Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Be Prepared

For what?

That's what I ask my Scouts. What do you need to be prepared for?

I get all kinds of answers. Be prepared for a hurricane. Be prepared for an earthquake. Be prepared for a volcano. Be prepared for an asteroid impact.

It's obvious that kids today are concerned about really big stuff. Adults, on the other hand, usually reply to be prepared for a tax audit, or a pulled hamstring, or a bad case of gas.

Yeah, been there and done that.

Then the precocious child will offer up the golden answer: be prepared for anything? They always phrase it as a question, unsure, seeking confirmation. That's the "right" answer, though. Be prepared for Life.

So, there we were in the forest. The August camping trip. As hot as hot can be in south Texas. My sweat was sweating.

I had spent the previous week in Seattle and could not perform my usual function of provisioning food and preparing a menu. I delegated that responsibility.

Now, as a bit of background, I have over the years amassed a vast collection of cooking tools, spices and ingredients. I think that without buying any food whatsoever and just using my "cooking box" I could feed an army for a week. Yeah, they would be eating pine bark but it would be exquisitely seasoned pine bark.

I was not too surprised, then, when my Assistant asked me if I had brought the "box."

"No," I replied, "I hadn't. I wasn't in charge of cooking on this trip so I just came with my personal stuff: tent and sleeping bag. No box."

"Oh," he said. "Well," he continued, "we really don't have much in the way of stuff. Like spoons and spices and stuff. I'm not sure, exactly, how we're going to cook for 15 people. I was sorta hoping..." He trailed off.

I surveyed the situation. We had onions, bell peppers, jalapenos, canned beans, tomatoes, orange juice, bacon, eggs, beef and chicken for fajitas and a bunch of other stuff. What was lacking was a plan.

At that point I heard in my mind the theme music for Iron Chef. Ah, so, the challenger, Scoutmaster Bill, has to create two dishes with the secret ingredient: canned beans!

No spices. But was that true? I thought, "What would Baden-Powell do?" I wear that bracelet, you know, WWBPD.

Well, BP wouldn't drain the canned beans because he needed the salt. So, in went the beans, juice and all. BP would have sauted the onions, peppers and jalapenos and that's what I did.

I grilled some onions and bell pepper with jalapeno. That would be heaped on the fajita meat in a tortilla to form the basis of the fajita.

I created a salsa with the red onion, fresh tomatoes, chopped jalapenos, cilantro and a splash of orange juice (pure genius!). The OJ took the edge off the red onion.

In short, the menu was boffo. Rave reviews on the salsa. Beans were "nicely seasoned" considering we had no seasoning other than the salt from the bean juice and pepper from the jalapenos.

I hope we did Baden-Powell proud. We did our best and although we were unprepared for our original plan, we were prepared to adapt and make the best of our situation.

Be prepared to do your best. Yeah, I think that will work.

Oh, and the results? We asked the kids at the end of the campout what they liked the best and what the hated the worst. The replies came as follows:

We liked the food. The food was great!
We hated the heat, humidity and bugs!

Woot! Food trumps bugs!

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