Food stories don’t just happen in restaurants. Minnesota's Nancy Mauer has made it to the medal round (out of over 1,600 contest entries) for submitting a heritage family recipe to a contest run by chefs.com. I found out yesterday that the final cook-off is taking place this weekend in San Francisco on Feb. 17. Her recipe submission was Crispy-Golden Pork Chops with Caramelized Pan Gravy and Braised Green Onions. From the email I got from the contest’s publicist, I'll share Nancy’s thoughts and a link to the full story.
”My grandparents, who had just come to this country, were struggling to make a life for their family on a farm in rural Minnesota. Through hard work, perseverance, and many shed tears of laughter and pain, they worked hard, never letting a thought about quitting take root in their lives. It was a time in our history when the Great Depression had just swept across our land, seeking whom it could devour, and soon after, Pearl Harbor hurled our great nation into World War II.“ (Read the full story here.)
As darkly cynical as I am, even this tortured prose had me welling up. The only thing missing is the part about the family sharing the recipe with their blind dog who helped rescue shipwrecked stevedores on the Superior shore. But it’s true that recipes are edible flotsam from our own cultural history, and the pork chops sure sound tasty!
So some days are better than others. I have been in Alaska shooting for the Travel Channel this last week, and yesterday, I met up with Chris, Merch, and Merlin, three backcountry guides who know every inch of the Skookum ice field, Skookum glacier, and the rest of south-central Alaska's great outdoors. Notice the great outfits, all the guns, even the revolver strapped to the front of Merlin's snow machine! He likes it there in case of running up on a bear or moose when he’s cruising the backcountry. Merch rides with his shotgun on his back, his antique .22 on his lap, and God-knows-what-else in his bag. They took me across the valley floor, and we saw eagles on the edge of the wood. Merch thought they might be looking for food, so he followed an eagle to some ptarmigan, which he then let me shoot for our lunch. We went all the way up the valley, from sea level to the top of the ice fields and to the giant ice cave at the top of the mountain.
I have to tell you that of all the days I have spent in the field, from scampering through the Amazon rainforest with Pilchi indians to strolling on the beaches of Palawan with monitor lizards and cooking with Ferran Adria in Rosas, this was the most thrilling day of my professional life. Taking a snow drift at seventy miles per hour on a mountain sled (fine-tuned and customized by Chris to tackle this amazing terrain), launching into the air with the views that we had, birds cooking on our camp stove, eating ice and drinking water from a three-million-year-old glacier, without anyone around for a gazillion miles . . . well, you get the drift.
See you all at Monday’s Best of the Best Party at the Guthrie!