Burchfield: Outdoor skills learned at home

Venison patties cooked in combination with home cured bacon provides a tasty treat when prepared on the griddle.

“I want to teach you boys how to use a needle and thread and how to cook. You need to develop these skills. Over time they will serve you well.” At the time my brother and I didn’t realize what homeschooling meant, but we do now. Mom’s statement proved to be, as they say, “spot on,” and now is a good time to pass it on.

Young fingers holding a needle and thread then selecting buttons and attaching them to a chunk of material can be less than glamorous. But more importantly, it was the technique I was learning, and skill would serve me well throughout my lifetime.

Today in my hunting box, you’ll find a packet of various types of thread and a couple of needles. And on more than a few outings these simple items have saved the day, allowing me to repair various items of clothing for myself and others.

Prior to the start of WWII, Mom worked in a sewing factory, then later she became a “Rosie” working as an assembler of B-25 aircraft. Like so many others of that era, Mom and Dad were part of a generation who prided themselves on self-reliance, hard work, and a positive “can do” attitude. My brother and I benefited from their experience.

Another basic skill Mom taught us was how to cook. The kitchen at home provided the essentials we needed to learn to cook. I remember Mom saying, “If you know the basics of food preparation, you’ll not go hungry.”

The first dish we were taught to make was to fry a couple of eggs, sunny side up, and rustling up some toast. This was our starting point. And we expanded the menu from there.

But the lessons learned involved more than food. Attention to detail, watching the stove, along with keeping a close eye on the food being prepared, was an important part of the skillet time with us.

On the landscape of an evenly heated cast iron skillet, we were taught patience and not to undercook or burn to a crisp the finished product. To this day I prefer to cook eggs my way.

As warmer weather has arrived and the kids are home, the time is right to establish a basic cooking class using the outdoor grill. Flipping burgers or cooking a hotdog or sausage is relatively easy. But to my way of thinking, a cast iron grille provides more flexibility.

Depending on the type of grill being used, a griddle can be placed over two burners. By doing so the cooking surface can be heated to provide a consistent temperature.

Eggs, pancakes and bacon offer a good starting point. My suggestion is to begin with pancakes. The batter is easy to mix, and when applied to the griddle, requires little attention. Actually watching the batter bubble up and determining when to turn the pancake is part of the cooking experience.

Eggs, no matter how you like ‘em, are an excellent candidate for the griddle. The neat thing is if you like sunny side up eggs and “something” happens, scrambled will work out just as well.

Now don’t get me wrong, pan cooking will work just fine. However, the open area of the griddle’s surface provides easy access to what is being prepared.

And by all means, roll a few dogs or burgers on the griddle. And just for fun, it is possible to cook pizza on the griddle providing you have a lid to cover the pie when cooking.

Using a griddle in conjunction with an outside gas or charcoal grill can provide hours of entertainment, not to mention some great food.

Youngsters are eager to learn, and kids who develop cooking skills are proud of their accomplishments.

One suggestion is to include preparing game or fish harvested from the field. As they say, from field to fork. And when doing so it brings the total outdoor experience full circle.

With all this combined, just be prepared for some interesting storytelling come mealtime.

(Charlie Burchfield can be reached via e-mail at GWOutdoors@comcast.net)