Thursday, June 29, 2006

Milk and Cookies at Fire Camp

Here's a news story of milk and cookies at the Cherry Creek Fire Camp in the Lolo National Forest, Montana, in August 2003.
The students then went on to visit the other interdisciplinary functions of the Cherry Creek Fire organization – the finance section, the fire information cadre and the logistics unit.
The tour ended up at the fire camp kitchen with milk and cookies for all the young visiting dignitaries. While they ate, the kids were treated to a demonstration featuring what goes into a firefighter’s knapsack, called line gear, for everyday use.
The original story can be found here.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Fire Camp Kitchen

Here's a few photos of the camp kitchen for the Blossom Complex wildland fire last July and August along the Rouge Rive in Oregon. The fire was managed by Pacific Northwest National Incident Management Team 2. Al Maza and Ruth Esperance of the US. Forest Service were the food unit leaders.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Finding Inspiration for the Camp Menu

I glean menu and recipe ideas from many sources. Professional trade magazines -- Foodservice Director and Food Management among them -- give me ideas that are specially suited for the institutional kitchen. Popular magazines like Sunset also provide inspiration. I can often use an idea and work it until it fits a group setting.

A photograph of an artfully arranged collection of skillets arranged on an outdoor buffet table sparked my cowboy breakfast idea. Twin stacks of blue enamel plates and a lone Dutch oven complete the display -- no fancy garnish for the dudes of the Mountain Sky Guest Ranch, near Emigrant, Montana.

This thousand-word inspiration gave me the impetuous to celebrate our nation's 230th birthday. The crisp, smoky air of the campfire will greet campers next Tuesday. Bright yellow scrambled eggs, airy biscuits smothered in sausage gravy and gallons of cowboy coffee (hot chocolate for campers) will kick off our celebration next week. The meal will be cooked in cast iron that's stood the test of time from the colonial hearth to the Western range to the backyards of today.

Two years ago, campers kept saying "That's what 4 a.m. rolls look like!" as they walked through the cafeteria line. Their response puzzled me all morning until I walked out into the dining area and saw this hand-printed menu.

Inspiration for camp menu ideas can come from many sources. Television programs, cookbooks and magazines have helped my over 35-year culinary career. The one thing that's worked best for me since the late 1980s has been a series of culinary notebooks.

I keep the notebook handy. Now that I'm commuting to Sacramento each day, the 200-page composition book stays in my daypack. I record ideas -- often gathered from professional magazines on my desk -- and clippings on my hour-long commute home. My 18-notebook collection is full of ideas.

It doesn't matter if the idea comes from TV or print. Shows like Al Rocker's Rocker on the Road can give wonderful ideas. Take Douglas Coffin's New Haven, Conn.-based Big Green Pizza Truck (the show that aired last January). I may not be able to restore a 1946 International Harvester flat-bed truck. But the pizza menu idea will come in handy one day.

They key is to clip ideas and place them in your culinary scrapbook. Soon your collection of ideas, complete with thousand-work photographs will have you cooking for a herd of hungry camper.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Cowboy Independence Day Breakfast

Independence Day is next Tuesday, July 4, 2006. It's Day 3 of Northern California FC Camp in Felton. What better way to start the day that a cowboy breakfast.

Here's the plan:
  • Serve breakfast from cast iron Dutch ovens and skillets.
  • Fire from charcoal briquettes will cook the breakfast.
  • Use the planned menu -- no need to change the meal. Tuesday's menu easily converts to a cowboy breakfast.
  • Attire cooks in straw cowboy hats and red bandanas.
The menu:

Fruit cups
Scrambled eggs
Buttermilk biscuits
Sausage gravy
Hot chocolate
Cowboy coffee (the real stuff!)

It's a simple breakfast that the campers will enjoy. The eggs and potatoes fit into large range-sized skillets. Dutch ovens make the perfect cooking vessel for the biscuits and gravy. A stock pot will hold the hot chocolate and a Navy-surplus coffee boiler is a perfect match for the joe.

Ring the dinner triange, holler "Come an' get it" and hide the breakfast cereal bowl packs and bananas. This meal's all about gut fillin', rib sticken' grub.

The picture to the left shows my favorite piece of cast iron at Daybreak Camp. This is a 2004 shot of a roux slowly browning over the rangetop.

