One thing all of these Home States have in common? Our morning Joe. That Cup of Reverence that gets us up and moving and feeling inspired.
Travel. I sometimes think that I don’t travel enough. I explore and I wander, but I don’t go a lot farther than my two feet can take me on any given day on the trail. I think I have too strong of a predilection for grabbing a mug of Joe and putting my feet up on the porch rail and taking in the view of the dogs sleeping in the sunshine and the cat prowling the woodshed. I guess I’m not the most sophisticated person in the world. But I sure do know how to enjoy a moment for what it is. I pour my second Cup of Reverence and think that life is pretty good in my happy Home State.
Here is some of my Home State reading while imbibing my Cup of Reverence. These books are inspiring and motivating.
My FAVORITE! The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work Hardcover by Shawn Achor http://amzn.to/2chV0V6
And another FAVORITE!
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business Paperback
by Charles Duhigg http://amzn.to/2cGPM3I
Greetings to all of you good people! I, Boots the Badass Coffee Babe, have been away — out on a trail gig — and have missed our coffee connection! The past weeks, I’ve been out in the woods, away from any form of Internet communication, and restoring my Inner Outdoors Girl. It has felt great! And now I am back, so we can catch up on coffee. Tell me . . . What have I missed?
While out on the trail, I ran into a hiker, Niccolo, who was a self-proclaimed coffee connoisseur from Italy. We got to chatting about travel, trails, and coffee, and Niccolo said that he was curious about a lot of things in America but, once on the topic of Coffee, he asked why American baristas are so under-paid and under-respected. Now, I might not speak Italian, but Niccolo was certainly speaking my language when it came to this conversation!
I really didn’t know how to answer to this — this not being one of those common questions that comes up when you start Coffee Talk. I got to thinking about all of the things that American baristas have to be good at and their many multi-tasking duties. I mean, just look at them. They pull shots, steam milk, make eye contact with customers, do foam art, remember to ask about someone’s job interview, call back the next drink order to the register barista, and hand off your drink with a smile. Impressive!
Now that I am back in town, I went to a busy coffee shop and observed the baristas in action. Let’s take a look at what they have to do to serve an amazing cup of Joe. A good barista . . .
grinds coffee beans correctly so that the shots aren’t too long or too short
tamps the grind into the filter perfectly
pulls good shots
times shots for high standards
pumps liquid sugar into cups
steams milk to satisfy requests (absolutely no foam, light foam, shaving-cream foam, dry cappuccino foam, bone-dry cappuccino foam)
connects with the customers
rinses shot glasses
fills the bean hoppers
continually re-adjusts the burr grinder to maintain perfect shots
keeps everything clean and shiny
re-stocks the refrigerators
keeps the queue of drinks marching forward
calls back drink orders
works both the hot bar and the cold bar
draws a cute smiley-face on certain cups
asks about the family to the customers they know well
smiles at you when s/he hands off your drink
. . . and I know that there are many other things . . .
This is a heck of a lot plates to keep spinning — all while maintaining a pleasant demeanor. Now that I, Boots the Badass Coffee Babe, am back in town, I want to give a big shout-out to all of you baristas who work so hard to perfect your craft and to serve us fabulous beverages that many of us could never dream of making at home.
Just saying! It makes me think of when I was young, pretty impressionable, flat broke, and just starting to work for someone who was eking out an existence on a history-laden homestead that he had inherited from someone who was as old as dirt. The history of the place was pretty amazing and this old guy certainly knew it. He was cocky and demanding and expected me to be his personal barista. Well, I tamed that idea right out of him.
Sure, I was willing to haul the water from the lake and start the fire in the cookstove. And I was even willing to grab a mug from the cupboard and set it to warm on the warming trivet. But make the coffee? Nuh-uh. I knew that once I got roped into that lasso, I was going to be on call every morning at oh-dark-thirty to meet this buckaroo’s caffeine demands.
It’s weird to think that I wasn’t a coffee drinker yet. I opted for healthful options that involved herbs and botanicals that now don’t even smell that good if I now catch a whiff of them brewing. And this old-timer used the strangest contraption for making coffee. He said it operated on a vacuum system that involved some elaborate siphoning. He expected me to learn how to use it and produce damned-good coffee, but I feigned ignorance (which was genuine) and confounded his expectations by making the very worst coffee (which was a ruse — I was smart enough to figure it out) that he swore — and I mean swore [#@$&*$$@!] had ever had the first day on the job. I’ll give it up for the guy for having a colorful vocabulary.
I would call this a Big Life Lesson: There are benefits to Being Inadequate . . . this becoming a carefully-executed skill set of feigned ignorance that I happily applied to other areas of my professional life such as how to un-clog the paper in the copier machine on campus, how to clean the yuck out of the microwave in the break room, and how to sharpen a chain saw. Some things are simply better left to those who feel more inclined toward responsibility. And to showing others their higher state of abilities. Thank God for different personality types is all that I am saying.
You’ve got to check out this old timer’s crazy way to make coffee below. This gentleman’s contraption looked more Frankenstein-ian than this modern and sleek version, but it is the very same concept. Who would have thought that you could extract coffee via a siphon? Weird, right? Go to Amazon by clicking on the images/links below:
AND . . . tip your barista. As Niccolo pointed out, they are under-paid and under-tipped. Your barista is partly responsible for your morning happiness . . . why not reciprocate with at least a very nice smile and a “Good job!”
Oh, and one more thing. I am so excited to be back, I can’t stop adding coffee stuff!
Check out this new organic, Arabica coffee I found on Amazon. I am going to try it out! The name alone sells me — Happy Belly — let alone that it is organic, sustainably sourced and Fairtrade!
Happy Belly makes artisan, small batch roasted blends like those found at your favorite neighborhood coffee shop, conveniently delivered to your doorstep. From growing and harvesting to roasting and packaging, ensuring our coffee’s freshness and flavor is our main focus.
