Twist and Shout

Twist and Shout
Life is never straight (Joey Kulkin photo)

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Vignettes from Vermont: Cooking with Flannel John

The great Flannel John?

BENNINGTON -- Rack of Raccoon, anyone?

What about Beer Can Chicken or Jerky Chili or Tater Tot Hot Dish or Lasagna for Dummies or Man Candy Roll Ups or Ugly Cake or Horehound Candy or 7 Sails Clam Chowder or Lumpy Dick or Sole of a Pirate or Black Bottom Barnacle Cupcakes or Porcupine Mountain Meatballs or ... Bacon Monkey Bread? Wash it down with Deer Camp Holiday Punch or Captain's Grog.

Those are real meals and beverages created by a real manly chef who wears real flannel during his real adventures in the real great outdoors, and Fiddlehead at Four Corners art gallery in downtown Bennington is celebrating his real literary and culinary exploits by selling the really popular "Flannel John's" cookbook series by author Tim Murphy.

Fiddlehead carries the first 4 books in the series:

* Flannel John's Mountain Man Cookbook (Frontier Food from the Hills, Country and Backwoods) with chapters for breakfast, lunch, dinner, desserts and snacks ...

* Flannel John's Woods & Water Cookbook (Critters, Fritters, Chili & Beer) with chapters for critters, fritters, chilis, chowders, soups & stews, salads, beer (as an ingredient), beverages and "For the Dog" ...

* Flannel John's Hunting and Fishing Camp Cookbook (A Good Meal Always Makes For A Good Day) with chapters for breakfast, chilis, soups & stews, burgers & sandwiches, snacks, sauces & sides, breads, biscuits & baked goods and beverages ...

* Flannel John's Pirate Galley Cookbook (Coastal Cuisine and Maritime Meals from Oceans, Lakes & Rivers) with chapters for fish, seafood, chowders and soups, meat, side dishes and snacks, baked goods and desserts and "To Slake a Thirst" ...

The $15 price tag on each is tame if you consider Murphy's and Flannel John's efforts to collect these recipes during decades of hunting, fishing and camping in 40 states. Some of the recipes are 150 years old and infused with new twists.

"There is more to camp cuisine than the Three B's -- Beans, Beef Jerky and Budweiser," Murphy begins in one book. "Just because you're in the woods and wild doesn't mean you have to act like an animal. Ain't nothing better than a hot, rib-sticking meal to kick-start a morning or wrap-up a day. So for all of you who spend hours in a duck blind, deer stand, ice shanty or fishing boat, this food is for you. These recipes have been gathered from family and friends, cooks and chefs, farmers and hunters, anglers and eaters. It's camp comfort food that's simple, straightforward and for the most part, doesn't take long to fix."

Franklin Funk, who has taken over managerial duties at Fiddlehead after Art Gallery Dude quit to go help transport Edward Snowden to asylum, conducted a Q&A with Murphy to get a sense of the author vis-a-vis Flannel John's unique culinary delights for the man's man of the great outdoors.

Franklin Funk: Why self-publishing?

Tim Murphy: Creative control and larger profit margins. I chose the font, design the cover, pick the length and do the marketing. The first book was written three years before publication. The few publishers I talked to were offering very small royalties. Less than 10%. I looked into vanity presses but the books would have been over $4 a copy, again leaving very little profit margin for bookstores and myself. Cookbook publishers like to use the spiral binding which, to my eye, makes it look like a middle-school fundraising project and just a bit cheesy. Once Amazon developed I knew I found what I was looking for. They print on demand. If a copy is ordered, They print it and ship it. They also sell them on, to book wholesalers, internationally, bookstores and to me directly. Depending on the channel sold, my profit margins range from 15% to 210%.

A Long Day's Stew
12 small red potatoes
1 head of green cabbage chopped in chunks
1 to 2 chopped onions
2 quarts water
1 cup carrots (optional)
1 cup celery (optional)
2 pounds kielbasa, Polish or smoked sausage

Heat water; add onions, potatoes and cabbage. Cut sausage into pieces and add into pot along with potatoes. Bring to a boil. Cook until onions and potatoes are soft enough to eat. Bold eaters can add Tabasco, garlic or pepper to taste

FF: Who is Tim Murphy?

TM: I am a graduate of Western Michigan University. I spent 23 years in radio, 17 years hosting morning radio shows in several Michigan cities, including Holland, Muskegon, Traverse City, Saginaw and Houghton plus Fargo, North Dakota, Stevens Point, Wisconsin and Ketchikan, Alaska. I have been a freelance and comedy writer. My work has appeared in dozens of outlets including Backwoods Home Magazine, The Porcupine Press U.P. Magazine, National Lampoon, The Traverse City Record Eagle and ABC Radio Network. I also did part-time stand-up comedy for a few years. I was married in January. In May, my wife and I moved to Seaside, Oregon. If I sell enough of these books, I plan to open a hot dog stand.