I'll report back next week. July 4th opens with a cookout. We end the day with grilled chicken on the barbecue and scalloped potatoes and apple crisp in Dutch ovens.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

NMCB 74 Galley Striving for Excellence

By Ens. Tim Walker, SC, USN
Food Service Officer
Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 74

The Camp Shields Galley staff gathered for a photo to commemorate the Five Star Accreditation they received. Included in the photo, seated, from left, are EOCN Christopher Newman, CSSA Montrio Funzie, CS3 Osvaldo Quintanilla, CSSN Eddy Williams, EOCN Susan Knox, CS1 Tony Tierno, CS2 (SW/AW) Michael Young, CSSN Anthony Katimbang, CSSA Carl Douglas, CS3 Ashley Hoskins, and CS3 Miguel Nunez. Kneeling, from left, are I. Asato, S. Nagamine, T. Oiski, M. Tamae, M. Medoruma, M. Akamine, BU3 Asta Hargas, CS3 Kelley Vaughan, UTCN Michael Schmidt, CS2 (SCW) Patricia Alexander, CS3 (SCW) Lacey Seay, and CS3 (SCW) Brenda Rush. Standing, from left, are ENS Tim Walker, LCDR Craig Retzlaff, CSCS (SCW/SW/AW) Calvin Dukes, K. Chinen, M. Kinjyo, T. Kimura, N. Goya, Mrs. K. Kamizato, K. Arakaki, H. Komori, and CS1 (AW) Leslie Schwartz. Not available for the photo were CS1 Danny Hansch, CS3 Herbet Myers, CS3 (SW) Mario Smith, CS3 (SCW) Kisha Hopkins, and CMCN Daniel Bennetch. 
NMCB 74 deployed to Camp Shields, Okinawa, Japan, on what was supposed to be a run of the mill Seabee deployment for the galley crew. Six months on the ground operating an undersized galley, and extensive barracks to support a battalion with 400 personnel on the main deployment site.

Upon arrival to Camp Shields, it was discovered that the galley had received Three Star Accreditation the previous year. The procedures, and significance of CNI accreditation were explained and the junior Sailors became intrigued. They wanted to go for the Five Star Accreditation. Suddenly there was a common goal to work towards.

Immediately the crew of the Camp Shields Galley started reviewing the inspection checklist from the previous year's inspection. "We went through the inspection checklist and identified all the areas where we would need improvement. That provided us a strong foundation to build from and got us headed in the right direction," said CSCS Calvin Dukes, Food Service Leading Chief Petty Officer. Thorough in-rate training, which stressed involvement by all culinary specialists, was coupled with an emphasis on brilliance in the basics.

Every member of the galley crew got involved in correcting any known deficiencies. Extensive field days were conducted in off hours to improve the overall sanitation and aesthetics of the galley. Extra training was conducted in all areas of Food Service. Junior cooks would commonly ask the records keeper about the inner workings of FSM and the junior officer of the day was frequently quizzed on break out and inventory procedures. There was even instruction given on preparing garnishing.

The Navy Food Management Team, Yokosuka, come to Camp Shields for a mid-deployment assist visit in September. The team provided invaluable training and materials to the culinary specialists, who were already performing at a level far above their experience. The team also gave an unbiased view of delinquencies that remained in the galley. The visit was a success on all counts, and ended with a recommendation that NMCB 74 place a request for a CNI Five Star Accreditation visit.

Over the deployment the Food Service department supported over 400 personnel in the main galley, Wardroom, and CPO mess. They have also taken great strides to support personnel in all battalion evolutions, project sites, and training exercises around the island, with superior hot meals. The galley also adjusted to 24-hour operations to support all hands while they were preparing to forward deploy personnel to earthquake relief efforts in Pakistan. Not to mention that one-fourth of the CS's returned to homeport, Gulfport, Miss., to deal with the devastation that Hurricane Katrina had left in her wake. Despite all the distractions the dedicated crew kept their focus on the task at hand.

NMCB 74's Food Service Department received validation for all their efforts on Nov. 7 when the NFMT awarded the unit a total score of 813 out of 818 possible points and the Five Star Accreditation.

"Earning a Five Star Accreditation at the Camp Shields galley is a rare feat," according to NFMT Lead Inspector CSC Lester Griffith. "This is the first battalion I've ever inspected that earned the accreditation. In fact, this is by far the best galley I've inspected in the 18 months that I've been doing this job."

Reprinted from the U.S. Navy Supply Corps Newsletter, March/April 2006 issue.

Chuckbox Ideas on Scoutmaster Blog

One recurring question on the International Dutch Oven Society forum is, "Where can I get chuckbox plans?"