Life is a darn good event. Have fun, drink coffee, and tip your barista!!
Camp coffee . . . camp toast! Camp toast is so much fun, I could write an ode to camp toast . . . although I don’t think I could write a more beautiful ode than OK Go’s “Last Leaf” video (below). This is such a beautiful song and their creative and fanciful and artistic use of toast is nothing short of exquisite. Please, do watch it. The melody, like a good cup of Joe, will stay with you throughout the day in a good way.
Camp toast. It’s like comfort food on the trail and so simple to make. Add some almond butter and slice some fruit on top of it all, and you have yourself a very hearty breakfast that delivers good hearty nutrition with minimal time expenditure.
When I think of Camp Toast, I think of a buckaroo named Bill. Bill was a Late Hire on our Whip-It Crew. Being on a Whip-It Crew involved going into a post-logged slash area and cutting out all of the little saplings and shrubs that were sprouting up, prior to re-planting. I am sure that there is someone out there who is going to say that there is no such thing as a Whip-It Crew . . . It doesn’t sound very woodsy-technical, I will agree — so I just want provide the caveat that this is what we called our crew for that and subsequent contracts involving the removal of adverse vegetation in a slash area.
Being on the Whip-It Crew was not what I would call Fun. It played with your mind and the day did not move quickly. The work involved tripping your way through acres of slash while being whipped about the face and body by lithesome sprouting trees. In order to get an early start to beat the heat, we had to wake up very early in order to get a cool start on the day. We would climb into the Crummy each morning to save gas and to afford the non-drivers some extra sleep. Who knew that we were way ahead of the Rideshare curve?
Much to our ever-heightening annoyance, Bill used to arrive late to the Crummy every morning. Every single morning. He’d come roaring into the Meeting Lot, a wide spot on Highway 54, in his ’72 Chevy — spraying an arc of gravel while chewing on the end of wadded up cigar. I am guessing that Bill’s overall effect was one of eccentricity and I’m sure funny as hell to anyone who didn’t have any alarm-clock association with him. But funny to us on the crew? Not so much.
I remember the morning Bill came skidding into the parking lot wearing some old WWII aviator goggles. The goggles being necessary as his windshield was blown out. When we asked him about it — how could you not? — he grumbled something or other about a Late Night and Trees that Jumped in Front of His Rig. Who knows what the real story was, but I am suspecting it had something to do with reading his fortune at the bottom of a gin bottle. You would have thought seeing some old Bull of the Woods cruising down the highway wearing these vintage goggles, his longish gray-black hair blowing back in the 55-MPH-generated breezes, would have been hilarious. Heck, he could have likely pulled over alongside the road and charged tourists good money for a ride in his plane-mobile. But to us? His chronic lateness stripped him of any comic relief. I can laugh now, but not so much at the time.
Check out cakespy.com’s blog for the recipe to make these jumbo cinnamon rolls! Link below . . .
Bill’s extra snooze time each morning cost us precious minutes at Carol’s Coffee Cup. Carol’s was famous for its fresh pie straight out of the oven and its hot cinnamon rolls the size of small dinner plates. You might think I am exaggerating, but it’s true. One of those rolls could send you into a sugar coma for the rest of the Crummy ride up the mountain to the unit. And it then took some serious suggesting to get us roused and ready to tackle the Whip-It work that lay ahead of us for the day. We would still be in that big of a stupor from all of Carol’s sugary goodness.
We loved Carol’s Coffee Cup — there was no other way to put it. We stopped there every morning before heading up the hill. Carol’s was a Dream Way to start out the morning. It made the morning tolerable, or as Bill would say: tol-uh-ble. I have mentioned the memorable pie and the cinnamon rolls and, even better yet, Carol’s version of a refill-to-go- was having one of the cheerful be-calico-aproned waitresses fill each of our Stanleys to the brim with Carol’s Signature Yuban before we loaded our sorry asses back into the Crummy.
Carol’s Signature Yuban had an extra sort of something to it that I could never quite put my finger on. One day I just up and asked one of the Aprons — what all of the regulars affectionately or otherwise called the be-aproned waitstaff — what it was about Carol’s coffee that made it taste the way it did. Pink Apron said that Carol sprinkled ground cinnamon on top of the grounds before it started to percolate. Carol figured that the cinnamon made it kind of special that way. I am guessing that it was Carol’s way of making Designer Coffee out of a sow’s ear, being that Yuban wasn’t what I would call the most premium hipster bean on the coffee house market.
I can’t really say that I was ever that fond of Carol’s coffee additive, but I had to hand it to her for pure ingenuity. And those cork-booted boys loved Carol’s coffee, cooking, and service. When they saw a piece of hot apple pie with a slice of cheddar cheese melting on the top set before them, they felt like no less than King Solomon.
Snooze Button Bill was one of those annoying patrons who thought he owned the joint. He would cluck about the downside of our cinnamon roll rush while he ordered himself his standard 2 eggs (sunny side up), 2 sausage links, and 2 slices of white toast. Every single morning.
When Bill ordered, he would state his preference as to the runniness of his sunny side uppers, the brownness of his links, and the degree of toasting that should be accorded his toast. His order wouldn’t have been so bad for the Aprons if he had simply stuck to the same script each morning. But he didn’t. It was all a Lesson of Degrees with Bill. He wanted the eggs pretty firm or kind of runny or clucking back to the cook. The sausages were pretty straight forward, but he would send back the toast if it wasn’t Pure Palamino Gold.
Suffice it to say, none of the Aprons liked taking Bill’s order. Bill would extol his Varied Reasons for the Inadequacy of the Toast when he sent it back. He would go off on some commentary, saying that there is just something about burnt toast that says someone didn’t care enough to check the setting before pushing the lever down. Or someone simply was neglectful. Or someone had gotten up on the wrong side of the bed. Silly stuff that only cemented the Aprons’ and our opinion of Bill’s backsidedness.
