Honey is akin to bee snot, regurgitated bee spit, or bee beer. It’s also a good sugar substitute. Isn’t it amazing how we describe essential ingredients in the modern kitchen. The common ingredient of honey either devolves and evolves as we choose to use it, and how we choose to describe it.
The stages of ingredient descriptions in the kitchen evolve from the newly discovered fad, to mainstream acceptance, and then anachronistic rejection. Any ingredient in the kitchen, whether it’s honey or bacon grease, is used in a similar manner but for the names used to describe them.
The humble chuckwagon, however, has never seen the evolution of ingredients due to the ever changing requirements of cooking. The open range requires a certain consistency in the availability of ingredients. Likewise, the modem camp cook, proud in his pop-up trailer in a US Forest campground, also has a need to closely match the time honored tradition when he is distant and far from civilization.
I remember the day well when I awoke in the wilderness. I was on a solo cross-country journey and had traveled from Texas to northern Montana and was headed back again. I stopped along the side of the road in the Grand Teton national park, beside a lake, to enjoy breakfast. In the trunk of the car I had my camping supplies and a chuck box that my father had built when he was a Scoutmaster. Inside the chuck box was a plethora of kitchen necessities, an odd assortment of spices, and essential ingredients. I fried sliced potatoes with onions in some bacon grease, fried some eggs over-easy in bacon grease, baked sourdough biscuits with bacon gravy in a heavy skillet. All of this possible and dependent upon my rendering a few slices of fried bacon. I washed down my feast with some cowboy coffee, prepared in the traditional way with ground coffee in a camp percolator, with an egg shell dropped in the bottom – dipped in honey of course. You see, the proper rendering of bacon fat and it’s collection is an essential skill for a cowboy cook, devoid of modern convenience.
I sat there, on the side of the road after consuming my breakfast – kicked back in a chair drinking my cowboy coffee, watched the morning fog form on the lake in front of the Teton Mountains, and lit a cigar. The biscuits out of the baking skillet were heavy, and required that they be consumed slowly, but the use of fresh honey made the experience divine. The aroma of cigar, coffee, and bacon was stiff and thick in the air – not only from my own preparation, but from the neighboring camp cooks as well.
I was a man in the wilderness, much like my forefathers and kinsmen who long ago were pioneers in the wild American territories. I am certain that they also enjoyed the tranquility of the mornings of their youth with a hot morning beverage flavored with honey and bacon.
Oh – what I wouldn’t give to have some cowboy coffee right about now, sweetened with a honey dipped egg shell boiled in the wilderness on a camp fire.
I remember those times today with fondness, as I sit here writing this blog post. I’m eating a boiled egg and drinking some hot green tea, lightly flavored with some mango and honey. You see, some ingredients never leave our side.