Cooking in the Woods pt.2

Posted on: January 8, 2011

by Deborah
in the UP

The visual and psychological success of the first booklet, Cooking in the Woods with Mushrooms, gave me the push to do more. The next booklet was Cooking in the Woods with Pasta, Breads and Pastry. At least that’s what I’m recalling. The next three writings came so quickly, with little time spacing, it’s difficult to remember! I was on a roll, and I heady with the urge to write.

As I sit here, January 8, 2011, staring out into my woods, with the snow coming down thick and heavy, I’m drawn back to the days of writing, in my other woods. Desk is different, computer much newer, internet (no internet in the deep woods), but the position is the same: off to my right, looking out a large picture window now instead of a glass door, watching the silence and peace of the wilderness dressed in white. It’s very comforting, that peace, and I feel good that I have reclaimed much of that.

My attempts to draw the reader into my way of life seemed to be working, at least it seemed so from the responses I was getting. I started out each booklet with a short story of where I was and how I got there, altering it somewhat each time. Then went on to addressing what it was that would be following. As an example, in Pasta, Breads and Pastry, I discussed the differences in flours, yeasts, and methods of kneading; also pasta and bread machines, pros and cons. The following is the introduction. Enjoy.

I moved to the woods of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan several years ago. Having been born and raised in Detroit, and then living in a ‘rural’ community, I wasn’t sure I was prepared for the isolated life I chose. But I could never go back now.

I purchased 160 acres of hard wood forest and built a home in the middle. Wanting to cut down as few trees as necessary, I utilized old logging trails to select a building site. I first saw the property in October, when all the Maple trees were golden yellow and the ground cover was still lush and green. I fell in love with it on sight and signed the papers on the trunk of the Realtor’s car.

Concessions would have to be made. After all, I was ten miles from the nearest power lines and over a mile from the nearest county maintained dirt road. I heat with wood in the winter and cook with wood all year long. The household power is from solar charged batteries and refrigeration is a renovated antique icebox. Many of my friends and family thought I was, well, nuts. I had to be crazy to give up civilization for a life of hard work and deep snows, a life of black lies and black nights, a life of peace and quiet and tranquility, a life of independence and self sustenance. I think you can guess what I think about that!

Part of my life-style is wintering in. Now that means different things to different people, even up here. For me, it means parking the jeep at the main road a mile away just before the drive becomes impassable, and then snow-shoeing back and forth until Spring, usually four to five months. Even when I can drive out easily, running to the store for a loaf of bread or package of hotdog buns is out of the question. The nearest mart is ten miles away (a half hour on dirt roads) and major shopping is 30 miles away. I stock the pantry in November, and make everything possible from scratch. I don’t mind! You’ll hear me say often: I love to cook!

Although I was raised in a Polish kitchen, our eating habits did vary due to my parents growing up during the Depression. We were taught to eat what was on the table, which usually meant what was available. The one thing that was consistent was fresh breads.

I have always loved to cook. The first thing I ever made on my own was a loaf of plain white bread. I was 16 and enthralled with creating something that tasted so good. That was many years ago and I’ve come a long way. One of my greatest assets in cooking, I believe, was that I could follow directions, a recipe. That came from learning to sew and reading patterns. As I continued to try new recipes, I found that I had at my disposal an entirely new world of tastes. It was also endlessly fascinating to me that I could successfully alter those recipes and create a whole new dish.

It used to annoy me when asking for the recipe of something I really enjoyed, to be told “oh, some of this, some of that”, but as I experimented I realized that I, too, often did not measure ingredients. Bread recipes are like that. I measure the liquid, and I measure the yeast, everything else is tossed in. I will give you measurements, but sometimes it will say ‘1-2 T’. The exact amount can vary by how much you like that ingredient, or by how much you have on hand! If you only have ¼ cup of potato flakes instead of ½ cup, I promise not to tell anyone! Nothing is so rigid in cooking that you can’t make a few adjustments.

This was/is the introduction to Pasta, Breads and Pastry.. With one alteration. You, the reader, are now aware that I no longer live in the deep woods and ‘Pete’ and I are no longer together. I have removed reference to him as a means of moving on, and preparing to republish these books where he gets no credit for my hard work.

2 thoughts on “Cooking in the Woods pt.2

  1. Nick, no I haven’t had the need to try a Sun Oven yet. I never ran out of propane in the woods, as I didn’t have it.. lol. I cooked solely on a wood stove. Here in the UP we can go weeks without the sun shining on us, so I’m not sure a Sun Oven would work for me… except in the summer. Glad you’re enjoying the articles, there will be more cooking coming soon.

  2. Deborah, hello.
    I just read both cooking on the woods parts 1 & 2 .

    Have you tried Sun Ovens. They do well and if you run out of propane they will cook your food for you.
    If your in the middle of nowhere this product will keep smoke from revealing your presence.

    I do have them available.

    Great articles!

    Nick Johnston

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