Of course, the cook could hear Bill’s Toast Soliloquy, and I swear she would send out at least one Burnt Trial Balloon — all designed to get Bill’s dander up — before Bill finally got the Palamino-Gold toast that he demanded.
Out on the trail was something different. Cookie would pull out the campfire toaster and, after having had to listen to two consecutive mornings of Bill’s Palamino-Gold laments, we were all left on our own when it came to toast. We were wisely allotted two pieces of bread each morning for our toasting pleasure. If we weren’t mindful and we ruined our Toast Prospects by burning it to smithereens, we were on our own. Cookie’s philosophy was pretty much Eat the Toast or return it to the ashes from which it originally came. You can’t argue with good sense like that.
I actually enjoyed the whole Mindful Process of Toasting Bread on a Campfire. You would be keeping a steady eye on your bread and it would be just about perfect for consumption and then — whoosh! — an errant draft would kick the flame into high action and your toast might get a dandy scorch. I have to admit that I liked the Uncertainty of the Endeavor. And when it came to toast, I pretty much ate any degree of toasting — burnt or otherwise — that went with the benefits of butter and jelly. And it is always true that food — as is life — is always pretty darned great when you are eating in the Fabulous Outdoors.
One morning in camp, Bill asked us to watch his toast for him. He must have thought we were Better People than we were — otherwise he wouldn’t have given up his Toast Autonomy to the likes of us. Maybe it was all of those mornings that we had to wait for Bill to show up at the Crummy. Maybe it was in honor of the patient Aprons who had been putting up with all of Bill’s Toast Nonsense. Maybe it was Juvenile Revenge — pure and simple. We waited for Bill to vacate the campfire premises, and we proceeded to incinerate Bill’s toast to the color and texture of a charcoal briquette.
The mind has a tendency to wander back to the Glimmers of Unexplained Irrelevancy, and I am guessing that this is what has happened here. Bill’s role in this post’s Ode to Toast is obtuse at best. He merely serves as the MacGuffin that brings Toast to the Campfire in this story. The real story here centers on how great Campfire Toast is when you are out in the woods . . . or when you are sitting around your own home firepit.
And I’d like to say that there is some kind of moral to share about Respect for Timeliness or Be Kind to Waitstaff, but there isn’t. All the Great Incineration gained anyone was the way that we laughed our asses off until we snorted when Bill came back and saw his Beloved Toast nothing but a wafer of carbon.
Bottom line: You can’t expect generosity from others when you are always riding their butts or acting all inconsiderate. We finished the contract but after the Carbon Toast Experience, Bill’s demanding ways grew to be more humorous than harmful. He still arrived late to the Crummy and we still complained about it, but there you go. There are times in life when you can’t change circumstances completely and this was one of them.
Simply put: There are times when you just go with the flow . . .and I am thinking that this is the Way of Toast.
Bill the MacGuffin aside, take a look these awesome camp toasters. I know that some of them might look like Rube Goldberg mouse traps, but they are so warm and fuzzy and reminiscent of times gone by. You can watch your toast brown or burn, depending on your tolerance for carbon. Get on board and get one of these for camping. They are reasonably priced and they are fun!
Heat Resistant Oven Mitts Set – Hot Gloves for Cooking BBQ Grilling – Flame Retardant Kevlar Provides 662F Protection – Bonus Ebook http://amzn.to/1PuDeYu
And what goes better with toast than a hot, steaming cup of Joe that is brewed to perfection. Imagine it. You are taking in the sunrise, the air smells so clean you could have sworn that it had been manufactured for this very moment, the birds are tweeting and twittering in the forest, and . . . wait! . . . was that a marmot you just heard whistling? Yep. You’re in the high country, your fire is crackling just right, the smoke is blowing just-so toward your blowhard Uncle Phil that is always waxing eloqent, and all is right with the world. Pour yourself another cup and get another piece of toast a’toasting. It’s the biggest goal you have to meet today. Life is pretty good, isn’t it?
And check out this functional and adorable coffee percolator. It is hearty, fun to use, stainless steel so it’s easy to clean and easy to pack!
Texsport Stainless Steel Coffee Pot Percolator for Outdoor Camping
And on a side note . . . in case you indulged a little too heartily with the brandy flask last night around the campfire . . . did you know that burnt toast will help a hangover? Yep. It will settle your tummy-brain upset just like that. Works every time! Maybe Bill should have switched his order from Palamino Gold to Burnt Black!
And you must watch this . . . I love this video! I guarantee that if you watch it once, you are going to watch it twice. So lovely of a tune and so imaginative. And that’s a heck of a lot of toast that went into the making of this very artistic video. Kudos to OK Go!
Boots here, signing off.
Wishing you happy trails of perfectly-toasted toast and a satisfying tale to go with it.
Life is a lively event. Watch your toast, drink coffee, and get to it.
What’s stopping you? xox Boots the Badass Coffee Babe
Boots the Badass Coffee Babe here. And aiming from the hip like a shooting star to the center of life’s love and happiness on this Friday morning.
As determined by the calendar, today is Friday. Or is it? Do we assign a Day-Feeling to Time? For some of us, it’s our real-time Friday. For some of us, it’s our Tuesday. Or Thursday. Or Sunday. We measure the days based on our perception of Relativity & Fun . . . Availability & Freedom . . . Choice & Priority . . . all relative to the Grand Scheme of How Life Flows.
That’s the thing about living a Lifestyle. It’s different from Work. And whether or not it’s my Friday or whether or not I am Lifestyling or Working, it’s always a great day to be part of the Human Race.
Enjoy today’s moments. If you even take 3 minutes and 22 seconds to pause and just partake in some relaxation, isn’t that a rewarding way to extend some appreciating into your Day? This video by OK Go is just plain fun. [OK Go makes the best videos!] Enjoy the fancy of it all and Happy Friday-Feeling to you!
