Archive for March, 2016

Has Your Family Tried Em?


Last week, we hosted our East Coast friend Mitch for a couple of nights. He is also the  father-in-law to my daughter Maren. Employed in the food additive industry, he was making his maiden voyage to Minnesota for business.  When he shared he was coming we eagerly invited him to stay overnight with us.

To many who reside on the East and West Coasts, the Midwest, particularly Minnesota, is practically uncivilized. Mitch emailed a tongue-in-cheek response to our invitation. “ Ah—–you make it tempting but I have some concerns-just a few amenities I am wondering about like Wi-Fi, running water, indoor plumbing (not an outhouse), GMO foodstuffs and a beer.”

 He rented a car at the airport and with the help of a voice on his phone directing him right up our driveway, he was able to find our frontier sidewalk. Halfway up the walk,  I met his generous smile with a Minnesota bear hug.

“Wow! You guys live out in the middle of nowhere!” He paused to glance into the woods that surrounds our Basecamp and painfully exclaimed, “You don’t have any neighbors!”

Stabbing my finger to the west, I continued, “Petersons are over there, just across the field.” Spinning my pointing finger 180° to the east I said, “And through the woods over there, are the Nelsons.” With a final pointing adjustment I finished, “And over across that field in the woods are the Engdahls.”


Mitch got settled in. After enjoying a local craft beer in front of the flickering fire in the wood burning kitchen stove, I ladled steaming quaffs of select chunks of venison that had slow-cooked on the wood-fired stove with home-grown garlic, organic tomatoes and onions, home-baked beans, bourbon, red wine, and a host of spices into Viking-sized bowls. It was his first introduction to venison and he was mesmerized by Nancy sharing her story of bagging the deer with bow and arrow.

After a delightful evening of eating and consuming family news, I banked the fire with more wood and we headed up to bed.

Unbeknownst to him the following morning’s breakfast was actually inspired by Mitch.

A little background is required here. About forty years ago, after Mitch graduated with an entomology degree (the study of insects), he found employment in the field of pest control in New York City. I could go on with some horrifying tales he shared of his experience but those should be told by him.

Since I wrote several regional editions of Things that Bite (mostly insect biters) Mitch and I have shared a common bond with each other in our interest of insects. I was pleased when he mailed me an unexpected gift this past December. It was a recently published book titled Entomolgoical Gastronomy with the subtitle, A Gastronomical Approach to Entomophagy by Addison Holt. (Entomophagy is the practice of eating insects.)

Here is where most readers will pause with a “Yuck!” The idea of intentionally eating insects is particularly repulsive to most folks in our western society.

Last year, a United Nations report was released that is entitled Edible Insect Future Prospects for Food and Feed Security. The extensive report explains why it might be time, with a global population of over seven billion people, and still climbing, to consider a new protein base of insects. Direct input costs and increased demands on natural resources cost far less in cultivating insect protein than  raising traditional livestock such as beef, pork or poultry.

According to a 2011 report in the Renewable and Sustainable Energy Review, more than ten times more plant nutrients are needed to produce one kilogram (2.2 pounds) of meat than one kilogram of insect biomass. And it turns out that crickets are the hands down winner in water requirements compared to other conventional meats, eggs and plants.

With climate change forcing millions of refugees to move to already crowded areas, there are increased land use pressures, food shortages and environmental degradation. Moving towards a greater dependence on insect protein will lessen our demands on natural systems.

For our morning breakfast with Mitch it was fitting that we have flaky cricket biscuits to accompany our eggs and veggies. Knowing that there are several U.S. companies jumping on the insect-eating train, I had purchased the cricket meal online after learning that Mitch was coming to visit.


In using the cricket powder you blend it with the wheat flour. If the recipe calls for a cup of flour you use 2/3 cup of flour with 1/3 cup of cricket powder. The result was a brown biscuit that was slightly darker than a whole wheat biscuits.

