by SB Jerry (Quaker SBs)
A best meal starts with good food, and if you grew it, caught it, or raised it that makes it a little better. Next, you need a cook that knows how to prepare those ingredients. Finally, you need a setting, company, or ambiance that accentuates every aspect of the meal.
It helps to be hungry.
The company at the table can make a huge difference. Remember the party you weren’t sure you were going to go to, but had a fabulous time at because you met the neatest people? That is the basic backdrop to the best meal of my life.
I turned 17 at the end of my junior year in high school. The very next day my older brother, who was 18 1/2, and I left on a 10 week fishing/camping trip that would take us from Providence, RI to the Pacific and back. The trip was planned around dozens of stories from Outdoor Life and Field & Stream, many written by Ted Trueblood, our trout fishing idol. We had a little green pup tent with no floor so when it was set up there was a 6″ gap on either side that let in anything that wanted to enter. We had a Coleman stove and lantern and a cast iron skillet. We each had about $400 at a time when gas cost 30 cents a gallon.
We camped by whatever stream we were fishing, ate meals on the tailgate of the station wagon or sitting on rocks or logs. We had a ball. Every day we had PB&J sandwiches for lunch, and dinner was trout with a can of corn/green bean/peas and a few pieces of bread. We spent 2 weeks in Jackson Hole before it was famous, saw the Badlands,Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, and the giant redwoods.
When we got to Oregon, I was determined to go salmon fishing. Early one morning we went to a bait/tackle shop and asked to rent a boat. The shop owner used his shortwave radio to put out a call, saying 2 young guys would pay for bait and gas to anyone would take us out. A man answered to say he was on his way in anyway, and we should get ready. We fished for a few hours, and I caught a nice 15 pound King salmon and a smaller Sillver, and my brother caught 2 Silvers. We took the Silvers to a cannery next to the dock and had them smoked and canned and sent to our mother COD.
Because this area was more civilized, we were staying in a commercial campground. We brought our King there and asked an older couple who had a large motor home, if they knew how to cook salmon, something our culinary experience hadn’t encountered. They took a look at the fish and said if they could share it, they would cook an entire dinner. Sounded pretty good to us.
That evening they called us over to a foldable picnic table they had set up – wow, sitting at a table! They served us huge portions of salmon steaks, baked potatoes, corn on the cob, tossed salad, and hot rolls. For dessert the woman had made a lemon meringue pie! They were really fun people who were camping a few thousand miles from home. We exchanged stories for 2 or 3 hours. (I think they probably got an extra meal of two from the salmon, but that was OK.)
What a meal! It had all the elements mentioned, plus a few unexpected extras! My brother and I (both Silverbacks) still recall that meal fondly. The next morning we left to go back to Jackson Hole, where one day I caught 8 foot-long rainbow trout on 8 consecutive casts … but that’s another story!