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Food Tales

The "We hope these are tall tales" Department

Since NCPR is requesting 'Food from the North Country' stories and the like. I interviewed and typed up two from some people I know. Jeff Luoma

Paul Runyon- Carthage. Age 39

I have a memory of food that involved outdoor work, the beauty of watching snow turn to slush, and frozen fingers (or burnt if you were on the fire duty). When I was a boy, my father made us create a special treat we were only allowed to make and eat once a year. In early spring, we would take a weekend and go harvest beech tree buds that were just beginning to swell - no twigs, just the buds. We would harvest perhaps a gallon of these. Then we would tap yellow birch trees to get the last few dregs of sap. (My father was convinced that the later sap was more 'concentrated' and better for you.) We would boil the buds and the sap down together over an open fire fed by dead branches we had to go wade through the slush to collect. Then the whole slightly syrupy but mostly charred remains would be deep-fried in oil collected from squeezed stream trout that had been caught over the winter. We would be made to eat these like granola in the morning but without milk or anything until they were all gone. After several years of doing this, Dad finally allowed us to at least sprinkle some powdered sugar over the whole thing. The end result tasted like stale slightly sweet and very crunchy Cheetos but without the salt or anything, and usually a little chewy ball of sap left in your mouth after choking down the burned bits. I'm carrying on this tradition with my children because I had to do it and I'll be damned if they are going to get away with not doing it!

Susie Terwilliger - Brasher Falls. Age 32. 5'4". 320 lbs.

I remember that every Saturday, and Friday, and sometimes other days we have a favorite dessert that we eat, sometimes not even having dinner, just this dessert. We called it 'Dessert for Dinner!' We go to the store and buy Reece's Pieces, mini-marshmallows, M&Ms (peanut), regular marshmallows, fluff, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, hot fudge, Rice Krispies, Cherry syrup, and just a pinch of salt for balance. My brother put in Count Chocula but he's weird that way. We hollow out the center of half-gallon ice-cream containers, add the ice cream in the mix, then pour it back in the center of the half-gallon ice creams. Diet soda helps for when your throat gets too thick. Each person gets their own half-gallon, though I usually eat three. After eating this we all sit and watch television together until we fall asleep. This was my dad's favorite food until he died from diabetes complications at age 44. My mom continued the tradition until she died from clogged arteries a few years later. I'm keeping the tradition alive for the sake of family together time. After my gastric by-pass surgery next month, I hope I can still eat my normal three containers. My kids love this tradition and are taking to it like pigs to a trough! If I have to go to just one a night, I think I'll still be honoring our family dessert-dinner tradition.


North Country Food Book page

Best and Worst Meals

Most Memorable: Opening Day and a Fork

"For camp meat purposes, any deer that has had its feet in the snow is no good to eat."

Place: Hunting camp, southern Adirondacks
Occasion: Opening day hunting season...err maybe the day after.
Dish: No dish...just a roasting pan with a bunch of guys gathered round.

The primary premise of this meal is based on the old saying among native Adirondack deer hunters that ... "For camp meat purposes, any deer that has had its feet in the snow is no good to eat." This premise, though spurious in it's scientific integrity was, however, a firmly held belief among at least some of the guys in my deer hunting group back in the "good ol days," (for me, the 70's).

Needless to say, there may or may not be some question as the the game-law legality of this depends on when it was eaten...opening day...not likely. Anytime thereafter..maybe, depending on the group having an antlerless deer "party permit."
To the details: The best culinary expert must also be a good shot and is assigned the task of aquiring the meat as well as cooking it. On this particular adventure our normal group had a guest with both these qualifications. The evening before the meal we were delighted to arrive at camp after a hard day of fruitlessly hunting unqualified deer to find our guest had indeed bagged the perfect specimen. He was busy preparing the roasting pan...not a particulary large one. He placed a towel over the entire hind-quarter that fit the pan just right and proceeding to pour copious amounts of "Lake Niagra" wine all over it.

This was left in a cool corner not too close to the stove with periodic rebasting overnight. The next day of hunting our guest stayed in camp roasting that little darling verrrry slow, while adding carrots, yams, potatoes etc all at the right times to make the group meal come together.
Nobody used a plate, or a fact our chef didn't even set the table...why bother. He just put the roasting pan and its contents in the middle and we grabbed forks, gathered round and dug in. Ahhhhh, how I remember shredding off the most succulant morsals imaginable with the side veggies for palate cleansing. For that evening, at least, heaven came down and visited an Adirondack hunting camp.

Rev. Mark W. Clark, Au Sable Forks

Worst Ever Wings

My family and I spent a glorious week in the backcountry of the St. Regis Canoe Area, paddling, fishing, swimming, camping, hiking, and generally enjoying the remote beauty of the lakes and ponds. On our last day my thoughts began to turn to dinner in a local restaurant. As we finished our trip pangs of hunger led us to the first restaurant we came to, a local pizza and sub shop. My taste buds were ready for pizza with all the fixings! However we were informed that there was no pizza available that night. So we opted for wings. Well these were the hottest of the hot wings my mouth had ever tasted. Since I always opt for the mildest of the mild in any type of food, I found myself drooling at the thought of "real" food again, but in reality I just couldn't eat these wings! The celery and ranch dip were my favorite part of this meal. My family and I still laugh about our experience at this restaurant. Maybe our backpacking meals really are the best!

C. Cyr