In answer to the question, I found several posts to the Scoutmaster blog over at Typepad that may help the aspiring chuckbox owner. (I've updated the links.) Back in March and April, the blogmaster posted photographs of several home-built and commercial designs.

Here are the blog posts at Scoutmastercg:

Patrol box design -- this is a folding kitchen in a box.

More Camp Kitchens -- mostly commercial designs like Blue Sky and Camper's Chuck Box. It does feature one interesting adaptation. A Jeep CJ6er took an military surplus trunk and converted it into a chuckbox.

Chuck boxes -- a mix of commercial and home-built designs. He features the original chuckbox and this unique layout.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Finding the Right Balance Between Scratch Cooking and Ready-to-Use Food

Two lessons emerged from my first year as chef for Northern California FC Camp. I knew that to keep my sanity (and bring my work-day under 12 hours), I had to train my staff and provide a pleasant work environment for the staff. After all, most of us use vacation time from work. By year two, I was able to let go of some of my cooking duties and focus on leadership.

I now believe the most important lesson was the realization that I had to change my menu writing ways if I was to keep year-to-year turnover to a minimum. Turnover of kitchen staff didn’t level out until last year (the forth year). It took me three years to develop a menu that satisfied my desire to prepare scratched-cooked food, temper the long work days and make use of volunteers who don’t have professional cooking experience.

When my staff kept asking me “Can I come back next year?” last July, I knew that I had met my three-fold test. I attribute this to purchasing a balanced mix of raw ingredients and ready-to-use food. (To be fair, a liberal food budget and a former director’s keen ability to recruit quality volunteers also played a role.)

Volunteer staff have a tendency to give you the “1,000-potato stare” when the produce man unloads three burlap sacks of Idaho’s finest potatoes. The musty sacks can only mean one thing: a potato-peeling party. (And don’t forget my wrestling match with the mandoline.)

Frozen hash browns, dehydrated scalloped potatoes and par-cooked red potatoes are acceptable substitutes for fresh. I’ve purchased the hash browns from year-one. From the beginning, I didn’t have a desire to shred 40 pounds of potatoes by hand (Daybreak has few electric appliances). I introduced the scallops and the reds last year. Both are wonderful products and great timesavers.

Finding the balance between scratch cooking and ready-to-use products

You have to determine which products are best scratch cooked for your menu. I place the focus on several signature items, like my 4 a.m. cinnamon rolls. This breakfast takes me back to my Navy days when I was a baker. I enjoy getting up at oh-dark-thirty one morning to set the rich sweet dough. (The quite morning is punctuated by the deer grazing in the mist of morning sprinklers.)

I purchase ready-to-use items for several reasons. Many are purchased purely for convenience. Campers are familiar with imitation maple syrup and bottle Kraft barbecue sauce. I could prepare superior syrup or barbecue sauce from scratch. But I don’t have the time, nor the inclination to add a dozen ingredients to the inventory.

Chef-choice cookies (chocolate chip are winners -- don’t waste your time on oatmeal raisin) were featured on the lunch menu until 2003. Then last year I purchased Sysco cookie mix and chocolate chips. At the suggestion of staff we baked sheet pan chocolate chip “brownie” bars on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I had found an easy-to-prepare product that the kids loved (so much so that my dining room host assigned an adult monitor to ration the cookies!).

I do have limitations. I draw the line at frozen lasagna and frozen French toast or pancakes. They save time. But we’ve had four years to practice these menu items. My second cook is an expert lasagna maker. As soon as the sauce is ready, filling mixed and cheeses grated, a four or five person team can build eight shallow hotel pans of lasagna in less than an hour.

And I think it’s a culinary misdemeanor to waste your food dollar on frozen pancakes or French toast. Scratch-made breakfast staples are superior to their ready-to-cook cousins. I could use a quality pancake mix (Kusteaz is among the best). But I’ve been mixing Armed Forces recipe number D-25 for more than three decades. It’s engraved in my brain -- so why change now? (Don’t get me started on frozen waffles -- too many bad experiences from my large institutional kitchen job!)

The key is to take my example of a working camp menu write your own. Your campers may bring a different set of culinary experiences to the dining room table. With a little practice, you’ll find the right mix of scratch items and store-bought foods.

To be continued ...

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Navy Recipe Cards on eBay

Occasionally I receive an email asking me to locate a Navy recipe card set. I found this set on eBay this morning. It's misidentified as a World War II recipe set. During World War II the Navy published its recipes in book form. The Navy Recipe Service was first published in card form sometime in 1950s.

