The higher ups at my former corporate job in the Human Resource department–in a misguided attempt to boost morale (that actually pretty much did just the opposite)–would call my coworkers and I into a big room each year and preach to us about our “hidden paycheck.” This was the term they used to talk about health insurance, retirement programs, and all the other benefits they provided outside our normal salary. One particular HR director (who, curiously, no longer works there) also included things like the horrible coffee and stale popcorn available in the break rooms as part of our hidden paycheck. Not surprisingly, those two words quickly became the standard meme in the building when referring to anything from toilet paper to Post-It Notes.
Well, here at my current job, I have hidden paychecks, too. In fact, we freelance writers have to live for the perks since we’re certainly not in this business for the money. As a guy who writes about food (among other things), I reap some pretty cool benefits (neither health insurance nor a retirement plan among them). There was that box of nut butter Justin’s sent me after they read my blog praising their products a few weeks back.
Last year about this time, a couple bottles of Wild Turkey showed up on my door. And I once was invited to judge the Jack Daniels World Barbeque Championships, which, crushingly, I couldn’t attend.
The best perks, however, are the ones I get from friends. Field & Stream’s own Colin Kearns hooks me up from time to time with cool stuff, like homemade apple bitters (which takes both my whiskey and gin drinks to whole new levels) and sea salt hand-carried by Colin from France. I also on occasion swap my internationally renowned goose jerky for authentic Appalachian moonshine. But one of the tastiest treats I received lately is a half-gallon jar of pure Wisconsin maple syrup that Josh Dahlke, a Web editor at North American Hunter, sent my way.
This is like no syrup I’ve ever tasted, which admittedly has been pretty limited to Log Cabin, Aunt Jemima, and whatever inhabits the tables of late-night diners across the country. We don’t have many maple trees in Nebraska, hence no tapping tradition. So when I cracked the lid on this jug and took a spoonful, I was blown away by the not-so-subtle flavor of perfectly balanced sugar and smoke.
My problem is I think the Northwoods nectar is almost too good for flapjacks and I want to be sure I’m taking full advantage of this particular hidden paycheck. So I’m looking for a little help from Wild Chef readers who might be a bit more experienced in this realm. What’s the best way to incorporate maple syrup into my fish and wild game cooking?