Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Warp Drive Chocolate Pie

Many moons ago when I worked for a super-secret government agency, I was going through the directories (this before the era of computer security) looking for new applications. Found a directory aptly named "menus." Hmm, thinks I, this could be the gold mine I was looking for. I open the directory and what do I find? Recipes. Oh well, lets check them out. One nugget I discovered was the recipe for Warp Drive Chocolate Pie. Five minutes to make, a lifetime of creamy chocolate memories.
I wrote down the recipe and smuggled this top secret piece of information home. Made it and found out I'd made one huge mistake. Do NOT try to eat a normal size piece of this pie. You have to slice it into 1 1/2" pieces. Too rich.

Take one 12 oz pack of semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips and put in a blender with 5egg yolks. Remember, just the yolks. Add in three tablespoons of brandy, kahlua or Gran Marnier. Blend this mixture on low for one minute.
Heat 1 1/2 cups of heavy cream just to boiling (about 3 minutes in the microwave). Pour this into the blender with the chocolate mixture and blend on high for one minute.
Pour this into an Oreo cookie or Graham cracker crust (8" available from most grocery stores). Chill three hours uncovered in the fridge.

A caterer friend of mine in the UK served this to the House of Lords. For the first time ever, he was asked for the recipe of one of his items, this pie. He also made a rasberry drizzle out of fresh rasberries and powdered sugar (just heat, mash together and sieve) to drizzle over the top. You can do this with an orange flavored one too if you use the Gran Marnier.

Warning: Do not try this at home!
I was showing the ease of this recipe to my family at my mother's house. She had a square blender and the mixture was sticking in the corners after I put in the heavy cream. I used a rubber spatula to try to get it to mix better. Oopsy! The spatula caught in the still moving blender blades, the full contents of the blender exploded skywards, rendering a perfect outline of my head and shoulders (I was leaning over the blender trying to avoid this by watching what I was doing) on the acoustical ceiling of my mother's kitchen. That outline is still there, 15 years later.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Full Combat Fishing

There I was at 30,000 feet without a parachute. The flight attendant was out of olives for my martini. Oh, wait; this is a fishing war story, not an Air Force one.
Okay, I'm on a nine-day pilgrimage to the storied waters of Montana. Salmonfly hatch on the Madison just below Quake Lake. Just gonna wade out here to the middle of the stream, what the? Wade? WADE? If I wade out there, they'll be rifling my vest on my bloated body in Ennis, 40 miles downstream. This is definitely "big water."
Okay, so I'll fish from shore. I'm gingerly sitting on the bank (I'd broken my tailbone the week before I left whilst falling down the stairs) and a salmonfly lands on my shirt. I pick him up, examine him, weigh and measure (about 6 pounds and 27 inches), photograph and then play catch and release. In this case, catch and release means chuck him in the river. Well, I guess this is like chumming, 'cause a huge brown slams it after about 10 feet. Hmmm. Momma Reid didn't raise no dummy. I tie on a salmonfly dry with a Kaufmann's Golden Stone dropper on 2X tippet. Pull out some line, drop the fly into the current, and WHAM!
Now, Bubba Brownie ain't dumb either. He wants to show off his catch to all his buds that live downriver. He proceeds to take off at a 45 degree angle into the big water, heading for the opposite shore. I decide to follow and do a "River Runs Through It." Useless wading staff in my left hand and rod held high in my right, I'm heading north at full tilt.
By the way, what's with this river running north stuff? Seriously screws with your sense of direction.
'Bout this time, my buddies call me on the walkie-talkie and say its time to go. They get no answer from me, as I'm now water skiing behind this fish, a Montana sleigh ride. My silence worries them, as they believe I may have a penchant for falling in the water. Don't know where that comes from.
I endeavor to get below the fish, but between the 800 CFS of the current and the snot covered bowling balls I'm wading over, it's a loosing cause. I ship a little water over the top of my waders. No, make that a lot of water. I now have three rainbows and a Rocky Mountain Bonefish nipping at my shirt buttons. Step, slide, step, step, YEHOOO. We're going in boys!
Found a hole. Now I'm floating. The wading staff makes a lousy tiller. Got. To. Keep. Tension. On. The. Fish. I lift my feet up and head downstream in the proper whitewater safety position. I don't worry about sweepers because I'm now about 20 yards from shore and speeding up.
I pass three drift boats and get a thumbs up from all the guides. I grab for the gunnel of the front boat. It's my last chance at salvation. As my outstretched fingers reach for the prow, the sport in the front gives me a high five, slapping my hand away. "Great fish, fight 'im bud!" he hollers as I slip past my last hope of not inhaling the whole river.
My life flashes before my eyes. Most of the scenes highlighted are similar to this, i.e. up to my eyeballs in water. Hmm, sounds like a trend.
Just then, my heels hit bottom. I'm not out of the woods yet, as the current is pushing me towards my lunch date in Portland, Oregon. I jam the wading staff into the bottom, get my feet under me, and stand up. Ops check, all parts attached, fish still on the line. I fight my way to the bank and drag the fish with me. If he thinks he's gonna pop my tippet after all this, he's wrong. After four tries, I get him close enough to net. I pop out the fly, hold him in the water, get out the camera (waterproof) and try to sit on the bank. EEEEYOWWW!!!
My body uncoils like a switchblade as I remember that busted tailbone that is now bearing my weight. 24 inches of brown trout flies through the air like a flapjack. I spin back down the bank, catch the fish in the net, plop him down for three seconds on the bank, snap a pic, and then hold him in the current as we both huff and puff for five minutes.
About this time, I recognize the plaintive calls for me coming from the walkie-talkie in the Ziploc in my wader pocket. They're ready to call out search and rescue. I tell them that I'll meet them on the road. They drive up, only to be greeted by my soaked self, 300 yards downstream from where I started. Then again, these guys have both fished with me before. No surprises.
"Didcha land 'im?"
"Get in, its beer time."
Hmm, this is only my first fish of the week. Wonder what the rest will be like.