Without knowing anything of the biscuit’s ingredients, Mitch “yummed”over the hot biscuits. I suppressed a smile and wondered, “Hey Mitch, let’s see if this flour is GMO free.” I got up and retrieved the packet of cricket meal from the cupboard and brought it to the table for Mitch to read. His response in discovering the cricket ingredient, was not so startling as I hoped it might be. Instead he was genuinely intrigued.

We all agreed that the gluten-free, high-protein biscuits were very tasty with a distinct nutty flavor.

I have one biscuit remaining and now I am wondering if I should build a small shed where I can raise thousands of crickets for consumption. The benefits would be appetizing and sensorial. Hearing summer cricket music through an open bedroom window could be the perfect white noise to lull me to sleep.

Super Tuesday in the Big Quiet


snowsh tip 2


One of the benefits of spending days out in the bush is the privilege of forgetting about time and dates.

A caterwauling stomach is really the only timepiece required for knowing when to eat. And the frequency of stretching yawns pushes you towards your sleeping bag. Hours later, a tickling bladder is your silent morning alarm clock.

But I tend to write dates in my journal so I was aware that it was Tuesday, and not just any Tuesday: It was Super Tuesday. A handful of states were caucusing to decide how the hefty collection of presidential candidates would fare in the race towards their political party’s respective summer conventions.

We had pulled our gear into this wild stretch of lakeshore 6-7 miles from our truck. and the closest caucus from our BWCA winter camp was in Grand Marais, Minnesota, some 40 miles distant. But we nonetheless had a Super Tuesday. The candidates for being “Present of our Inner States” were of the boreal nature.

After a hearty breakfast we loaded three sleds with fishing gear, ice auger, extra clothes, survival fanny packs and plenty of lunch food. Our quiet caucus was nearly two miles away across a couple of portage trails.

Our spirits were high when we hit the first portage and discovered that no people had been here for a long time. The only tracks we found were the soft crisscrossing hops of snowshoe hares, the post-holing strides of an unhurried moose, and the single file tracks of a group of wolves.

I suspected that this was no Super Tuesday for the wolves who must spend most of their days in a state of perpetual hunger. Then I considered how my earlier breakfast served me well and my stomach was not hollowing yet.

After climbing a long forested slope we emerged onto a serene lake surface, broken only by the characteristic “dot-dash-dot” spoor of an otter as it loped a few bounds before sliding on its belly before returning to the loping gait.


I wondered how does this aquatic weasel gain access to the brook trout calories beneath the 20+ inches of ice?

Our already Super Tuesday got even better after we augured a few holes through the ice and began the business of angling.

Nancy built a lively campfire to roast bratwurst. After a few hours of fishing we noted the arc of the west-wending sun so we packed up and headed back. Will the otter, whose tracks delighted us, discover our augured ice fishing holes and slip into its own version of an aquatic pantry?

While we had lightened our load of lunch we had added a brace of colorfully speckled brook trout. One was 16 inches and the other, a dandy at 21 inches.

snowshs brookie 2

The day had not been so super for them.

The return trip was much faster now that we had both a downhill aspect and a broken trail to follow. With the sun painting the surrounding hills butter yellow and our shadows taking on the cold dark blue that precedes the black of night, we pulled our sleds for an hour and a half to get back to base camp.  The caucus continued behind canvas walls, just beneath a star studded sky that seemed to hang just out of reach.

I filleted the brookies quickly in the dim twilight, cut the orange flesh into pieces and hurried inside the tent. They swam their last swim in a frying pan spitting with hot oil and onions. While the fish fried, Nancy put the carcasses into plastic bags to render into a rich fish soup once we returned home.

frying trout

An hour later, fully sated around the small wood-burning stove, we wallowed in the day’s memories and looked forward to a Super Wednesday.

And most importantly, no one wondered aloud of anything remotely close to politics.

late pm snowshoe trail