This band deserves a huge shout out for their ingenuity and commitment to spreading FUN with their music! Click on their album below:
And . . . because the Weekend for Writing is ahead and because I can’t resist adding awesome things that strike my brand of Fanciful, check out this handmade saddle-bag style purse and journaling items. This next week, we are going to be digging into the 4 Fundamentals of Coffee along with some journaling fun. Me? I love journaling!!!!! And it’s always nice to have a stylish way to transport my ideas from one inspiring place to the next.
I l-o-v-e this bag!
Firu-Handmade Women Vintage Style Genuine Brown Leather Cross Body Shoulder Bag Handmade Purse
Roasting brings out the essence . . . the aroma, body, and flavor that is locked inside the green coffee beans. The roasting process transforms the chemical and physical properties of the beans . . . and the different degrees of roasting produce characteristic taste profiles and different amounts of caffeine.
City Roast, Full City Roast, Vienna, Espresso, Italian, New Orleans, French . . . so many different roasts! At the risk of over-generalizing . . . lighter roasts make for a brighter, more lively taste profile while darker roasts make for a sweeter, lower acidity coffee. Drinkers who prefer a low level of acidity in their brew are steered toward a darker roast . . . French roast being one of the more common choices for a low-acidity coffee. This comes with a caveat though, as many people do not like what they describe as the “burnt” or “oily” taste of a dark French roast. Perhaps French roast is an acquired taste. Or maybe people have just gotten used to buying it as they equate dark roast with a more-refined coffee choice.
You may come across those people who are misled by the misguided notion that Dark Roast is “better.” If you like dark roast, enjoy. If you don’t like a dark roast, don’t feel like a wimp. You will not be judged by the Secret Society of Coffee Snobs — not on my watch. Feel safe with this knowledge. If some French Roaster looks over his or her coffee cup at you drinking your light and lively cup of city roast, share with him or her that you prefer a brighter, higher acidity level in your coffee. You can also add that your lighter roast contains more caffeine than their French roast. This should stop any Snob from further judgment.
Of course, there are all manner and degree of roasts in between on the spectrum of light, medium, and dark. Coffee beans contain oils that include some 600 chemical substances. When the beans are roasted, the beans expand and, as a result, lose moisture. The beans’ aroma comes alive and the oils give the beans a shiny appearance – especially in the darker roasts.
A light roast (Light City, Half City, Cinnamon Roast) have a light body with a detectable acidity. This roast is often described as being “bright” or “lively.” Drinking light-roast coffee is a personal choice and should not be an invitation to judgment. All of you snobs, be nice. Coffee should be fun and others should be allowed to drink cinnamon roast without being called wimps.
Medium roasts (commonly called Breakfast Blends) are generally considered to The Middle of the Road when it comes to drinking coffee. This roast has more body than light roast beans and are more balanced in the areas of flavor, aroma, and acidity. If you don’t know what roast of coffee bean to bring to your future in-laws for the weekend, bring a medium roast. There is nothing wrong with going down the middle of the road on this topic.
A dark roast (Italian, espresso, French, continental, New Orleans) is dark brown in color and has a sheen of oil on the surface of the bean. It is believed that the bean’s point of origin is disguised as a result of darker roasting. With some dark roasts, you may taste a smoky, or even burnt, flavor. And remember that the amount of caffeine is decreased as a result of added roasting. While not being a French-roast drinker, I do like a darker roast myself and do not mind giving up some of the caffeine for this taste profile.
In the early days, the green coffee beans were roasted in a heavy pan over the fire. Nowadays, coffee is roasted in a roasting factory– some small and some ginormous – generally in the country in which the coffee is going to be consumed.
It takes so little equipment and time to roast your own coffee. I am wondering why no one has shared this information with me before. After watching the videos below, I am ready to arm myself with this simple equipment and roast my own beans. I love this kind of thing.
There are so many cool facts about this humble and elegant drink. One little bit of information leads to another interesting tidbit. I am thinking about taste profiles, aged beans, acidity, food pairings . . . you name it! So much to know. So much fun to learn.
Here is a super informative video that takes you on a Color Journey of Coffee Roasting. It’s only 4:23 long and worth watching. It also will help you understand why you prefer the roast that you do, as it discusses taste profile with different stages of roasting. Cool!
And how about this idea of roasting coffee beans in a popcorn popper? Fun! It is a recommended method for getting started with home roasting. If you’re like me and like to experiment with new ideas and learn about how things work, I am thinking it would be a fun taste treat to try this. It literally takes minutes to have your coffee fresh-roasted each morning. Wow! What a fun thing to do on the weekend for your Monday morning coffee! [P.S. According to other research I did, shoot for a popper with a minimum of 1250 watts.]
Here is the Popcorn Pumper that he talks about lasting a long time in the video. It has the recommended 1250 watts.
Whew! What started out as a simple question has my mind spinning. There is no short answer as coffee roasting is a complex and fun science that brings to us such a miraculous beverage. Experiment with some green beans and leave a comment, reporting to us your roasting results! Fun, fun, fun!
Life is a lively event. Roast up some beans, drink coffee, and get to it.
[Just the facts, Ma’am is inspired by and extracted from personal experience and research, informative youtube videos, and “All About Coffee Knowledge Cards” – published by Pomegranate Communications, Inc.]
Howdy to all of you super-outdoorsy souls who are planning your menu for this summer’s camping, climbing, rafting, bicycling, kayaking, or hiking trip. It’s a general truth that dehydrated meals are the way to go when you’re going to be carrying any kind of weight on your back or in your boat . . . and it’s also a general truth that while some of these ready-made meals that you buy in expensive outdoor stores are pretty darned good, others are, at best, kind of mediocre. Why not set mediocrity aside and start each day on the trail with a fresh and energizing cup of Bircher muesli? It’s easy to make, it’s healthful, and it tastes great!
