“The List”is another guest post by Marcia Messier. In case you missed her earlier posts, Marcia cooked at Munsey’s Bear Camp from 2003 to 2011 and has written some wonderful stories about her experiences. Marcia, Pat Munsey, and I are working on a cookbook, and Marcia’s stories will be included in that.
One of the toughest things to learn as a cook at a wilderness lodge is to plan ahead on groceries and to be flexible. During our summer trips, I e-mail the grocery order to the store, they fill it for us, and we receive the groceries on the plane with our next group of guests. Even when we do a perfect job of remembering everything we need, the grocery store may be out of something, or they may misunderstand what we want and replace it with what they think we want. For example, this summer we received our groceries, but there were no eggs. We checked the note from the store, and in neat hand writing beside my order of eggs, was the message that eggs were out of stock. I assure you, it is not easy to substitute for eggs, so Mary, our current cook, went into “creativity mode,” and I am certain none of our guests were any the wiser. Another example of adventures in e-mail grocery ordering was when Marcia cooked for us, and she asked me to order malted-milk balls, because she had a cookie recipe that called for them. When the order arrived, we were surprised to see that they sent us moth balls instead of malted-milk balls.
I think Marcia does a beautiful job summing up the never-ending adventure of ordering groceries in the Alaskan wilderness.
by Marcia Messier
A major grocery store has never been more than 10 minutes from my home. If the egg or bread supply is low, no problem, jump in the car and go to the store.
Robin taught me about planning ahead and “The List”. It was simple, notice when an item was low and write it down. Plan the weekly meals and make sure you can cover them. Groceries came from Kodiak on a float plane along with the guests, once a week, as long as the weather was flyable. If the grocery store in Kodiak didn’t have what was on the List, we didn’t get it, or we got some strange, useless replacement item. If produce was wilted and old, we got wilted and old, or none at all. I remember a young man who filled our orders at the grocery store in Kodiak one summer. I vowed when I got back to town, I would track him down, and I would speak to him about how his inattention to our List……made me a better cook!
There were instances, however, due to my own inattention, that I forgot to write items on the list and we had to do without that item until the next plane….for instance, eggs and bread! To my surprise, guests seemed to like sausage gravy and biscuits, piles of pancakes, apple crisp, potatoes, beans and breakfast meats. No one seemed to notice (or were too polite to mention) the absence of eggs on the table. At lunch, Focaccia bread sandwiches were wildly popular as a substitute for sliced store bread, when I failed to notice every last loaf in the freezer was gone. Maybe that had something to do with fish taking over my corner of the freezer…maybe not.
Now, once in a while there was something beyond my control that upset the menu. Something got into the soup? Open a few cans of canned soup and throw in a few odd spices…exotic! Veggies all torn up from a rough ride in the plane? Open a few cans of green beans and make a casserole…yum! Salad boring? Cold canned carrots and sliced onions in a vinegar dressing….surprisingly tasty!
Our guests were always happy and had a big appetites after being out on the water all day fishing and bear viewing with Robin and Mike. At the end of the day this made me happy too, and the List was forgotten, until tomorrow.