Photo by Maria Robledo
Occasionally, I retreat to a friend's cabin in the West Virginia Appalachians to rest and cook with what is there: a rudimentary kitchen and what the local store offers me. These constraints are a pleasing challenge that deconstruct my city self.
I've improvised roasting pans out of tin foil, and made a soufflé with local cheese in a cast iron skillet. I've used that same skillet to smoke trout using dried twigs from a nearby apple tree and steel forks as a rack and picked local dandelions and ramps to dress with bacon and cider vinegar. The only tool I bring down with me is a folding Opinel picnic knife because it affords so much more pleasure than the cheap stainless and serrated knives I find there, and is easy to sharpen on a piece of metal or stone.
Hankering for pancakes one morning, I decided to wing it and see if I could make them out of my basic corn bread formula, which I keep in my head. I mixed up the basic recipe with a slightly greater proportion of corn meal, an additional egg, and enough milk mixed with plain yogurt to simulate buttermilk, to make a batter. I fried bacon in my one skillet, both for crisp strips to accompany the cakes and for the fat to flavor them. Homemade raspberry jam, a gift from a friend, dressed the barely sweet, corny cakes: perfect.