Alimentary, My Dear
Lift Your Spirits!
Hot Treats for Cold
By Tamia Nelson
January 16, 2007
Let's face it, life can sometimes be hard,
and you won't find many things harder than ice. Try paddling across a frozen
bay sometime to see what I mean. No, on second thought, don't.
Some things are better when they're experienced vicariously, rather than in
the flesh. Still, why daydream about ice? Why not dream about languid
summer evenings on high mountain lakes, instead, or indulge in warm
fantasies about sunny beaches
on tropical shores?
Of course, Canoe Country paddlers don't really have a monopoly on winter
cold. Chill winds and
waters are familiar companions throughout the so-called "temperate"
zones or at least they are during the long months of winter.
Not even the returning sun can always be relied on to bring relief. Time
and time again, the warm promise of a sunny spring morning is betrayed
later in the same day by a deluge of cold rain or a late-season snowstorm.
That's when paddlers turn to food and drink for comfort. It's not hard to
see why. After hours spent battling the boisterous current of a runoff-swollen
river, few canoeists or kayakers will turn down a chance to warm up
by a flickering
fire, particularly when the heat radiating from the glowing coals is a
prelude to a fireside treat.
Sound good? It is. And it needn't be difficult. You can always start
with a big bowl of
Surprise! There was popcorn before there were any microwave ovens. In
fact, popcorn's history goes back 7,000 years, so it might just be the
original campfire snack. But making popcorn from scratch is fast becoming a
lost art. Don't laugh. At best, a botched batch will be tough and leathery.
At worst, you'll have a bowl of unpopped kernels or worse yet
hard nodules of carbon to scrub out of a scorched pot.
The secret to great popcorn in camp? It's all in the details
- Use fresh popcorn. Last year's leftover corn is best left in the
- Choose a pot of the right size. You want to cover the bottom with a
layer of corn no more than one kernel deep.
- Add enough oil. Canola or
corn oil works best. But don't go overboard. You want to wet the
kernels' feet, not drown them.
- Pop over moderately high heat. Coals are better than flames.
- Keep a lid on your pot. You don't want too tight a seal, however. Leave
the lid slightly ajar to allow excess steam to escape.
- Shake it up! Once the corn starts popping, keep the pot in constant
- Have something to protect your hands from the hot pot. Heavy leather
gloves work fine, and they have other uses, too.
How will you know when you've succeeded? Easy. Perfectly popped corn is
tender and fluffy. It also has a subtle, sweet corn flavor. And if that's
not enough, drizzle melted butter
(real or ersatz) over the corn and add salt to taste. Want something
even more assertive? Then sprinkle Parmesan
cheese on your corn, or add a dash of seasoned salt from the spice
display at the HyperMart. (A hint: You can make your own seasoned salt
by blending coarse kosher salt, Hungarian paprika, garlic and onion salts,
and for the brave ground cayenne.) Some folks like really
sweet popcorn. To find out if you're among them, just toss buttered popcorn
with brown or granulated sugar.
OK. Popcorn is a satisfying quick snack, but it doesn't do much to warm
you up on a cold day. For that you want a hot drink, and for a lot of
paddlers, this means
I used to gulp down as many as 20 cups a day. No more. Nowadays I'd
rather savor a single mug of really good coffee than throw back countless
pretenders. But don't expect me to tell you what makes a good cup. Every
java junky has his or her own favorite bean, roast,
and brewing method. What's mine? One-hundred-percent Columbian roast,
brewed for four and one-half minutes in a French press, and then poured
into a heavy, pre-warmed mug. Most of the time I drink my coffee black.
Sometimes, though, it's fun to experiment. At other times it's a matter of
necessity or a happy accident. And occasionally this leads to a
revelation. A case in point: In a state of exhaustion on a long road trip I
mistakenly squirted French vanilla half-and-half into my steaming hot mug
of coffee. To my amazement, it hit the spot. I've since learned that other
folks pack flavored powdered coffee creamer along on every trip. It's
definitely worth a try.
Of course, some paddlers don't like coffee in any guise, and not
everyone wants to load up on java before hitting the sack. That's when an
old standby comes into its own
It's a traditional camp drink, and nowadays it's easy to make. Just add
boiling water to one of the packets of instant cocoa in your meez
bag. This is only the beginning, however. There are many variations.
Here are a just few:
Minty Hot Cocoa Put the
contents of a packet of instant cocoa into a mug. Then add a heaping
tablespoon of mint chocolate chips. Now pour boiling water into the mug and
stir. And where can you find mint chocolate chips? In the baking aisle at
the HyperMart, right next to regular chocolate chips, butterscotch chips,
and toffee chips. No luck? No problem! Crumble a couple of wafers of mint
chocolate candy (André's® is one widely distributed brand) into
your mug, instead. Or add 1/2 teaspoon of peppermint extract. Or just use a
peppermint candy cane as a stirrer. You'll get two treats in one.
Nutty Hot Cocoa Add 1/8
teaspoon of almond extract to each mug of cocoa, sprinkling toasted almond
slivers on top if you like your cocoa crunchy.