Bircher muesli is one of those meals that tastes good for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. It is a healthy and creative choice that tastes good if you roughly follow the script of oats, fruit, coconut, honey, nuts, berries . . . you get the idea. It’s made of good stuff that is easy to pack and you can prepare it in advance of the trip. And the best part? Muesli doesn’t require any cooking, which makes it an ideal choice for those trips that are going to include some dry camps. Easy, healthy, tasty, and easy to prepare . . . you can’t get it wrong.
I started packing my own version of Bircher muesli the summer that Mitch the Mobius joined the trail crew as Camp Cook. This particular crew worked trail up in the high High Country so the work season was short. We made summer base camp at one of the high lakes once the snow receded and the supply horses could make it up the trail. We operated as Trail Rovers who did trail maintenance, cleaned up camp sites, and packed out a whole heck of a lot of annoying garbage from the High Country. Depending on the destination, one might have to pack some overnight gear to cover the necessary miles — but, as a rule, we all generally did our best to return to camp each night to eat around the fire and sleep in our roomy, canvas wall tents.
We actually had it pretty good in camp, as it was stocked at the beginning of each season with gear and supplies, compliments of Sam, Jim, and Katy — our much-appreciated district pack horses. At the beginning of the summer, we had brief and glorious access to butter, eggs, cheese, and cream . . . and we even had an ice cream maker for our season-end Ice Cream Feed — the snowfields providing us with just enough “ice” to “freeze” the cream. Albeit, the ice cream ran a bit on the soft side, but it was pure 100% wilderness luxury.
Mitch the Mobius was what you would call an Unknown Quantity. He came from Havre, Montana, and was a self-professed jack-of-all-trades. I don’t know about the veracity of his self-professing, but one thing we were quick to learn about Mitch: He was an Ace Bull Shitter who ruled camp with a Mighty Spoon. What Mitch made, we were to eat . . . all according to the Rules of Mitch. And that was that. His was a simple system: Whatever we didn’t finishing eating the night before was added to breakfast. Whatever we didn’t finish eating at breakfast was added to dinner. And so it went. This might not sound that bad, but think back to your past few meals. And imagine combining them all together. Trust me. It’s a bad idea.
Mitch wasn’t that great of a cook to begin with . . . and then add to this fact Mitch’s Recycled Leftovers . . . well, dinner started to feel more like a punishment than a satiating pleasure. Example: If you’ve ever had Montana chili added to your morning oatmeal, you’ll know what I mean. Think about it. Do you add brown sugar and milk to the concoction? Or Tapatio sauce and alfalfa sprouts? Or do what we ended up doing and that was to add nothing at all and simply eat it for its value of mixed-media sustenance. It was always a tough choice, one that we didn’t feel we should have to be making. I mean how hard is it to make a simple, decent, edible meal?
No matter how much complaining we did, Mitch stuck to his Zero Tolerance Policy of Leftovers. Mitch added dinner macaroni to breakfast scrambled eggs, and he then added said macaroni-scrambled eggs to beef barley soup for dinner. There was no end to the ludicrous chain of combinations. Leftover Morning Coffee was used as the liquid ingredient for dinner cornbread –> coffee-cornbread went into the next day’s breakfast pancakes –> coffee-cornbread-pancakes went into dinner biscuits. I think you get the idea. You had the sense that what had been served as our first meal our first night in camp was still morphing itself in Mitch’s Petri Pot of Anthropological Proportions — resulting in an enduro of marathon indigestion that would only end when we ate our final camp meal in early September.
The more we complained, I swear, the more we were subjected to Mitch’s One-Man Campaign of Retaliation and he made even larger portions at meal time . . . meaning that even more Special Ingredients were destined to be added to Mitch’s next Mazy Meal. And on it went. We were caught up in Mitch’s Infinite Mobius Meal Plan of Frugal Retribution. As I could see it, there was no solution to the dilemma other than to take up fasting.
This is when I started to make my own Bircher muesli. I could guarantee that I was going to start my day right with food that wouldn’t sucker-punch my gut later in the morning. And it was simple. I would soak my muesli in my mess kit the night before and hang it in the bear bag. Voila! Instant healthful breakfast awaiting my morning.
The rest of the crew became privy to the Revelation of my Bircher meusli breakfast and, before you knew it, we were all hoisting Survival Quantities of muesli up the cable in the bear bag each evening. The result? We weren’t eating Mitch’s cuisine quite as desperately and Mitch’s leftovers started to back up on Mitch in a big way. Even Mitch couldn’t think of what to do next with his Salami Corn Salsa French Toast Chicken à la King if we weren’t going to consent to eat it.
Plus, the side benefits of us planning on muesli for breakfast is that we could snack on some of the raw ingredients for lunch when we were out on the trail. Muesli: a win-win choice. And a big Paleo Prize for us Rebels with a Righteous Nutritional Cause.
It all came round right when the district’s horse wrangler came up the hill to pack our gear out for the season. It was Tradition that the wrangler would come bearing berries for pie and cream for the ice cream maker. All of us were quite vocal, along with some strident cussing, that Mitch was not to lay the breath of a single fingerprint on our end-of-season Berry Pie a la Mode. No, as much as we all knew the rules of the trail to respect Camp Cookie, Mitch was not going to throw a tangle into our Ice Cream Soiree.
Which just goes to show the power of Tradition. We were willing to endure substandard, mean-spirited, frugal, gut-bomb meals for an entire season . . . but mess with our pie and ice cream? We became a pack of mama bears protecting our beloved cubs. The season was drawing to a conclusion, and we realized that we had somehow survived Mitch’s splenetic temperament and gastronomic combinations, for better or for worse.