Good joke: Great MacGyver Cookie Recipe

Monday, November 24, 2008

Lyin' in Winter

Okay, there are folks who enjoy fishing in the middle of winter. Some are called "ice fishermen," others "steelheaders." I use the collective noun; insane masochists.
I've been ice fishing before. I was the third man in a two-holer ice tent. If you've never seen one, imagine a nylon-fabric porta-potty on the middle of a frozen lake, all surrounded by little flags stolen from a Smurf golf course. At least, that's what it looks like. Some of these tents and shacks are very fancy, with solid sides, sofas, TV and hot and cold running maniacs. More on that.
It was Nebraska in late January. I was invited to join Henry and John to fish. As a fly fisherman, I show up with my fly rod and a chainsaw. I figure I can cut a long, keyhole shape in the ice and get two or three casts before the guides freeze up.
The guys invite me into their tent. My 8'6" five weight won't fit, so I leave it at the door. I keep the chainsaw, noting the crazed look in the eyes of these erstwhile "friends." Self defense, 'doncha know.
The interior is sparse. Two upturned 5 gallon buckets in a line with a kerosene space heater in the middle. They are facing two holes in the ice. Two fishing rods that have been taken away from their mothers too soon sit on little stands; the lines go into the water.
I need a hole. Hmm, never had cause to utter that sentence before. I mention this to Henry, he steps outside the tent and brings in "the drill." This isn't your standard Black & Decker. The drill has a 2 horsepower gas motor on the top, handles designed for hands wearing boxing gloves and a 9 inch bit. Not 9 inch long, but 9 inches across. This is the WMD evidence that we were looking for in Iraq.
John pushes things back and Henry pulls the rip cord, the tent fills with smoke and noise. Okay, we got your basic shock and awe going here. I'm shocked that the thing will start in the minus fifty degree temps and awe gonna get out before I'm overcome by carbon monoxide.
Henry centers the bit between the other two holes, pushes a lever and poof! We have a three-holer. 14 inches down and he's into the lake. He takes the drill outside and then starts to explain the technique.
"Okay, those holes outside are John's and mine. You fish out of your hole here. We don't have the gear to set you up outside."
"Those are more fishing holes? I thought the local CSI had been out here tagging evidence from some bizarre Inuit gang war. How do you get the fish in? You've got no fishing poles."
"Well, the flags are tip ups. When the flag goes up, we run out and pull up the line. Right now, we have them set for bigger, cruising fish. We don't want to catch tiddlers."
"You catch tiddlers on your tip-ups?"
"No, we don't want to catch tiddlers on the tip-ups. That's why we use a flasher."
Okay, thinks I, these guys are suffering frostbite between the earmuffs. I warily eye my two tentmates in their knee-length parkas, as I slowly move to the back corner of the tent.
"You flash the fish?"
"Yes, we put the probe down the hole and we can see the fish with the flasher."
"You put the probe down the hole so you can see the fish with the flasher and not catch tiddlers with the tip-ups."
"Okay, I think I've got it. What I've got, I've no clue. What do you use for bait?"
"Wax worms."
"Those look like maggots."
"No, no. They're totally different."
"Well, they don't seem to have much action."
"You have to warm them up."
"How do you warm them up?" asks I.
"Just pop a few in your mouth and hold 'em in your cheek." He then raises his mitten to his mouth and coughs up four wriggling worms into his palm.
"I think I'm gonna spew!"
"Don't worry about it. They're wax worms. Perfectly clean."
"You're sure about this?"
"Of course, been doing it for years. Since I've started warming up my bait, I've trebled the amount of fish caught."
John is besides me nodding seriously. He opens up a little cardboard can and shakes a tablespoon full of chilled, flesh colored rice krispies into my glove. I summon up my courage and pop them into my mouth.
"Mmbule, mrammblu bebeme nbm mammods?"
I move the wax worms around with my tongue playing sheepdog and finally herd the suckers into my cheek. "I said, what's the difference between wax worms and maggots? You said they were totally different." The wax worms are starting to wake up and one escapes out the corner of my mouth, plopping onto the ice and squirming away.
"Marketing. No one in the US would buy maggots so they changed the name to wax worms."
John takes the pepper shot full in the face. He now looks like a genetically altered Medusa with maggots instead of snakes. None the less, they are both laughing hysterically.
This is the ice fishing initiation. Henry just had a few "wax worms" in his palm to keep them warm. With a bit of slight of hand, just spit into the mitten and voila, there they were.
I, on the other hand, am not laughing. I still have one little bugger caught behind a crown and a second is heading for my sinuses. Now I know where they got the idea for so many movies along the line of Alien. That sucker nested up there. Finally hatched out during a big presentation I was giving at work.
Time to get down to fishing. John hands me a spare rod. It's about 18 inches long with a little bitty reel attached. I remove my gloves to bait the hook, picking a couple of live ones out of John's hair line.
Since there is no room up front, I lean over the space heater and finally set up on my hole. Plunk, in the water with a bobber the size of a kidney bean. Hey, this isn't so bad. A couple of "friends," we're fishing and chatting away. Even after my appetizer, I'm starting to get hungry.
As a matter of fact, I smell something cooking. Doesn't smell very good. More like burning plastic bags. Smoke curls up around my face. John looks over and casually comments, "fire."
"You're on fire."
I look down, and my parka is up against the space heater. Flames are licking up from my groin to my chest. I calmly assess the situation. Ah, yes. Stop, drop and role. I remember that from kindergarten. Unfortunately, there is no room in the tent for this maneuver. I believe its time to quietly exit the facility and find a snow bank.
Translate: The scream that I emit draws sharks in from the South Pacific and sets off car alarms for a 50 mile radius. Many Nebraskans head to their tornado shelters. I throw the rod and reel, which takes the path of least resistance and drops straight down through the hole in the ice. I proceed to beat myself across the stomach and chest whilst doing a great impression of the Tasmanian Devil in a confined space. I finally head for the exit.
I hit the door doing about Mach 10. The Velcro closure decides to hold fast. I, and now the whole tent with me, am now moving across the windswept lake. The tent finally catches on its two other occupants. It molds around them like a second skin. They don't move, John thinks he has a nibble. The Velcro gives and I burst through the door.
As I exit, I figure out that the flames were oxygen starved in the tent. I know this, because as soon as I hit the outside air, I turn into a human comet, a flaming blue head trailed by a stream of grey smoke. I head for the nearest snow bank and discover the true meaning of windswept. Ain't no snow banks for hundreds of yards around.
Kids are playing hockey. I head out, head down and hip check a ten-year-old into Kansas. I enter the flagged minefield of Henry and John's tip-ups. Slaloming through, I manage to snag every one of them with my mukluks. I look like a Wisconsin limousine kitted out for a wedding. One tip-up is attached to a state-record walleye that flies through the air, flash freezes, shoots across the lake, and trips a figure skater who does the first ever quadruple Lutz. Unfortunately, she lands in one of John's ice holes and is never seen again.
I finally dive for the ice, rolling and spinning in inaugural Winter X-Games break dance competition. The officials hold up their signs, 2, 1.5, 2 and a 0.5 from the French judge.
The flames out, I look back and Henry and John haven't moved. The tent site looks like a plane crash debris field. My 5 weight is broken and forms a cross over the hole that the skater disappeared through. John raises his rod and brings up a 6" yellow perch.
I think I'll stick to fly fishing and class V rapids, it's safer.

