Merwin: “Self-Defense” Cooking

So I see by various recent postings that Dave Petzal is taking care of some sewing chores and Joe Cermele is hanging out in greasy spoons. This all got me thinking a little domestically, specifically about food and cooking. Are there any folks out there who can do more than just boil water? I happen to enjoy cooking and it’s a good thing I do.

Our late, great fishing editor Al McClane was as celebrated a chef as he was an angler. I once asked him why he’d learned to cook. His answer was deceptively simple: “self-defense,” he told me with a smile. Simply meaning that when confronted with warmed-over road kill at a lodge or back-of-beyond hash house, it was important to be able go back to camp and make something far better own your own.


So while packing for a camping/fishing trip up north this morning, I worked on the menu first. With a large pot and cast-iron frying pan, I’ll make linguine with white clam sauce (chopped clams, clam juice, butter, garlic, chopped onion, oregano, salt, crumbled bacon, and a little white wine). It’s easy and quick to make after a long afternoon on the river. I also look forward to it a lot more than I would a greasy cheeseburger at the local dive.

Making whatever yourself is also a good way to get things you just can’t have otherwise. I happen to love clams casino (pictured), which in Vermont is as rare as maple syrup in Georgia. So I recently conjured up–with considerable effort and not a little expense–some fresh littleneck clams that I chopped with various other things, topped with bacon, and broiled on the half-shell. They were all that I’d hoped for, and like other great foods made an otherwise bad day seem insignificant….