Northwoods Shore Lunch14295 Canadian Border Road Ely, MN 55731 (218)-365-6010
As the mid-day sun begins its westward slide towards the jagged spruce lined shores, and our stringers are heavy with gold (walleye gold); we sense our knees and backs deserve a break and a well earned stretch. It is now time for that traditional lake country feast!
The bows of the canoes slip under the shoreline shade and are soon beached under the white birch and evergreen canopy. Nearby the water's edge lies a weathered granite fire ring. A crackling blaze soon flares, started with dry cedar limbs then fed pieces of jackpine and spruce, split by an old Norlund guide axe. Ancient and well seasoned steel skillets are pulled from the trail worn canvas Duluth pack and placed over the flames. Soon one skillet sputters with thin sliced potatoes and onions; another simmers rich baked beans, and in the last, licked by the fire's flames, a square of lard melts. Once the 'taters' are turned, the other skillet spits and sizzles as the lightly breaded, snow white walleye fillets are dropped one by one into the hot fat. When clipped balsam boughs are draining two skillets worth of the golden brown fillets, a couple of grey jays (known locally as camp robbers) conveniently appear, ringing the dinner bell with their loud, comical squawking. The blackened coffeepot once again is heard perking its two-note melody. The potatoes, now crispy, are piled high on the dented tin plates with the delicate fillets laid along side the thick and spicy beans. Not a word is uttered between the rhythmic lifting of forks and mugs of steaming coffee. Slices of homemade, thick crusted bread nearly clean the plates and always, a crust is left for the still squawking jays. As the fire is doused, the steam and smoke dance upwards twirling through the pine boughs, and fingers of sunlight can be seen piercing the campsite as if reaching for a last tasty morsel.
I recall one day, early in my guiding career; an oldtimer came to me on the dock; a woodsman of yesteryear, and he told me, "Don, keep your clients warm and dry, keep them smiling and full of expectations, but above all else- keep them well fed with good food!" That's been good advice! Even after full days of paddling, portaging, and fishing, don't be surprised if you gain some weight. If you do go to bed hungry, ever, on one of my trips, then you aren't cleaning your plate. I take great pride in my campfire abilities.
- Donald Beans 2003