I am happy to say, Mitch didn’t return to camp the following summer. We heard that he fell in love with some gal from Missoula whom he met while grocery shopping in the meat department of Safeway and they were fixing to get hitched. I wondered if she knew what she was getting into, what with Mitch’s extreme frugality and hard-line philosophy, but who can say what wins out in the ways of love? And food to boot? Certainly not me. All I have to say is congratulations and best wishes to the couple.
All Mitch matters aside, here is one really simple recipe for Bircher muesli to make at home. Once you read through the ingredients, you are going to see why there isn’t really any specifically-measured list of ingredients for this home and camp winner. And I don’t know a lot about Gordon Ramsay, but I am thinking that he knows his way around a muesli recipe.
Ingredients2-1/3 cups rolled oats
1-3/4 cups low-fat milk
1 tbsp runny honey
2/3 cup low-fat plain yogurt
Apple juice to taste
Step 1: Put rolled oats in a bowl and pour on milk (or enough to moisten). Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour, ideally overnight.
Step 2: Coarsely grate an apple over the oats, discarding the core and seeds.
Step 3: Stir in honey and plain yogurt. Add a splash of apple juice or a little more milk to loosen the mixture if it is too thick. Serve drizzled with a little more honey and topped with fresh berries and toasted walnuts.
AND . . . FOR YOU GOOD HIKERS, CAMPERS, GLAMPERS, RAFTERS, CLIMBERS . . . ETC.
If you are camping, hiking, etc. . . .
Don’t worry about the yogurt. You can bring powdered milk or you can bring a container of almond, coconut, hemp, or rice milk in its stead.
Substitute dried fruits for the fresh fruit and brown sugar for the honey.
I make the oat mixture ahead of my trip and then add almond milk when I get to camp. Muesli can be eaten by soaking it first overnight or soaking it when you are making your coffee or by eating it raw. It’s your choice! That is the beauty of muesli.
Here’s my general recipe:
rolled oats: start with about 2 cups and then go from there, depending on how many other ingredients you add
nuts: walnuts, almonds
seeds: sesame, pumpkin, sunflower, hemp
dried fruits: apple, apricots, pineapple, golden raisins, cherries
coconut, shredded or flakes
cinnamon, nutmeg, and a dash of vanilla
Have fun with this! And check out the containers below for carrying your muesli mix and for your milk of choice.
Love and happiness . . . this picture makes me feel good inside. It makes me think of a rundown little honky tonk in a tiny town . . . one of those towns with crooked streets and more taverns than there were bakeries, grocery stores, and churches combined. It was the place where my sister, Ranger, and I used to go dancing every Friday night. Friday night dancing . . . we wouldn’t have missed it for all the Joe in Latin America, Africa, and the Asia Pacific combined — the music was just that good.
At the end of every night, the band would be casing up their instruments and the music man, Dan the Band Man, used to plug “Love and Happiness” into the speakers to quell our demand for “More! More!” His intent, I am guessing, was meant to settle us foot stompers down from a rousing rendition of “Congo Square” or “Love Shack.”
Well, after a night of dancing in this establishment, I can tell you that a Saturday-morning-after-Friday-night-dancing cup of Joe was just what I needed. This place was a hoot and a half, and I am feeling a story coming on. Yep. I can just feel it.
For your Saturday fun and enjoyment, here is some music for you to enjoy. I am dedicating these two tunes to Dan the Band Man and to Orville Johnson, who can play the best cover of “Congo Square” I have ever danced to — wishing them happy music and good coffee.
Love this version of Al Green’s Love and Happiness!
. . . and I have to add Sonny Landreth into this mix . . . so awesome! All you have to do is listen to the first riffs of this song, and you know you are going to love it!
Life is a lively event. Listen to music, drink coffee, and get to it.
Boots here to extol the virtues of Dutch ovens, S’mores, Guatemalan coffee beans . . . and to warn against the vice of imbibing too much Hooch and then finding yourself way out of your league when it comes to campfire games!
What you need for this twist on a campfire classic: A good fire? Check. Dutch oven? Check. Campfire coals? Perfect. S’mores ingredients? Check. Time to make some Dutch Oven S’mores!
This is a whole different take on making S’mores. I know that 1) poking the fire with a stick is a whole lot of fun and 2) tempting the flames with a marshmallow at the end of a stick is even more fun. Will it toast up buckskin tan or will it incinerate into a lump of carbon?
This Dutch oven recipe takes the wondering out of the equation. And everyone can enjoy their S’mores at the same time once you lift the oven’s lid. Also, making the S’mores this way eliminates that marshmallow-eating Chubby Bunny contest (a campfire game for amateurs, at best) that has a tendency to heat up between competitive cousins and liquored-up uncles. [Spoken by the wrangler who has seen too many campfire scenes that cannot be unseen.]
This way, while your treats are baking away in the Dutch oven, you all can turn your attention to telling ghost stories or to playing a rousing game of Shoeking! instead and see who just might end up hiking back down the trail the next day in his stocking feet. [Note: Now this game of balancing your boot on your toes and flipping it back over your head and not into the fire actually is morefun with liquored-up uncles.]
I’ll never forget the summer I watched a whole troop of good ol’ boys — all of whom looked to be bearing the Divine Punishment — leaving camp The Morning After with most of them missing at least one shoe. All I could think was Those damned fools were playingShoeking! There was something about seeing their hangdog expressions and the dust cloud that followed their shuffling sock-footed procession that still makes me bust a gut.
This shoe-less band of travelers, clearly having partaken in a goodly portion of Hooch the night before, was in such rough shape when they doddered past the cabin that they hired me on the spot to saddle up Eagle to carry the heavier items from their camp down the hill. I sympathized. Of course I did. But there was a part of me that was thinking that there was going to be a whole lot of footsore at the end of the trail along with all of the blame and cussing that I was sure to bear witness to. One buckaroo kept saying over and over, “My Gawd, my Gawd.” Whether he was intervening for his sole-less foot or for his soul-less quaff from the night before, I couldn’t tell. The other guys kept telling him to Zip It, Chet! — knowing that maintaining low morale wasn’t going to help a single one of them get down the trail any sooner.
