What is it that constitutes a favorite camp meal? Surely most of it is the taste and physical satisfaction received upon consuming it. Part of it, however, comes from the environment in which it is served and the memories associated with it. For example, a plate full of bacon is always good…but served with 6 hungry teenagers, uncles and aunts, all dressed in their hunting clothes, who have just come in from a cold morning tree stand hunt is even better.

Camp meals are an important part of the traditions that are passed on from one generation to the next. In our hunting camp, we typically have various meal choices during the first several days at camp ranging anywhere from sugary cereals to bacon and eggs to going out to dinner at a local hangout. The meals we eat at camp stretch from not even being close to healthy, to well let’s just not go there. Regardless of what we eat during the week, the last meal never changes. It consists of three main dishes: Steaks, fried potatoes and a token salad. It literally makes me salivate just writing about it!

My brother, Randy, always cooks the steaks—nobody can do it better. He gets the coals going outside while the music is jamming and the sun is going down. Family and friends, who are now cleaned up and out of their hunting clothes, loiter around the grill like a pack of hungry dogs just in case Randy wants to throw out a taste test. The aroma gets everyone’s attention. It is just too good to ignore. The steaks are always cooked to perfection and it seems like all of them are always medium rare. The plate just fills with juices.

My job is the fried potatoes. Bringing the vegetable oil to a strong boil and then adding the thinly sliced Idaho potatoes is just the beginning. Getting them to just the right color brown and then adding our own special rub while the potato is still damp with oil gives it a unique “to die for” flavor. Truth be told, if you ate it every night, it might just be to “die for”! My greatest challenge is to keep those passing through the kitchen from stealing the freshly fried potatoes. I am generous with the taste test because I know they can’t stand the wait, but I guard them tightly or we would have none for dinner.

Year after year after year…it is always the same and something that our children will always remember fondly. But that is not all that they will remember. They will remember the bonds that were created around a dinner table as the divisive topics of politics and world events are replaced with today’s hunting stories and tomorrow’s strategies. For thirty minutes the world stops and we are family and friends sharing most everything momentarily in common. We all want to harvest a big buck the next day and we are all interested in the conversations that will help us do just that.

When the camp meal finally comes to an end, the table is cleared by everybody and the dishes are washed by whomever’s turn it is to do so. Some friendly cards or a move into the living room where all of the deer mounts are located is next on the agenda. Relaxed conversations while staring up at the trophies on the wall from years gone by, finally leads tired but content hunters one-by-one to bed.

Truth be told, our family group would subsist on bark and berries to be able to have the blessing and privilege to be in the woods hunting. Passions are ignited when the instincts to hunt are freed. The camp meal would always taste good no matter where it was served…but the fact that it is served in this environment makes it special. Served year after year makes it tradition…a tradition that tastes soooo good that time stands still and for just a few fleeting moments, the world is somewhere else and what matters most is seated with you around the table.

Now enough chitter chatter…would somebody bring me the vegetable oil?!

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