Man Candy Roll Ups
1/2 cup of sour cream
1/2 teaspoon of onion salt
1/2 pound of bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 package of crescent rolls (8 ounce size)

Mix sour cream, onion salt and bacon then spread on the rolls and roll them up. Bake at 375 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes

FF: Name the 10 states Flannel John has yet to hunt in.

TM: Flannel John has not hunted in Rhode Island, Utah, New Mexico, Alaska, New Hampshire, Massachusettes, Vermont, Mississippi and Delaware.

Captain's Grog
2 ounces of dark rum
1/2 ounce of fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon of brown sugar
4 ounces of hot water
1 orange slice
1 cinnamon stick

Mix rum, lime juice, brown sugar and hot water in a tankard. Garnish with orange slice and cinnamon stick

FF: Will there ever be a recipe for bacon-wrapped rattlesnake chowda?

TM: Not as of yet, but Flannel John is working on a bacon bowl, similar to a bread bowl but woven with thick strips of bacon. This would be the perfect bowl for cheddar cheese soup and the perfect meal to keep a cardiologist in business.

Homemade Dog Food
3 cups of cooked oatmeal or cream of wheat
2 cups of cooked ground beef
2 tablespoons of plain yogurt
1 small diced apple

Mix all the ingredients together and serve to Fido

FF: Which recipe in the 4 books now for sale at Fiddlehead has elicited the most feedback? Which recipe made people write you and threaten bodily harm because it was so awful?

TM: The bacon cheddar cornbread muffins from book one has gotten tremendous feedback. The rack of raccoon from book two has raised some eyebrows. Readers have asked if they hunt the critters with a rifle, bow and arrow or a car bumper.

Seven-Pound Breakfast
2 pounds of tater tots
2 pounds of sausage or ham in cubes
1 pound of grated cheddar cheese
1 dozen eggs
1 cup of chopped onions
1/2 cup of milk
salt and pepper

Butter a 9x15 baking dish. Put tater tots, meat and cheese in the dish. Thoroughly mix eggs, milk, salt and pepper in a bowl and pour over tots, meat and cheese. Bake at 325 degrees for one hour

FF: The "... others a bit more involved" line on the back cover of "Woods and Water" almost seems to defeat the point of simple cooking in the wild. Does "... others a bit more involved" involve more pots and pans? A blender maybe?

TM: The books are written for beginning and novice cooks. I have tried to stay away from electric appliances. Usually the “bit more involved” part means more time to prepare and more than six ingredients. Because we (men) prefer instant gratification and have short attention spans, most recipes are quick and simple. A pot, a pan and fire are all that is really needed. Small branches and sticks can be used to stir.

Fireside Coffee
1 cup hot chocolate mix
1 cup non-dairy creamer
1/2 cup instant coffee
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar

Mix hot chocolate, creamer, coffee, cinnamon and nutmeg in a blender. Add in sugar and blend well. Drop in 3 to 4 heaping teaspoons per mug and pour in hot water

FF: Who makes the best flannel shirts? How many flannel shirts does Flannel John own?

TM: Duluth Trading Company makes the best flannel shirts.

Hobo Bread
2 cups raisins
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup salad oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup nuts (optional)

Put raisins and baking soda in a bowl, add 2 cups of boiling water and let soak overnight. In the morning add remaining ingredients and mix well. Put mixture into 2 greased loaf pans. Place pans in a larger rimmed pan with 1-inch of water an d bak at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes

FF: Why should Vermont men, who are born and bred to hunt and fish and frolic in the mountains, buy your cookbooks?

TM: Men rarely admit when they can’t do something. They will fake it, bluff and improvise. There is nothing worse than looking forward to a good meal all day and having it fall flat and turn out unsatisfying. These books are designed to help beginner cooks learn and novice cooks better … all with a minimum of time, effort and tools. Every camp and RV should have at least one of these books in house. To Quote Flannel John…

“If you’re tracking deer in the U.P woods, searching for elk in Colorado, bird hunting on the Dakota prairies or ice fishing in Minnesota … food keeps the camp sane. A hearty breakfast or sustainable snack sharpens the senses. That end of the day dinner can celebrate bringing down a 10-point buck or be warming comfort when the deer tag goes unfilled. Breaking bread, eating from the community pot and telling stories around the table bonds all outdoorsmen. A good meal always makes for a good day.”

Here are the 4 books for sale at Fiddlehead. Call (802) 447-1000.

Murphy just published the 5th Flannel John's cookbook ...