Chet couldn’t refrain from his mantra of misery, so the rest of the boys started to call Chet “Mr. Tenderfoot” and other such insulting monikers with additional colorful embroideries. I tried not to crack up and just kept Eagle steered down the trail ahead of the shoe-less pack, thinking that there are some stories in life that you just can’t make up. This was one of those stories.
I just don’t know. Life is funny and it is strange. And thank God for stories that entertain the Disbelieving Parts that dwell within. I can’t really say that participating in this experience enriched my life in any way, but I did file it away in my mental folder labeled “You Can’t Make This Stuff Up.” You know the stories. The Fact-is-stranger-than-Fiction stuff. The stories that cling to our memories’ heels through time for no apparent reason. I would like to think that the things I carry with me have some edifying value from time past, but this particular tale? It simply makes me laugh my ass off when I think back to that day.
Truth: laughter is its own medicine and these boys had given me a goodly dose as a result of their misguided and high-spirited Shoeking! folly.
But sorry stories aside, let’s get back to stuff that really matters like coffee, chocolate, and campfires . . . My coffee pairing recommendation for the sweet side of S’mores? I am thinking a Guatemalan coffee for this particular sweet. There is nothing like Guatemalan coffee paired with chocolate . . . although Arabian mocha beans are pretty great, too. Check out this single origin Guatemalan coffee after you have stocked up on the S’more goodies. You deserve good coffee with your campfire treat. And what a cute bag that comes with it!
1 package (14-1/2 ounces) whole graham crackers, crushed
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup butterscotch chips
2 cups miniature marshmallows
Prepare grill or campfire for low heat, using 16-18 charcoal briquettes or large wood chips.
Line a Dutch oven with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Combine cracker crumbs and butter; press onto the bottom of the pan. Pour milk over crust and sprinkle with chocolate and butterscotch chips. Top with marshmallows.
Cover Dutch oven. When briquettes or wood chips are covered with white ash, place Dutch oven directly on top of six of them. Using long-handled tongs, place remaining briquettes on pan cover.
Cook for 15 minutes or until chips are melted. To check for doneness, use the tongs to carefully lift the cover.Yield: 12 servings.
It really is worth buying a Dutch oven. You can make so many different recipes that benefit from its even heat. You can use it hanging above the fire, in the coals, and in your oven at home. I love this homely old cast iron pot that eloquently says, “Good Cooking!” You won’t be sorry that you made the investment in something that is so versatile.
Boots, signing off and keeping my bootlaces tight! xox
Boots here. Looking at the best in camp coffee cups and picking out inventory for the Cabin Door Store. I guess I have become one of those gear junkies that likes to have the best when I head out on the trail. Long gone are the days when I used to wear wool knickers for alpine skiing on my humble, waxed, wooden cross country skis. I used to be a purist. Wool gloves, wool hat, wool socks, wool sweater. I carried wooden matches, a nice piece of pitch, and a Buck knife that was razor sharp. My cook box had Granite-ware plates, bowls, and cups. Allllll natural. Now? As much as I enjoy seeing those Janoy skis hanging up in the wood shed, I now have good gear that keeps me dry, warm, and safe and gets me places in the back country.
And as for outdoor cook gear? I have gone on too many camp trips where my coffee went cold pretty much the moment that it was poured in the cup. If there is any sort of morning chill in the air, you are not going to be drinking even remotely hot coffee. Take a look at these top-of-the-line cups and mugs listed below from the Cabin Door Coffee Store and think about the hot coffee that these cups promise. They are best-sellers and of good quality. You only need one of these to keep you going for years. No chipping, no denting, and no cold coffee!
And as for my blue granite camp cup that kept me company around all of those fires? I still bring it along, but I now use it for my morning Bircher muesli. Some old favorites I’m just not ready to quite give up yet. And speaking of Bircher muesli, I am thinking that I will share my favorite recipe with you tomorrow. It is perfect for the trail, for camping, for glamping, and for home. You can make it the night before and have it ready to go in the morning if you are running late.
And then there’s my Dutch oven. It is the best. I am not going to trade it in for anything new and fandangled. At least not while I have a cook box that will accommodate the size and the weight. Dutch oven biscuits, baked with the finesse and attention that a Dutch oven asks, are the absolute best. I mean it! They are like magic in a pot. I am thinking that we will have to check a few Dutch oven recipes out later this week as well.
I digress! Get me started on camp gear and one thing leads to another! Have fun checking out these most-excellent options for keeping your coffee hot. Oh, and don’t think that you have to be sitting around a smokey campfire to enjoy these fantastic options. I can think of a time or two in recent history when I was running for a city bus in Seattle and my fancy die-hard camp cup was the perfect commuter cup as well. Nothing says coffee like a great cup! And in these colors? Lime, plum, teal, burgundy, red, orange, stainless . . . these colors put the fun in functional out on the trail and on the city bus.
Click on the links or the images below and peruse these cups that are some of the best in camp gear. It really is the littlest things that make for the best experiences. Enjoy this fun stuff!
Hey y’all. Boots here. And as we are going into hiking, camping, and glamping season, I am thinking about ways to keep your coffee hot and your coffee cold. In other words, we are going to be talking about thermal mugs, insulated containers, and the good ol’ homely, tried-and-true coffee thermos in the next few posts.
I can’t even think of the word thermos without thinking about this one couple who used to go out with us on the annual pack trip into the high country each August. Bill and Doreen Banks were regulars, and they were always toting the same damned banged-up green thermos each year.
