In the Tent: Wild cooking
October 18, 2006
There were four guys among us, we’d been out goofing off in canyon country for four days and eating a lot of gorp, nuts and oatmeal. It was time for grilled steak. Our final night’s dinner would be a meaty, marbled celebratory feast.The repast would occur at the Fisher Towers campground, overlooking the Colorado River from the base of the sandstone monoliths. We stopped in Moab for the steaks, some portobello mushrooms and zucchini. It was sunny, about 5 p.m., and there was beer and single-malt scotch in the cooler.On the way back to the campsite, however, I noticed thunderheads to the north. By the time we reached the campground, the clouds were disturbingly dark, and forked lightning was striking the mesa about 20 miles distant.Now may be our only chance, we thought, so two guys started to work on the fire, and two others the food. But just as our bed of coals began to glow, the first band of rain started across the valley, preceded by whirling dust clouds. It clobbered us first with a big gust and then with hail. My unstaked tent (oops!) nearly blew away through the piñons. We piled into the car – beer and scotch in hand – to watch the spectacle. Our coals died after a few minutes of violent rain, but the pounding rain and lightning were great to watch.A half-hour passed before the clouds lifted. We gave the fire another try, and were foiled by a second howling squall. Back to the car, this time with a bag of mixed nuts.Should we give up and head to a Moab restaurant? Not after the beer and scotch. Should we pan-fry the steaks in the tent? No – pan-frying these beauties would be a sin. Should we just finish the booze and go to bed hungry? It looked desperate.But, the rain lifted again and we sprang into action, splitting firewood, applying olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic to the veggies. All was heaved onto the grill before the kindling had dissolved into coals, but the impromptu searing (punctuated by light rainfall) actually worked well.Just as the rain really settled in, we grabbed all the goodies – steak, zucchini, mushrooms, another round of beers – and dove back into the warmth of the car with our headlamps. It was a righteous feast, despite the steel and glass environs.We climbed into our bags, fat and happy, just before midnight.