Here's the description:
I came across these awesome old recipe cards at an estate sale. The seller was selling her parents personal belongings, these belonged to her father, who was the Chief Petty Officer on board the U.S.S. MONTPELIER. The recipe cards are in wonderful condition. There are 16 different catorgories from MISC. INFORMATION to VEGETABLES, all the recipes are for 100 PORTIONS. Very interesting to read.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

News of the IDOS Fall Convention from Don Mason

I received this email from Don Mason the other day:
Hi Steve: Your blog is keeping me busy. I just received request for the newsletter from Caswell, Oregon, Salt Lake City, and Wittman, Arizona.... Thanks for printing the newsletter in your blog. Don
Don attached a flyer for the 2006 International Dutch Oven Society Fall Convention. The convention is being sponsoered by the Central Oregon Chapter of IDOS and will be help at the Cascade Meadows RV Park in La Pine, Oregon, from September 1-2, 2006. Contact Linda Stephenson at (541) 536-2049 or by email at for more information.

Monday, June 19, 2006

A Few Notes on My Camp Menu

We live in an age where it's possible to buy ready-made meals for the camp kitchen. Given an unlimited food service budget, you could equip the kitchen with a convection oven, sink and freezer. One cook could prepare 150 meals three times each day with little thought given to how each dish was cooked.

This scenario isn't new. The U.S. Army introduced its T-Ration in the years leading up to the Gulf War. And in recent years, the U.S. Navy has been working on its Advanced Foods option for shipboard food service. These systems are designed to simplify training, reduce labor needs and simplify logistics.

While this idea may appeal from a management point-of-view, it's a costly alternative that few camps can afford. I raise the all-frozen meal alternative only to illustrate this point: That it's possible to cook quality camp meals by finding a balance between scratch-based cooking and purchasing ready-to-use food products for the menu.

The five-year camp menu development project

The FC Camp menu has slowly evolved over the last five years. It's been my long-term culinary project, if you will. What started as a traditional menu with a made-from-scratch focus has slowly turned into a menu where purchased foods compliment kitchen-prepared menu items.

This approach has worked well for the camp. It balances the need for experienced cooks with the reality of using volunteer labor. Most of the cooks at the Northern California FC Camp bring little commercial food service experience to the kitchen. This isn't a criticism -- it's the simple truth of relying on volunteers to staff a camp kitchen.

A scratched-based menu requires more experience that I have found in the volunteers. (I should note that the food service staff at FC Camp are among the hardest workers I've seen.) I found in my first year that my presence was required in the camp kitchen 12 to 15 hours. As the chief cook for the camp, I brought some 80 percent of the culinary know how to the kitchen.

Each cook and dining room worker contributed varying abilities. My sous chef -- and second in charge -- had the most experience. A decade in school food service gave her the ability to comfortably navigate a commercial kitchen. She was a blessing.

The remaining cooks and dining room workers mostly brought home cooking experience to the kitchen. The hardest worker of them all -- and the daughter of my sous chef -- was the hardest worker of them all. Assigned as the dining room host for the five years now, she's a natural with the kids. And she has the uncanny ability to get each organized in the dining room.

I found that a willingness to learn and work hard were much more valuable than years of food service experience. (See my index of lessons from a week-long children's Bible camp kitchen for more thoughts on my philosophy.)

Two lessons emerged after that first year: First, if I was to keep my sanity (and keep my work- day under 12 hours), I had to train my staff. I also had to provide a pleasant work environment for the staff. After all, most of us are using vacation time from work. By year two, I was able to let go of some of my cooking duties and focus on leadership.

But I now believe the most important lesson was the realization that I had to change my menu writing ways if I was to keep year-to-year turnover to a minimum.

To be continued ...

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Fathering is an Important Job

By Don Alexander, evangelist for the Pollock Pines-Camino, California, church of Christ

Good fathers who love God not only "father" children but nurture, guide and correct them so that they obey the father and mother and love the Heavenly Father. That is the central message of Ephesians 6:4:

You fathers provoke not your children to wrath, but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of God.
By this example of godly living coupled with direct instruction, a father moves his children from earth to heaven. He must not only lift them up on his shoulders in play, he must also lift up their hearts to the Heavenly Father in prayer. He must teach them about the Father of us all and not relegate this role to his wife alone. He is to take the lead in seeing that his family attends the assemblies and classes of the saints, but also that they pray, study their Bibles and serve others. Their faith will be based on their learning from the Heavenly Father's revealed Word, the Bible.

