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I'll be out of town chasing willy walleyes at Temple Bay lodge, Eagle Lake, Ontario CA till the 24th. Any Canadian Extropians in the area stop by for a beer.
The Joys of a Classic Canadian Shore Lunch
by Mike Schoonveld
No one knows who was the first to invent the meal or how it became a Canadian tradition, but there is no finer feast available to humans on this continent than the Canadian Shore Lunch. It may not be the most nutritious or healthy of meals, but there's no denying it's delicious beyond description.
Shore lunch is much more than just stopping along a lake and frying up the morning's catch. Perhaps it started that way, but it has developed into a ritual as much as a meal, and each part of the ritual helps make up the shore lunch experience.
The lunch site should always be on an exposed shoreline or on an island in the lake. There should be trees nearby to assure plenty of firewood, but the site itself should be on exposed granite of the Canadian Shield. The spruce, aspen, birch, and other trees along the lake shores of north-country lakes are more scenic than functional as shade trees, and bugs and blackflies live in what shade they produce. Regardless, summer days in the bush don't gain their full heat until midafternoon anyway, so a lunch in the sun always feels good.
The cook fire is a snap to build. Several long-dead trees, four or five inches in diameter, are gathered from the woods behind the lunch site and arranged on the granite, some pointing one way, some the other, with their butt ends overlapping. The fire is started where the overlap occurs. As the fire burns the ends down it's a simple matter to push the unburned portion of the logs farther into the fire.
Don't worry about gathering tinder, kindling, or finding the driest firewood. A splash of gas from the outboard motor tank as a fire-starting aid is as much part of the shore lunch ritual as cooking the pork and beans in the can.
Besides the beans, the simple menu includes fried potatoes and onions and batter-dipped fish filets, cooked in cast iron skillets. What you drink is optional. Some choose a can of pop or beer, others opt for a fire-boiled pot of coffee on chilly days. I usually am happy with plain water, dipped straight from the lake with a tin cup. There's nothing like being able to drink the water from the lake you are fishing to prove you are in the wilderness.
The fire isn't allowed to burn down to coals as we were taught in Boy Scouts. This is a meal cooked by men following the tradition: "When it's smoking it's cooking, when it's black it's done." Actually, the type of trees burned in shore lunch cook fires don't produce long-lasting coals like oak and hickory fires in the Midwest do.
Besides, no one likes waiting for fires to burn down to coals before starting to cook. This is a lunch break, which though enjoyable while it lasts, needs to end within a reasonable time since there are more fish to be caught in the afternoon hours.
The traditional shore lunch always features walleye. I've substituted northern pike, smallmouth bass, perch, and lake trout on occasion--and though good, they weren't the same. Walleye are the best.
While the campfire is started, the fish are filleted. Keeping with tradition, use a boat paddle for the fillet table and you'll be doing shore lunch properly.
Once the fish are cleaned, cast iron skillets are placed on the fire (the burning logs balance the heavy loads nicely), and a brick of lard is dropped into each fry pan to melt. (Lard is as traditional as walleye. A northwoods vacation is about forgetting the everyday cares of the world, and worries about cholesterol, saturated or unsaturated fats, and the like are part of what I like to forget while I'm there. Substitute vegetable shortening if you must--but don't expect the results to be the same.)
While the lard is melting, the potatoes and onions are sliced, and once they are bubbling away in the hot grease, prepare the fish batter. Each fishing guide has his own secret recipe--usually containing bread or cracker crumbs, evaporated milk, salt, pepper, and secret ingredients which may range from rye whiskey to cayenne pepper. Cans of pork and beans are opened and set near the fire--be sure to leave the lid attached to the can, it becomes the handle to the tin-can cookpot. The potatoes and onions take a bit longer to cook than the fish, but by the time the fillets are battered, the spuds will have gotten a good head start. When the pieces of fish start turning brown along their edges, it's time to turn them over in the hot grease, and in another minute or two they'll be ready to eat.
Clean-up is a snap. Either burn the lard in the fire before dousing it or simply dump it into a depression in the granite for bears to clean up. The empty bean cans and other items are carried out and the fire is extinguished with lake water.
Once you've experienced a Canadian Shore Lunch, you understand how eating meals is more than just providing sustenance to your body, and you appreciate more fully the call of the northland, the call of the wilderness.
Member, Extropy Institute
Member, Life Extension Foundation
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