Watching the World Cup this morning, I noticed the Coca-cola advertisement around the field which in turn triggered a neuron to misfire leaving a gap in my conscious thought .... coke gravy. Oh, dear, we are back to food where this whole thing started.
He loved to entertain at home, in a duck blind, on a river bank or a goose pit. "Let's take a camp stove or a backpackers stove and have fresh" fish, duck, doves .... whatever. In May and June, many times he would be cleaning fish as I was catching them. Now, please understand there would be accompaniments ..... prepared slaw, sliced tomatoes, sliced onions, tartar sauce, lemons, but french fries right out of the pan. All this to share the taste of fresh fried battered fish in Nature's glory. Of course, sitting on the ground was not ideal due to ticks, ants, etc. Sometimes advanced prep work was done ..... a desired spot, with the right view, might require clearing of debri, cut the grass, create a table for the cloth. Everything was on a rustic grand scale. I recall wondering where he actually came from, this classy romantic fella and how I was so lucky to be part of his life. I digress. Sometimes this was a bribe to coerce the boys to join us; but other times we had invited friends along for "an afternoon on the river". What fun!
Fall brought on Dove Shoots. The menu was simple Fried Dove Breast, Sliced Tomatoes, Rice, Milk Gravy all cooked on site. Yep, we used the same equipment; however, rather than a cool river bank, generally it was a hot Alabama or Tennessee afternoon looking for a shady tree. OR, he had provided a table and chairs from the van. I was tempted once to inquire if the Silver Service or the candlesticks would be used but immediately thought better keeping my mouth shut. Sometimes it's best to be surprised ..... pleasantly so. Floating the creek in a canoe for Squirrels was often concluded with wine and cheese served by paddle drifting back to the van.
Deer camp was a full blown event with Dutch Ovens [that's plural and often stacked] as it is for many folks. But Duck hunting, what idiot would think of it much less decide to do IT!!! First off, you're up at 3 a.m., dressed and in the van by 3;30, sleep til 4: 20, arrive at Mr. Barby's farm. Slip canoes off racks, load them, then drag across muddy field to flood timbers. Thank goodness the boys were there to help. Or, another option and this mornings destination would be the coal shute at Coffee Lake and "the narrows". Who in their right mind would even consider cooking. We had guest coming; well, of course we did .... a friend and his wife who was as much an outdoorsman as I am an Astronaut. So, of course, "himself" must make an event of it. "We'll have Fried Duck Breast with Rice and Gravy". You did note that was a statement not a question ...... good. The one thing I have not mentioned is the temperature. It's cold outdoors in January just in case you were confused and still thinking of the river bank in May. Ducks migrate when the temperature drops, a lot. This particular day was "brisk" to say the least. Nonetheless, out come the backpacker stoves and all are very impressed. The last thing to make is the gravy ..... quietly he inquired as to the canned milk. As I had not been part of the packing process and as generally my responsibilities were to "just get me in the van and go back to sleep" .... guess said milk was still in the kitchen. Well, not to be undone, we inventoried our supply of liquids. Caffine Free Diet Coke was the sum total. Funny what carbonation does to a roux [oil and flour]. I will say, after much stirring, adding massive amounts of pepper and some salt, he served us all our repass. He ate 3 helpings of rice and coke gravy that day. Sorry, but my vocabulary is insufficent to truly express the taste sensation and we rarely spoke of it for a few years; after which, we all joked and laughed about that day's outcome.
That's the truth about coca-cola gravy. You know, if memory serves, our friend's wife did not return to the field for another Duck Hunt, ever. Am pretty sure it was the cold not the gravy. WOW, life was full. Hummmm, think I'm about ready for a cup of tea .......