He is the first taste his children have of structure, authority and consistent love. He may feel that his wife knows more about kids than he does, and she may. But he must know their hearts, structure their lives until they have learned to do this themselves, provide them opportunities to have chores and work, and teach them values that will build character and serve as an anchor in turbulent times.

His hand can be tender in its firmness, but must always be honest in its movements. His Heavenly Father must guide him through the precepts of the Bible in conducting family life through his leadership. Done well, fathering casts a long shadow for generations. Done poorly, it does the same thing. It takes far more than the ability to "make babies" to be a father.

Fathers, take up your honorable position and lead your families in the ways of the Heavenly Father. Your wife should work with you and your family should commend you and encourage you in the role. Your children need you more than your boss does. The church needs you; society needs you. Heaven awaits your decision and your action. And somewhere down the road of time, some child's life, in generations yet to be born, will be affected by your life.

May God bless you in the most important domestic and social role on earth with the most potential for good--being a good, Christian father.

I originally published Don's article last Father's Day. Don revised his article for 2006.

Prime Rib at the Carson City Rendezvous

Next to tri-tip roast, a succulent prime rib roast is one of my favorite beef meals. I'll select a slow-cooked roast any day oven a grilled steak. The only accompaniment you need is carmalized onions and mushrooms or a sharp horseradish sauce.

Enjoy the photos:

Round Top Texas Beans

This recipe is adapted from More Cee Dubs Dutch Oven and Camp Cookin' by C.W. "Butch" Welch (Back Country Press, 2000). I last prepared the bean dish at the Carson City Rendezvous last week.

I couldn't locate ham hocks at the local market in Carson City. A pound of breakfast sausage worked just as well.


Use a 12-inch camp oven for this recipe. Bottom heat is all you'll need to simmer the beans. Twenty coals underneath the oven will the beans to a boil in quick order. Remove all but eight to 10 coals to simmer. Replace the hot coals every 45 to 60 minutes. You can also cook the beans in the Dutch oven over a propane or gasoline camp stove.

To double the recipe, use a 14-inch deep Dutch oven.

2 cups diced onions
5 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 pounds dry pinto beans
2 ham hocks
1-1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/4-1/2 teaspoon crushed red peppers
1 tablespoon hot pepper sauce
Salt and black pepper, to taste

Sweat onions and garlic in vegetable oil until soft. Add beans to camp oven and cover with water. Add ham hocks and place camp oven over a bed of coals. Simmer the beans for 2 to 2-1/2 hours or until tender. Add spices, stir and continue to simmer to develop flavor. The beans will thicken as they cook. Makes 16 (1-cup) or 32 (1/2-cup) servings.

Cee Dub said: "The longer they cook, the better they get! Serve with some fresh chopped onions, sliced jalapenos and more hot sauce on the side for garnishes. We discovered that some Texans liked them with a splash of vinegar, and still others liked them with a little sugar sprinkled on top."

Prime Rib Roast in the Dutch Oven

Dave Herzog slow roasted three standing rib roasts at an Dutch oven gathering at the rendezvous last Saturday, June 10. We also had baked potatoes, round top Texas pinto beans, glazed carrots with shallots and parsley, Dutch oven pesto bread and cobblers. The food was the best part of the evening.

For the DOG, he roasted the three large rib roasts on a 22-inch MACA Dutch oven packed in rock salt. It took about 12 (4-pound) boxes of salt for the three roasts.

These instructions and pictures are from the 2003 Carson City Rendezvous. That year, Dave roasted a five-bone rib roast in 14-inch deep Lodge Dutch oven. Remember that roasting times are approximate and will vary according to ambient temperature and wind conditions.

Season the roast with freshly ground black pepper. Make about 1-dozen slits in the surface of the roast and stuff with fresh garlic cloves.

Pour a 1-inch layer of rock salt into the bottom of a 14-inch deep camp oven. You need two (4-pound) boxes of rock salt for the roast.

Place the seasoned roast into the Dutch oven. A 4-bone roast will also fit into a 14-inch camp oven. Use a 12-inch oven for a 3-bone roast.

Pour rock salt over the roast. Two boxes of rock salt are perfect for a 5-bone roast. You will need more rock salt for a smaller roast.

Place the lid on the Dutch oven. Place 12 charcoal briquettes on the kid and 10 under the oven for target temperature of 250-deg F. Each hour, add about 6 coals to the lid and 4 coals under the oven.

