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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Lessons Learned - 1

I really don't remember the first things that I cooked.  I'm sure that it was helping my mom with cookies and breakfasts.  I know that we sometimes we would roast hot dogs, make smoores and cooked bananas with chocolate chips inside.  The first real independent cooking experience that I remember was also a learning experience.

I was twelve years old and had joined the local Boy Scout troop.  After a few meetings, the group was going to go on an overnight hike to Wallace Falls (near Gold Bar Washington).  Without much prior experience, I read my Scout manual cover to cover on how to cook in any condition including over an open fire.  I am now prepared for this adventure.

In planning and preparing for the hike, I raided my mom's kitchen for food that I could take with me.  I filled my backpack with everything I would need for my meals (and more) and off we went.  I think my World War II surplus pack weighed in at about 50 pounds.

It was a great day for the hike, the weather was very warm and we all changed into our shorts along the way.  We arrived at our campsite in mid afternoon and setup our "tent".  I don't think anyone in the troop had money for a real tent, so we used plastic sheeting and made a uni-lean-to.  A single sheet of plastic made the floor, up one side and then over the top for a roof.  Lots of twine was involved in this process.

We performed all the necessary camp activities to get settled in, then it was time to start our individual dinners.  I probably had some hot dogs to cook, I really don't remember the meal.  What I do remember is that I brought along a small can of pork and beans.  This was the 60's and there were no freeze-dried backpacking foods available.  We usually took what we could find in our homes including nice heavy cans of food.  In our campsite, we had a nice cooking fire going in the fire pit, which had a heavy metal grate covering.  I put my can of pork and bean on the grate (but not directly over the flame) to heat so it would be ready while I finished preparing the rest of my meal.  I left the fire to get some other part of my dinner that was in my knapsack inside the tent. 

All of a sudden, I heard an explosion like a small rifle.  Closely following this sound was the sound of small projectiles hitting the side and top of the tent!  Almost simultaneously was the commotion from one of the other boys that was near the fire cooking his food.  He seemed to be yelling about something hot and that something was burning.  It turns out the burning was coming from hot beans on his bare legs (remember that we were all wearing short pants).  I learned very quickly that you must poke a hole in a can before you heat the contents.  The explosion was the can bursting, and the projectiles were boiling hot beans sprayed out like shotgun pellets.  Fortunately (for me), the burns on the victim's legs were superficial and temporary and no holes were melted through the sides or top of the tent (which is a good thing as it rained that night).

Lesson learned - always open/vent items that are cooking.  This not only includes cans of beans but also items like potatoes and squash.

And to Mike Green, I truly am sorry about the leg, and for laughing so hard!

1 comment:

  1. Yes, that is really me in my scout uniform about 1969.