Before I go, I have something to say

Roughing It

I’m sitting in a cabin in Crested Butte, Colorado, surrounded by the most spectacular scenery you could hope to vacation in. We’ve got mountains to the left, mountains to the right, and some of them are even snowcapped, right in the middle of summer. We picked this cabin, as we often do, from its web page description, and it sounded just right for our needs. We really don’t ask for much – running water, a stove and fridge, reliable electricity, stuff like that.

As you know if you’ve been reading this column for any amount of time, my husband and I have been going to a cottage in the woods of northern Wisconsin for the past five years. We go in mid to late May, right when his college teaching duties are done for the year. So this year, we’ve already been and gone. It was as lovely as always.

My more alert readers will notice that I just called the place we go in Wisconsin a “cottage” and the place we’re in now a “cabin.” How do I explain the difference without sounding, ahem, like a spoiled princess? In Wisconsin, the cottage is larger and furnished with overstuffed furniture and finely polished tables, yet nothing overly fancy. The floors are all natural wood, as are the walls and ceilings, and the windows have miniblinds and lace valances. There’s no dishwasher – what a thing to expect! – but the sink is a double one.

Here, the floors are dark wood planks, and the railings to the loft look like tree trunks. Perhaps they once were. The curtains are homespun cotton and don’t exactly fit. The sink is a single, which I find challenging to do dishes in. The décor is Wild West, featuring Annie Oakley, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, a sign over the toilet that declares “Cowboys Leave the Seat Up!” and a sign advertising for a “Good Woman” that is so lame I am not going to dignify it by quoting it here. There are also two cow skulls and four cowboy hats on the walls.

To me, we’re roughing it. Having no microwave means we have to put food in a pot or a skillet and reheat it, then wash the pot or skillet in the aforementioned single sink. Also, there are no non-stick skillets or pots here. I know this sounds whiny, but have you tried frying an egg lately in a regular skillet? Trust me, it can’t be done. No matter how low I keep the flame or how much butter I throw in the pan, the egg sticks to the bottom and turns to an unholy mess when I try to flip it or remove it. Maybe it’s the altitude.

This morning I was so desperate I made my first old-fashioned poached egg. At home, I have this cool little egg poacher that consists of a base where you put the water, a cup where you put the egg (after first buttering the heck out of it), and a lid. I may be the only person in Dubuque who owns one of these, let alone uses it every morning, but trust me, it’s great. I would have brought it along, but my kitchen is undergoing the Joy of Renovation (remind me to write about that later) so it was nowhere to be found.

I had just purchased a new cookbook and actually read about poaching eggs the old fashioned way, so I thought I’d give it a whirl. After bringing a skillet of water to a simmer, with great trepidation, I slid a raw egg in. Fearing I would have tasteless egg drop soup, I watched the whites turn whiter and the yolk just sort of sit there. As it happened, the yolk stuck to the bottom of the skillet a bit – I swear, this skillet has it in for me – but in the end, it turned out okay. Edible, which is all I ask for.

I’m trying to be a good sport and get into this roughing it thing. I am a former Girl Scout, after all, and I went to Camp Conestoga for six years running and found it enjoyable, at least when I wasn’t crying myself to sleep because I missed my mom, dad, cat, and sister, in roughly that order.

Which reminds me. One of the coolest things I learned how to do at camp was to make bacon and eggs over a campfire. Here’s how you do it. First you get some bacon, an egg, and a paper lunch bag. You cut the bacon so it just covers the bottom of the bag. Then you break the egg over the bacon. Finally, you tie the top of the bag with twine and attach it to a long, substantial stick, which you hold over a bed of coals. You dangle it there until the bacon cooks, which also cooks the egg. When it’s done – don’t ask how you know when this is; I had counselors to advise me on this – you peel away the top part of the bag, put the bottom part on a plate, and dig in. Yum.

Now that I am married and take less camp-like vacations, I do have options. Just last night, we drove into town and I had Rocky Mountain trout and roast fingerling potatoes, and a lemon tart with fresh blackberriesfor dessert. Then we went to see “Public Enemies” at the local theater, because there’s no TV at our cabin and we were hungry for some AV entertainment. After a week of Roy Rogers, seeing Johnny Depp was a treat for the eyes. Isn’t roughing it fun?

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