After about 3 hours, remove the remaining coals and lift the lid off the oven. Carefully remove the roast and place it on a cutting board. Discard the salt. Place an aluminum foil tent over it to retain heat. Let the roast rest for about 15 minutes. Then cut the ribs away and slice the roast. You be greeted with a succulent medium-rare roast that isn't salty. In fact, you may find it necessary to sprinkle a little kosher salt over your slice.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Cattle Drive Ends on a High Note

Reno streets were overrun Thursday by dozens of horses, hundreds of cows and a few wagons.

More than 400 rodeo steers led by cowhands on horseback finished the last leg of their 100-mile, five-day trip from north of Reno near the California state line to the Reno Livestock Events Center. It's home to the 87th annual Reno Rodeo ....

Click here to continue the story in the Reno-Gazette Journal.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Thanksgiving in June!

Wednesday's telegram has been posted to the Reno Rodeo Cattle Drive website.

Last night of camp means Thanksgiving in June—Roasted turkey, pork loin, dressing, cranberries and fresh made biscuits! (Cattle drive photos by Louis Basso.)

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Telegrams from the Trail

This is my 300th post to 'Round the Chuchbox ...

From the Reno Rodeo Cattle Drive website:

"Telegrams from the trail are daily updates sent to us from the cattle drive somewhere out in the boonies North of Reno, NV.

"Each day will open with a story for the day, photos and notes from cattle drive participants."

Sunday's telegram

Monday's telegram

Tuesday's telegram

Wednesday's telegram

Thursday's telegram (not published as of June 23)

Quote of the day:
Just finished another great dinner. Tri-tip, chicken, salad, adult beverages, etc. Sat next to a Cowboy who just got a Wiener Dog. He told me I should too. He said, "Get a long little doggie." But seriously folks … my blue team is the best. We placed 3rd in the Cowboy Olympics! Coach Celina is soooo proud. After driving cows all day, we bonded. Now I'm a vegetarian. -- Dayna Larson, Sacramento, Calif.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Menu for the Reno Rodeo Cattle Drive

I had intended to post this blog last Sunday, but a sunburn got the better of me ...

Guests from 12 states (and the Netherlands!) will savor great chuckwagon grub next week on the Reno Rodeo Cattle Drive. Along the way, city-slickers will enjoy 11 or 12 great meals served from a modern chuckwagon (a catering trailer in real life). During the Drive, the chuckwagon crew will serve over 750 pounds of meat, 100 gallons of strong, cowboy coffee, and 50 dozen eggs.

There's only one rule: "Please do not ride your horses near the kitchen or bar. The West is littered with gravesites of those who have made this mistake."

The Cattle Drive runs June 11 to 15, 2006.

Reno Rodeo Cattle Drive Menu 2006
Breakfasts: Eggs, Hashbrowns, Variety of meats (Ham, Sausage, Bacon), Biscuits & Gravy, Muffins, French Toast, Sourdough Hotcakes, Fresh Fruit.

Lunches: Cold Cut Sandwiches, Fruit & Veggies out on the trail.

Sunday Dinner: Prime Rib, Chicken, Dutch Oven Potatoes, Black Bean Corn Stew, Dutch Oven Rolls, Peach Cobbler.

Monday Dinner: Tri-Tip, Herb Chicken, Heaven in a Pot (Beans), Mixed Veggies, Dutch Oven Rolls and Dutch Oven Chocolate Dessert.

Tuesday Dinner: Cornish Game Hens, Venison Stew, Corn Muffins, Zucchini and Bread Pudding.

Wednesday Dinner: Turkey, Pork Tenderloin, Stuffing, Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans, Cranberry Sauce, Dutch Oven Rolls and Pumpkin Pie.

All dinners include fruit, salad & bread.

Harkin Back to Simpler Times at the Carson City Rendezvous

I can't believe it! I actually spelled "rendezvous" without looking. Like most French words, the spelling of "rendezvous" baffles me.

Like my spelling ability, many long for simpler times. Last weekend's Carson City Rendezvous was a reminder of simpler times -- times when men and women gathered to trade, tell stories and catch up on long past friendships.

Mountain men, Western entertainment and plenty of simple food filled the air at the 23rd annual gathering of people from distant times and places.

Three aspects of the rendezvous atmosphere drew me back for the third time -- country atmosphere, western music and food.

If there's one aspect of the rendezvous that impresses me it's the people. Scores of folks wandering around in garb reminiscent of simpler times, a time when the most complex aspect of their lives was the spelling of "rendezvous."

The rendezvous had something for everyone. Leather-clad Mountain Men and Pony Express riders with a Peacekeeper and double-barrel shotgun at the ready educated folk of a bygone era.

