Sunday, April 13, 2014

Ah, the memories of you like it rough?

Okay, I grew up with a Daddy who sold used cars and at one time, Open Road Campers.  We had the best camping trips...with the near luxury of home if you count cramped drop down beds from the ceiling and cans flying out of pantry cabinets to hit you in the head when daddy made a sharp turn a luxury.  It was great fun to explore many of the campgrounds in Florida, we hit all the springs and parks in the Keys.  Dad would get us every other weekend and would plan a terrific outing during our spring and fall seasons.  During the summer he would rent houseboats and we would spend our vacations on the water.  We endured hideous truck-sized mosquitos and treacherous rip tides, but there is something to be said about being anchored in a cove and diving from the top of a houseboat to cool off in the dog days of summer.  Yeah, we really roughed it with the Open Road frig, stove, shower and toilet. Dad's camping was upscale and was devoid of any surprising animals. Remind me to tell you about saving one of the houseboat mate by pulling him from a riptide while he was being pulled under the boat. NO FEAR, I heard Jimmy call for help and jumped off to the opposite side of the houseboat, caught him in my arms and swam against the current to the bow of the boat.   Jimmy was my friend then and is a friend in my heart now.

Now with my momma, we actually camped in a tent on the ground without benefit of a mattress at a piece of property we owned.  We built our campfires with cinder blocks and roasted our meals over coals.  I can not forget the oyster roasts on sheet metal, squirted with generous amounts of garlic butter.  We would carry up a bushel of oysters from Cedar Key, use a couple of cinder blocks to support our sheet metal and dump those briny beauties over a roaring hot fire and pop those shells and slurp the finest salty plump oysters, the finest the Gulf offered!  And lest any one forget, isn't  S'mores over a campfire a decadent dessert?  Camping with my momma meant we roughed it without the luxury of a toilet. (My mom grew up in WV and an outhouse was the usual and nothing to be concerned about).  We would practice pistol shooting, aiming miserably for the soda/beer cans on the huge bent magnolia tree.  We would bathe and brush our teeth in the waters of Lake Tsalapopka with nary a worry, it was always cold.  We would fish off the "Phylron", our 18 foot outboard in the lake, momma would clean the fish and fry it in cornmeal in cast iron skillet and make her "famous" hush puppies. Her surprise foil packet dinners were always a treat.  I simply could not tolerate the ghost stories told by the light of a Coleman lantern, especially the man with the hook.  I remember the shivers listening to the sounds of the woods around us and trying really hard to be the brave one.  We endured the huge mosquitos in the woods, but somehow, it never seemed to be an issue in a tent versus a camper.  

We had so much fun and this is a memory that brought cheer to my heart.  The oyster roasting technique served me well when I used to drag race my 1972 Dodge Dart with the 340 4 barrel souped-up orange/red racing car with mag wheels, black leather seats and air shocks on the flats of Apollo Beach before it became a suburb.  We had many an oyster roast over a cinder block set up, with old refrigerator racks, cold PBR Tall boys, mingled with sand, sand flat races and long slow summer sunsets. Aw, memories.
2 cups of white water ground corn meal
1 tablespoon of flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of salt
1 egg
3 tablespoons of chopped (fine) yellow onion
1 tablespoon of finely minced jalapeno, seeded and deveined
2 tablespoons of plum tomato flesh chopped in a fine dice-no seeds and as dry as you can make them
1 cup of buttermilk

Mix all the dry ingredients.
Add chopped onion, jalapeno and tomato bits.
Then add the milk and beaten egg.
Drop by spoonful into deep hot oil (375).
Turn over and allow to cook until lightly brown.
Drain on plain brown paper bags.
Serve at once.

Mom's hush puppies were never mundane, hard as a rock, without flavor.  Mom's hush puppies were ethereal, flavorful, with onion, bits of tomato, and enough jalapeno to waken the palate but not deaden the tongue.  Always, tasty enough to be front and center as a tasty nibble that can assuage our hunger for what was yet to come.

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