Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Camping Journal

Day 1. Sunday.  I arrived at the Washington Island Campground at about 4:00 pm. The camp office was staffed by the manager’s daughter, about ten years old. Her business acumen is still developing. I told her which unit I had reserved, and she believed me. She said she didn’t know how to use the credit card device, so I said I would pay later. She was okay with that. It’s a very trusting environment. If this girl becomes President some day, it will revolutionize the way Washington works.

Camping has various degrees of simplicity. I had chosen medium, a cabin measuring about ten by fifteen feet. It provides more amenities than a tent: electricity, a water faucet, a roof to keep out the rain, dorm size refrigerator, small microwave oven, and fewer amenities than a popup camper or RV.  The rest room is down the path.  

I wanted simplicity, but brought with me a cell phone and laptop computer. I see this as a compromise with nature. As Thoreau once said, paraphrased, “We don’t ride the train. The train rides us.”

For supper I cooked canned beef stew on the electric burner I brought with me, and ate raw green beans on the side. No campfire. No toasted marshmallows. Afterward, I compromised with simplicity again and watched a DVD on my laptop computer, Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. Then I went to bed in my sleeping bag on the bed with foam mattress that came with the cabin. Windows were open. It was dark and quiet.

Day 2. Monday.  I have neighbors in the two cabins next to mine, two pickup truckloads of people including many children. The adults speak a language that is not English, French or Spanish. The kids speak very good English. They have filled their picnic tables with dishes and food and left it there with no apparent concern about wildlife joining the party.

I took the Karfi ferry to Rock Island, with a boatload of people, and stayed there until 3:00. I love Rock Island. The state owns all of it except the coast guard lighthouse at the north end. It has a primitive campground, where people bring in everything they need, including food. I walked to the lighthouse (uphill most of the way) and once again took in the current docent’s tour. Docents change weekly, and they don’t work with scripts. This docent said that some of the tour guides might make up some facts about the lighthouse. That makes it very interesting.

I walked back to the boathouse and ate lunch, which included raw carrots and cucumber, plus a container of Atkins diet drink. Then I enjoyed some time at the beach, which is better than any of the beaches on Washington Island. Today it was calm and the water was about as warm as Lake Michigan gets. Plenty of people were there on the sand beach and in the water. Some nearby people offered me a glass of wine. People here are nice.

Back on Washington Island, I drove to the local bakery and used its wi-fi while eating cherry pie. Hardly anyone was there. The person on duty said everyone was at the beach because it was hot. Hot for this place is in the eighties. After another canned meal with veggies at the campground, I watched another DVD in the evening, Founding Brothers, based on the book by Joseph Ellis. Camping alone results in some activites that might not happen with other people, such as watching movies. There is no one to argue with.

Day 3. Tuesday.  One good thing about being out in the woods is that nothing much matters. I can sleep as late as I want to without the cat waking me for breakfast. It was another warm day. I went for a walk in the morning. Relaxation is happening. I don’t care about life back home. It feels good.

I went to a local beach for a while and listened to distant thunder before finally leaving. The lake water there was fouled with dead and dying vegetation, the reason for which is not within the scope of this document.  I went back to the bakery for more wi-fi and pie. The rain poured down while I was there. After it stopped, I returned to the campground, which was dry. A few drops of rain came down for a while. More canned food and fresh veggies for supper. More neighbors arrived near me.

I have been enjoying a book today, Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy, by Chris Hayes, who is one of the commentators on MSNBC. It is about corruption and failure of our American institutions. He is a very bright person. He says that the US has replaced European and East coast aristocracy with meritocracy, which is based on people gaining power and prestige through their merits. He also says that the deck is stacked so that the people at the top, with the most “merit” stay at the top, and people with less opportunities or brain power stay at the bottom, and the gap is widening. He points out that education is a big factor in this scenario. Exclusive private schools set up the people who will have the control. Needless to say, this is not democracy. I am less than halfway through the book. While on the road, I listened to a parallel audiobook, Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: The Story of Success. From the first half of this, I gleaned that success in life can be attributed to when a person was born relative to social changes, and some other things. I will hear the remainder on the way home.

Today wasn’t filled with activity. The kids in the bilingual party have been riding their bikes around the campground and enjoying the man made lake. I notice that the campers here prefer amenities to simplicity. The end of the campground that is set aside for tents is nearly empty. Some cabin and RV sites are occupied. This campground must make its money on weekends.

Day 4. Wednesday.  It’s time to go home. Checkout time is 11:00. Goodbye to the woods and not caring. Goodbye to the ten year old girl who check me in and will some day be President. She also cleans the outhouse and drives around in a golf cart. Hello to the other world.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Cherry Cobbler – Gluten Free, Dairy Free

Old fashioned fruit cobbler is a favorite dessert of mine, even though it contains the big three of bad-for-us ingredients: sugar, fat and salt.  Cobbler is thickened fruit covered with sweetened biscuit topping. Cobbler is simple and unsophisticated, with no difficult ingredients. Except one: white flour. White flour is everywhere but is not okay for people who don’t tolerate it, such as daughter Sarah. So, here is how we enabled Sarah to eat this dessert along with daughter Dede/Dori,  granddaughter Dana, and me.

Red tart cherries are ripe in northern Illinois, I learned from my friend Tom, who picked some and gave them to me via my daughter Dede/Dori, who visited me last weekend.  And so we made cherry cobbler. We had two roadblocks to navigate. First, someone had to pit all those cherries. Second, in order for Sarah to be able to eat the cobbler, we needed substitutes for the all purpose wheat flour and cow milk.

Dede/Dori and I pitted the cherries (she pitted most of them), and Sarah supplied us with a box of gluten free Bisquick.  Normally I don’t recommend using prepared mixes like Bisquick, but it worked for our cobbler. Its main ingredient is rice flour. Since the Bisquick mixture already contained leavening and some sugar, I needed to modify the cobbler recipe in my old fashioned cookbook.  Here is what we created, with input from The Betty Furness Westinghouse Cook Book, published in 1954.

Cherry Cobbler – Gluten Free

Find your 2-quart casserole dish or 8x8 inch baking dish and grease it. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

1 cup sugar
¼ cup brown rice flour
½ teaspoon cinnamon
3 cups fresh cherries (see below for canned cherries alternative).
Mix sugar, flour and cinnamon and blend with cherries. Pour it into the baking dish.

Make dough:
2 cups gluten free Bisquick
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
½ cup shortening
¾ cup white almond milk (cow milk works too)
Stir the Bisquick, salt and sugar together. Cut and blend in the shortening until the mixture is crumbly. Stir in the almond milk and mix only enough to blend the ingredients. Roll it to the size of your baking pan if it is dry enough and place it on top of the cherry mixture. If the dough is too wet to roll, distribute it by spoonfuls evenly onto the cherries. Sprinkle a little sugar over the top. Bake it for 25-30 minutes until it is somewhat brown.

This is good plain or with ice cream or whipped cream.

For canned unsweetened cherries: Use 2 cups canned cherries with ¾ cup juice and blend with sugar, flour and cinnamon and proceed as above.
Also, you can easily substitute wheat for the gluten free ingredients, and milk for the almond milk. I haven't used regular Bisquick for many years, so don't know if it will perform well in this recipe.
Door County cherries are my preference when they are ripe.