There's something for everyone: A fiddle contest under the watchful eye of national fiddle champ Randy Pollard, Cowgirl Tricks by Karen Quest and the Docie Do Band. My only regret was I didn't get to hear the fiddle contest this year because it was moved to a far away stage.

My favorite entertainment act of the day was Sourdough Slim of Paradise, California, graced the stage with his unique brand of cowboy song and humor.

I heard Sourdough last year for the first time. I listened as I cooked, but didn't walk over to the stage until the show was over. Tunes like Barnacle Bill and Frankie and Johnny from his sixth CD, Six-Guns 'n Sage, have entertained me since.

This year I heard his brand of light humor, including Sourdough's "recent trip to the bad side of town" where accordion-toting thieves busted the rear window of his rental car and deposited two accordions in the back seat. Like much of Sourdough's humor, hay bale seats and an accordion-loving crown add to its richness.

I've mastered the spelling of "rendezvous" for the first time in five decades. I'm already counting the day until the 24th Annual Carson City Rendezvous.

Maybe next year I'll work on "atmosphere" and "reminiscent."

Friday, June 09, 2006

Don Mason's Dutch Oven Newsletter

Here's the latest issue of Don Mason's Dutch Oven Newsletter from Northern California. Email Don at to receive an electronic copy.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Reno Rodeo Cattle Drive: Western Dreams Fulfilled

RENO, Nev.--April 15, 2006--Remember when you were a kid and you would look out your front window, daydreaming of being the CEO of a major mega-conglomerate corporation? Of course not! Like most kids you dreamed of being a cowgirl or cowboy, riding your pony through the sagebrush, herding your cattle to town. But reality happens and somehow this dream alluded you.

Dreams come true every June at the annual Reno Rodeo Cattle Drive, presented by Signature Landscapes. A group of 49 adults from all over the United States gather north of Reno and drive cattle across the foothills of the Sierra Nevada through Reno into the rodeo grounds.

"It’s an amazing experience," says Trevor Riches of Oregon. Riches, a transplanted Welshman, always dreamed of being a cowboy. Two years ago he was voted by the other guests as the honorary trail boss for a day. "It was fantastic. To be voted by your peers this honor, was incredible." He added, "No matter how much I ride during the year, this is just fabulous. No phone, no electronics, no responsibility more than putting my pants and boots on every day. By the end of the week, I’m relaxed and invigorated!" And he doesn’t miss a year coming on the Drive.

For the past 16 years, "wanna-be" cowboys and cowgirls from around the world have gathered in Reno for this annual event. They’ll feast on gourmet chuck wagon cuisine, consuming over 750 pounds of meat and 100 gallons of cowboy coffee. They’ll sleep out under the stars and ride a sturdy mountain horse over 100 miles during the event, traversing 2,300 acres of Northern Nevada.

The drive is produced by a volunteer committee, spearheaded by Marie Gaspari-Crawford —The first woman trail boss in the event’s history. She is supported by 35 volunteer cowboys, cowgirls, wagon masters and a top chuck wagon crew. "It’s an amazing sight to see, this herd of 300 steers, 75 horses and riders, and 1800’s covered wagons driving through the sagebrush," says Gaspari-Crawford. These volunteers spend their own vacation time to educate the guests about the Western heritage.

Guests pay $1,600.00 for the five day experience which includes their horse, tack, all meals, and an end of the trail banquet and ground transportation. All proceeds generated by the drive go to charities supported by the Reno Rodeo’s charitable arm, the Reno Rodeo Foundation.

The Cattle Drive runs the week before the Rodeo, June 11, through 15, 2006.

The Reno Rodeo which runs June 16 through 25, is one of the top three PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Assn.) rodeos in the United States. It is an all-volunteer association, with its members dedicated to presenting the "Wildest, Richest Rodeo in the West." Visit the Cattle Drive and Reno Rodeo online at

Monday, June 05, 2006

U.S. Army Mobile Kitchen Trailer

Hank Fackovec of Londonderry, New Hampshire, sent this email the other day:
Hi: First of all, GREAT site! I am a military vehicle collector who loves to cook, my wife is a quazi professional chef, and we both have had great fun with this site.

