With regard to writing, Ernest Hemingway was a man of simple tastes. Were I to employ a metaphor, I'd describe Hem as the kind of guy who'd prefer an unadorned plum from William Carlos Williams' icebox to Makini Howell's Pesto Plum Pizza with Balsamic Arugula.
Don't mistake that metaphor for real life, however. Judging by his 1920 Toronto Star how-to on maximizing comfort on camping vacations, he would not have stood for charred weenies and marshmallows on a stick. Rather, a little cookery know-how was something for a man to be proud of:
"…a frying pan is a most necessary thing to any trip, but you also need the old stew kettle and the folding reflector baker."
Clearly, the man did not trust readers to independently seek out such sources as The Perry Ladies' Cookbook of 1920 for instructions. Instead, he painstakingly details his method for successful preparation of Trout Wrapped in Bacon, including his preferred brands of vegetable shortening.
Would your mouth water less if I tell you that literary food blog Paper and Salt has updated Hem's trout recipe à la Emeril Lagasse, omitting the Crisco and tossing in a few fresh herbs? No campfire required. You can get 'er done in the broiler:
Bacon-Wrapped Trout: (adapted from Emeril Lagasse)
2 (10-ounce) whole trout, cleaned and gutted
1/2 cup cornmeal
Salt and ground pepper, to taste
8 sprigs fresh thyme
1 lemon, sliced
6 slices bacon
Fresh parsley, for garnish
1. Preheat broiler and set oven rack 4 to 6 inches from heat. With a paper towel, pat trout dry inside and out. Dredge outside of each fish in cornmeal, then season cavity with salt and pepper. Place 4 sprigs of thyme and 2 lemon slices inside each fish.
2. Wrap 3 bacon slices around the middle of each fish, so that the edges overlap slightly. Line a roasting pan with aluminum foil, and place fish on pan. Broil until bacon is crisp, about 5 minutes. With a spatula, carefully flip fish over and cook another 5 minutes, until flesh is firm.
Like any thoughtful hostess (simile!), Hemingway didn't leave his guests to starve whilst waiting for the main event. His choice of hors d'oeuvres was little pancakes made from a mix, and again, he leaves nothing to chance, or Aunt Jemima's instructions…
With the prepared pancake flours you take a cupful of pancake flour and add a cup of water. Mix the water and flour and as soon as the lumps are out it is ready for cooking. Have the skillet hot and keep it well greased. Drop the batter in and as soon as it is done on one side loosen it in the skillet and flip it over. Apple butter, syrup or cinnamon and sugar go well with the cakes.
Here, Paper and Salt's Nicole Villeneuve does us all a solid by doing away with prepackaged mix. Bonus points for using ingredients that would've been available in 1920's Michigan, beloved site of Hemingway's trout and pancake campouts.
1 1/2 cups corn kernels (either fresh off the cob or thawed)
2 green onions, white parts only, coarsely chopped
2/3 cup flour
1/3 cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon red chile flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
2/3 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
Canola oil, for frying
1. In a food processor, add corn and green onions and pulse 4 to 5 times, until finely chopped. In a large bowl, stir together corn mixture, flour, cornmeal, baking powder, red chile flakes, salt, and sugar.
2. In a small bowl, combine egg, buttermilk, and butter. Add to corn mixture, stirring until just combined.
3. Coat a large skillet or pancake griddle with oil. Over medium heat, spoon batter onto pan in 1/4 cups and fry until cakes are golden on both sides, 1 to 2 minutes per side.
Villeneuve opts out of recreating Hemingway's dessert, an al fresco fruit pie so good "your pals … will kiss you" (provided, of course, that they're Frenchmen). Because I, too, aim higher than weenies and marshmallows, here are his lengthy, rather self-congratulatory instructions:
In the baker, mere man comes into his own, for he can make a pie that to his bush appetite will have it all over the product that mother used to make, like a tent. Men have always believed that there was something mysterious and difficult about making a pie. Here is a great secret. There is nothing to it. We’ve been kidded for years. Any man of average office intelligence can make at least as good a pie as his wife.
All there is to a pie is a cup and a half of flour, one-half teaspoonful of salt, one-half cup of lard and cold water. That will make pie crust that will bring tears of joy into your camping partner’s eyes.
Mix the salt with the flour, work the lard into the flour, make it up into a good workmanlike dough with cold water. Spread some flour on the back of a box or something flat, and pat the dough around a while. Then roll it out with whatever kind of round bottle you prefer. Put a little more lard on the surface of the sheet of dough and then slosh a little flour on and roll it up and then roll it out again with the bottle.
Cut out a piece of the rolled out dough big enough to line a pie tin. I like the kind with holes in the bottom. Then put in your dried apples that have soaked all night and been sweetened, or your apricots, or your blueberries, and then take another sheet of the dough and drape it gracefully over the top, soldering it down at the edges with your fingers. Cut a couple of slits in the top dough sheet and prick it a few times with a fork in an artistic manner.
Put it in the baker with a good slow fire for forty-five minutes and then take it out.
Remember, campers: The real woodsman is the man who can be really comfortable in the bush. - Ernest Hemingway
via Paper and Salt
Ernest Hemingway’s Favorite Hamburger Recipe
Seven Tips From Ernest Hemingway on How to Write Fiction
Ernest Hemingway Creates a Reading List for a Young Writer, 1934
Ayun Halliday is an author who once designed a course on outdoor cooking, just so she could order pie irons online. Follow her @AyunHalliday