Extra Creamy Hot Cocoa Mix
a couple of teaspoons of powdered coffee creamer either plain or
flavored into the instant cocoa. Add boiling water, stir, and enjoy.
Hot Cocoa and
Marshmallows Toast one or two large marshmallows over the
fire and beat them into a cup of hot cocoa.
Spicy Hot Cocoa Place a
cinnamon stick in each mug of hot cocoa, then sprinkle a pinch each of
ground nutmeg and ground allspice on top. Or substitute powdered ginger for
the nutmeg and allspice.
Chocolate? Or coffee? Or can't you make up your mind? Then you'd better
Coffee AND Chocolate
True joe-heads will only drink instant coffee under duress. Still, there
are always times when it pays to break the rules. After returning from a
recent late-season outing on the River I wanted a cup of coffee right
now, so I burst the seal on a jar of instant that had been sitting
unopened in my cupboard for months. To begin with, I was hopeful. Boiling
water released the delightful aroma of fresh-brewed coffee. But my first
sip destroyed the illusion. Then I caught sight of some packets of cocoa
mix next to the jar of instant coffee. Into the cup went the contents of
one packet. I took another sip, and I immediately knew I had a winner. I
christened it Quick and Easy Choco-Java.
But I wanted more. I wanted
Even Better Choco-Java So
when I made my second cup I dropped in a couple of squares broken off from a
large dark-chocolate bar. Success! You may want to go even further down
this road, however, brewing fresh coffee and pouring it into a mug
containing a chunk of chocolate
or some chocolate chips. Stir well. Or maybe you'll want to go the whole
hog, and take the time to make
Choco-Java This silky, decadent drink ought to
satisfy the fussiest foodie. Make hot cocoa from scratch, using
Dutch-processed cocoa, granulated sugar, and fresh milk (if you can keep it from
"going off" on the trail, that is). Meanwhile, brew a strong pot of
your favorite coffee. Combine equal parts in a mug. Bliss!
But suppose you're one of those folks who don't care for either coffee
or chocolate? Don't despair. There's always
Heated, mulled apple cider is a favorite cold-weather drink. But keep
the cider chilled until you're ready to use it not a problem in
winter weather, obviously, and a thermos
flask will do the trick when it warms up. Here are three delicious
Spicy Cider Simmer cider
with a cinnamon stick and a few whole cloves. Strain out the cloves, then
serve in a mug with a sprinkle of ground nutmeg on top.
Citrus Cider Heat cider in
a pot, then pour into mugs. Squirt some reconstituted lemon juice into each
mug, stir, and enjoy. (This is the juice you'll find in plastic lemons in
the HyperMart. It doesn't need refrigeration.) Another way to get the
citrus tang is to pour hot cider into a mug containing a tablespoon of
Fresh Citrus Cider Pack in
a whole lemon
or orange. Cut the fruit into thick slices, working from one end to the
other, across the grain. Reserve one slice for each mug, and put the rest
into the pot with the cider. Heat the cider and fruit, then pour off the
hot cider into mugs. Garnish with the remaining slices of fruit. For a true
mulled cider, add a cinnamon stick and two or three whole cloves to the pot
before heating. Strain out the spices and fruit when you pour.
All right. You're of legal age. It's the end of a long day, and you're
done paddling (or driving). You're a little chilly, but you're not cold. A
flickering fire sends shadows dancing in the gathering dark. And you've got
a warm sleeping bag waiting for you. It's time to tip a bottle into your
mug of coffee or cocoa and
Raise Your Spirits
Rum is a traditional Canoe Country tipple, either light or dark
according to taste. Whisky Scotch, in other words is another
favorite. For sipping, I relish the smoky, peaty flavor of Laphroaig® or a
similar Islay single-malt, but a good blended whisky like Famous
Grouse is a better mixer. (You might prefer a different whiskey altogether, of
course: bourbon, say, or Irish.) In any case, both rum and whisky complement hot
chocolate and coffee, and while whipped cream is a rare treat once you
leave the put-in behind you, powdered creamer will do in a pinch.
Experiment. Liqueurs or flavored spirits can enhance a hot drink, too. Try
any of these: Bailey's® Irish Cream, Cointreau®, Grand
Marnier®, Kahlùa®, Tia Maria®, Frangelico®, or
Back to rum for a minute. Grog, or watered rum, was once the
traditional naval drink, as well as a staple of 19th-century arctic
exploration. Make this relic from the age of wooden ships and iron men with
Pusser's® dark rum. Mix two parts of CLEAN,
hot water with one part rum, then stir in granulated cane sugar and fresh
lime juice to taste. It's not everyone's idea of a nightcap, I admit, but
if you're among the few.
Though winter's grip on the northern hemisphere is deepening as I write,
it's not too soon to think about comfort foods for early-season
excursions. Of course, prudent paddlers test their recipes at home first,
just to be sure. And there's no better time to conduct such a test than on
a day when drifting snow is threatening to overtop your windowsills. That's
when a hot treat will lift your spirits like nothing else can. I guarantee
Copyright © 2007 by Verloren Hoop Productions. All rights