I have a MKT-75 that is restored, I have gathered up most of the equipment (ranges, burners, utensils, mermite cans, etc ...) but I am looking for the grill asbys- (the 2 sheet metal racks that M2A burners slide into and heat the large griddle and hold the pot warmer racks on the serving side of the MKT) I have the Griddle itself, and can fabricate the pot warmer racks, but I am looking for leads for the asbys and the associated splatter shields, and grease trap. If you have any leads, I would appreciate it. I will send some pix of the MKT when I have it deployed at a rally this summer. we typically feed about 300 people 9 meals over 3 days. Thanks and keep up the great work. By the way, My father was a Merchant Marine cook on
liberty ships during WWII and he enjoyed the site as well.

Oh, I also forgot, I am looking for one ladder as well.
The MKT, or Mobile Kitchen Trailer, that Hank speaks of is the 1970s version of the Army chuckwagon. At one point, the mess section of each mobile Army company had a MTK. The kitchen was designed to feed troops constantly on the move on the modern battlefield.

Like the chuckwagon of the old western range, the MKT was never used designed to prepare food on the move. The cooks towed it to the next meal site and opened the trailer to cook the next meal. The trailer was designed to be moved to the next location quickly.

Although I never worked in an MKT (the Seabees were scheduled to receive surplus trailers in the late 1990s sometime after I retired), they appear to have been a stop-gap piece of equipment. The mess section in each Army company built a mobile kitchen on the back of a 2-1/2-ton truck before the MKT became available. I never saw much advantage over the old mess trucks.

The Army cooks that I talked to said they were cumbersome to set up. Close quarters made them difficult to work in and the MKT only contained two M59 field ranges, not the three that fit in the mess truck (although the cook top compensated for the lost range). It had the ice chest like the field mess truck, but had not electrical components (other than the trailer's running lights).

We weren't crazy about the MKT in the Seabees because we operated battalion-sized messes in the field. The only time we ran company-sized messes was when detachments were sent out from the main body. To feed a battalion of 800 Seabees you needed four or five MKTs co-located. It's a pain because you have to divide the menu between multiple trailers.

The Seabees generally operated out of the 80- x 100-foot big top tent with 10 to 12 M59 field ranges. We were looking at the T-ration (the Army's heat-and-serve tray-pack ration) and the Marine's Tray Ration Heating System (and here) to feed forward elements when I was retiring.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Preparations for Camp

I've been spending a good part of my non-working hours getting ready for my fifth year to chef the kitchen for the Northern California Florida College Camp in Felton. I have my staff in place with 11 or 12 from 2005 returning to the kitchen this year. The menu is ready and my Sysco Food Services of San Francisco rep faxed the order guide to me yesterday.

My Binders

I organize my menu, notes, inventory and recipes for camp into two binders. The first -- "Camp Food Service Operations Binder" -- is used to assemble all the emails and notes for the administrative end of running a camp kitchen. All this information gets filed under appropriate tabs (menu, program, production, purchasing, food safety, staff, training, facility and snack shack).

The second binder -- "Camp Menu and Recipe Binder" --holds the "meat" of the information to operate the kitchen. The menu, inventory, purchase guides and recipes are again filed under the appropriate tabs. I include a tab for each day of the week where I file the recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Recipes for salads and cookies are located under their own tabs.

The binders help me organize all of the records for the camp kitchen. I do this for two reasons: I case I get sick and can't work the camp, all the details to operate the kitchen are recorded in the two binders. They also serve as the records for camp. Each year, I look up information from prior as I plan for camp food service. Just in case, the county health department can review the binders in the event of a food borne illness complain (it's not happen yet).

Detailed records are a must. As the saying goes, the pen is mightier than the sword. Daily food production worksheets and food safety logs, accurately completed, can defend your organization against allegations of foodborne illness.

The binders will come in handy when I decide it's time to move on and pass the baton to a younger chef. I'm always ready to teach someone my job because I don't plan on being the camp chef forever. At this point, I'm looking at another four or five years (or until my son graduates high school). I need to start thinking about a predecessor. (A note on the next chef -- I have identified a 30-something mother that's willing to learn the job. She starts her training next year.)

As chef, I've learned that I can't be present in the kitchen all the time. Daily meetings with the director, inventories and Costco runs occupy my time. The cooks reference the menu, corresponding recipes and purchase lists when necessary.

Each year, I print the recipes from into the recipe binder. Each day's recipes are readily available behind daily divider tabs in the binder. I also created a food production planning worksheet that lists all of the tasks that must be accomplished each day (thawing, prep for the next day recipes to cook, for instance).

Armed Forces Recipe PDFs

I found a source of the U.S. Armed Forces Recipe Service in Adobe Acrobat files. They're the same recipes that you find on the Navy Supply website. Click here to access the recipes.