Monday, September 2, 2013

How 'bout a DOG for the holiday?

Happy Labor Day. With so many gathering to barbeque and enjoy the great outdoors on this fine Monday, I thought I’d talk about DOGs (and not the kind you pet or the hotdogs you eat.)

Several years ago, I attended a DOG, a Dutch oven gathering. At the time, I didn't even know they existed, but since I'm a girl scout from way back when, I thought it would be a great article for the magazine I edit for so I contacted the coordinator for the event and my husband and I drove to a small town about an hour from home. It was a blast.

We enjoyed some incredibly good food, all cooked on Dutch ovens. When we arrived, several were situated in the park with their set-ups. I thought it interesting that they stacked the Dutch ovens with coals in between and encircled the tower with a ring of aluminum to contain the heat.

I took my antique oven to share and en route, called my mother-in-law for more info. Turns out my husband's great grandfather was a chuck wagon cook for some of the outfits out of Fort Worth. The Dutch oven we have rode on the wagon train that took him and his family north to Oklahoma in 1905, but with him being a cook prior to this, we're guessing the oven to be something he used as early as 1890's.

The second picture shows the number, 12 in. Besides describing the diameter of the lid, the number also determines the number of coals used on top and underneath the oven. An outdoor cook knows the number on the lid indicates the number of coals to use. The cook places the number plus three coals on top of the lid and the number minus three underneath. This formula equates to about 350 degrees if you were to bake something in an oven. I've enjoyed many tasty biscuits done this way. I also love cornbread baked in a Dutch oven. Afterwards, settlers would scour the insides with dry sand then oil the insides with mineral oil.

Anyway, I thought I'd share since my heroine, Shauna in Once Jilted has to cook with one. Please enjoy an excerpt:

              He peered at the item that looked suspiciously like a pair of gray long johns he owned. His brow furrowed. “Whose intimates be you scrubbing on?”

She rolled her lips between her teeth and tucked her chin. After a brief pause, her nose scrunched. “Yours.”
He stared at the pile of wrung clothes stacked on a mat then shifted his gaze to the few items remaining in the rinse water. Beside the fire, steam rose from a cooling, large black cauldron of soapy water. He grimaced at the strong smell of lye. Her initiative felt like an invasion of privacy, an intimate act shared between husband and wife. Why he should feel this way, he had no clue. Possibly because her quest for a husband remained foremost in his mind. The laundress in Nyesville usually washed his clothes for a small fee. He couldn’t recall feeling this way with someone else scrubbing his dirties.
“You’re not upset with me, are you?” She lifted another item from the water and slipped it between the two rollers. Twisting the crank, she wrung out a shirt and piled it with the others. “I only meant to repay you for your generosity.”
“Mad?” He fumbled for a word that would do his emotions justice and failed. He wasn’t really angry, just... “I don’t know how I feel.”
“You are upset. I’m sorry. It’s just that I had nothing to occupy my free hours this morning, and I saw the pile next to my—your bed, and I thought I’d help you by washing and then...”
He held up a hand. “You’re rambling. It’s fine. Really. Just noot what I expected.”
She released a pent up breath and smiled. “I’ll just finish wringing these few. It won’t take me but a moment to hang them, then I can set out food for the men.”
He considered offering his assistance, but thought better of it and jammed his hands in his pockets. The thought of helping her hang his unmentionables alongside his shirts and pants was just too personal. The moment became awkward as he searched for something more to say.
“My usual day to handle this chore is Friday.” She cranked another article through. “Wednesdays I bake bread.”
His mouth watered at the mention of fresh baked bread. “Do you think you could bake bread here?”
Her gaze shifted to the supply wagon as she rolled the last piece of wet clothing through the wringer. “I’m not sure. Perhaps I can do it in the Dutch oven.” Her lips curved into an engaging grin. “Tomorrow, I’ll give it my best try. Lefty’s been giving me pointers on cooking outside, so I’m sure between the two of us, we can figure it out.”
He nodded and turned to leave.
“Kane? I know you let me sleep in your tent last night, but with all your things still there, it makes more sense to put me somewhere else.”
Somewhere else? Did she think to ingratiate herself with another man by sharing his space? “And where might that be?”
She blinked and cleared her throat. “I’m not sure. I thought maybe there might be an extra tent.”
“Well, you thought wrong.” He knew he was being obstinate. The idea of this cantankerous woman anywhere but in his own tent where he could keep a closer eye on her left him cold inside. Perhaps it was the vulnerability she hid so well behind stubborn pride that made him feel protective. Aye, that had to be it. While he trusted all of the men under his direction with bridge construction, some of them were a mite shady when it came to the treatment of women.


Caroline Clemmons said...

I'm so pleased to learn about the numbers on a dutch oven. Wow, I never knew that. Thank goodness, I never needed to. LOL Still, good info for a western writer.

Ciara Gold said...

You're welcome, Caroline. I didn't learn about them until we had a guest at a girl scout outing and he was an expert on cooking with Dutch Ovens.

Susan Horsnell said...

G'Day Ciara (Aussie speak)
Great article and I loved the excerpt. Will be adding that book to my Kindle.
Dutch Ovens make the best damper. We used to use one all the time on camping trips when I was growing up.
It sounds like you have such a rich history and something to be very proud of.

Anonymous said...

Interesting blog, Ciara, and I enjoyed the excerpt. Sounds like a great book.

Ciara Gold said...

Thanks Susan and Charlene for stopping by. Susan, I went camping a lot when I was growing up also. My mom was our GS leader and she took us someplace once a month. Lots of fond memories.