Now this thermos had to be one of the most trail-worn thermoses I have even seen. It was one of those tall green Stanley models that looked like it had been handed down through the ages since the dawn of Manifest Destiny. You couldn’t help but think of all the lunch hours and picnics that this thermos must have poured its way through to get that mean looking. It was scarred up, dented, and ugly, and it truly was a testimony to the quality of the Stanley company’s product line. It was still keeping the Banks’ family coffee hot through all of the abuse it had been subjected to.
This couple, Bill and Doreen, would prepare their coffee together each morning before we saddled up and headed out for the day. They liked to have a little coffee break with their lunch, and experience had taught them that we didn’t build a fire for just a quick lunch along the trail. Hence, the necessity for the beloved Stanley.
One of them would pull the coffee boiler from the fire while the other readied the Sacred Stanley to receive its daily sacrament of Joe. Usually Bill poured and Doreen steadied. Doreen would cluck about the importance of being careful while Bill filled the Stanley to the very brim.
The funny thing was that these two were so proud of their Stanley. Like it was a badge of honor that they were still toting the same crappy-looking thermos that Bill’s dad had used when he was alive and working for Boeing.
Maybe it was a lesson in equating age-worn with beautiful. Maybe the Stanley was a testimony to their marriage and a symbol of the trust that they shared. Or maybe it was a lesson in forgiveness the way that Doreen didn’t cuss Bill out when he splashed her hands with hot coffee as she steadied the Stanley. Or maybe they were just super cheap people and weren’t about to replace function with shiny new.
I don’t know. It was way out of my ken. Other campers would comment on the Stanley’s condition, and Bill would launch into the story about how his dad, Bill the Second, carried it with him to work each day for 20 odd years — all while Doreen would talk over Bill’s tale, adding minor and odd details as to how old Bill’s dad was when he was forced to retire or how many years ago it had been when the two of them had laid claim to the Stanley after Bill Senior’s funeral.
The year came when Bill and Doreen arrived in camp, still with their beloved Stanley. The first morning in camp, I couldn’t help but notice that the thermos was missing its lid. A small part of me wanted to laugh — thinking that there must have been some lulu of a story to explain the carelessness or forgetfulness that led to the decapitated Stanley. I assumed that we would hear, in full Technicolor, the chain of events that would explain why their Stanley was missing its salutatory cap.
I imagined that Bill had left the cup on the hood of the car after a roadside coffee break, or Doreen had forgotten it on some boulder alongside a creek while picnicking. It wasn’t until the next morning, when I overheard Doreen fussing over Bill and insisting that he let her pour the coffee, that I knew something wasn’t quite right. Bill’s hands shook as he tried to steady the thermos for Doreen’s inexpert pouring.
I came to find out later that night over campfire coffee nudges that the Missing Stanley Cup incident was a result of Bill having been hospitalized for several weeks in the months prior. Doreen dutifully brought him his daily coffee in the trusty Stanley during his stay, and it was believed that one of the nurses on shift had thrown the cup/lid out, mistaking it for garbage. The outcome of Bill’s hospitalization was still uncertain and they weren’t sure what would allow for Bill in the coming year, but they were grateful that they were able to make one more trip together into the high country before things had the opportunity to go south.
Well, you could have knocked me over with a flicker feather the next year when Doreen showed up. Alone. What surprised me wasn’t that Doreen was toting that damned Stanley . . . it was that it had taken on another function as Urn. Doreen was carrying Bill’s ashes in it and was wanting to bury Bill up in the meadow at Emerald Camp.
We made camp late that afternoon at Emerald Camp and, after dinner, Doreen asked me if I would grab a camp shovel and walk with her. She stopped at a spot that Bill used to called Turtle Pie Rock. I never knew why he called it that, but Doreen was clear that that was the spot for Bill. What surprised me was that Doreen wasn’t planning to scatter Bill’s ashes; the Stanley was going to be buried in the hole right along with Bill.
I dug for a spell until Doreen told me to stop. She laid Bill and the Stanley to rest, and I can’t tell you how enormous that moment felt. I have been to funerals before, and have shed my share of tears. But this. Seeing someone being laid to rest in one of his favorite spots on the planet in a damned thermos gave me pause. I could see how our physical selves all truly return to the ash from whence we came. The Cycle of Life is enormously dizzying and, if we are lucky, we have someone special in our life who we can hold on to to ease the spin.
We paused before I was instructed to fill the hole. We looked at each other briefly, and I had tears in my eyes. Doreen looked away and started to laugh. A sad laugh filled with stories, tears, fears, and thanks. Maybe a few regrets. Regrets that Bill wasn’t there to appreciate the irony about being buried in their Stanley thermos in the middle of the wilderness. A laugh that spoke of years that had been marked by the zeniths that spiked their days with their unexpected nature of the good, the bad, and the ugly. And the breathtakingly simple and beautiful.
When we returned to the campfire, I laid a blanket around Doreen’s shoulders. I poured her a Coffee Nudge and sat with her for a while. No one else knew that she had just laid her best friend and husband to rest. It surely does occur to me that hidden sorrow has to be one of the most difficult things that we carry with us in life.
And it just goes to show. Maybe thermoses, like some marriages, are age-worn on the outside while they still keep the brew nice and hot on the inside. I really had to hand it to those two. And to Doreen in her commitment to lay Bill to rest in such a beautiful way. In spite of Doreen’s shaky year of loss and grief, she was still out doing what she and Bill loved to do, and she arrived toting that same damned Stanley one last time to prove that some things just don’t change. Won’t change.
Call this some kind of tribute to Bill and Doreen . . . or to Stanley products . . . or to marriage . . . or to fulfilling final wishes . . . or to high standards to quality . . . or to . . . I’m not really sure. Sometimes things just are.
Regardless, I think that this thermos has to be the best one on the market! Just call this Cabin Door Store post “Ode to Stanley and Bill.”