Stress Relief

I use one of two techniques to relieve stress, exercise or alcohol. This is especially important in Nebraska in the Winter when you need a chain saw to fly fish. Learned a valuable lesson, do NOT mix these two techniques. Whatever you do, DO NOT drink a half a bottle of single malt and get on a BowFlex.
By the way, anyone know of a good source of cheap ceiling tiles?

The Float Tube

A few years back, I got my first tube. It was a "surprise" birthday present from my loving wife (I suspect she had a boyfriend and wanted me out of the house or she had gotten my signature down well enough for the insurance papers).
I say surprise because it truly was. I had filled out the order form and used one of my daughter's alphabet magnets to secure it firmly to the fridge. This had been a standard, if useless tactic of mine for years. A very subtle hint on my birthday wishes. My lovely bride of course always knew me better than that. Saw right through this clever charade. Normally got me things she knew I really needed and wanted. Like that bathroom cozy set that can turn a toilette seat cover into a bear trap.
When she trotted it out for my birthday, well actually, she came in to the living room, dropped the form in my lap and told me to "order the damn thing," I boldly informed her of the extra costs associated with a tube, i.e. breathable waders, vest, flippers. She immediately agreed that these items had to go with the tube. Well, not immediately. I first explained the purpose of the different items and she gradually built up a mental picture of her masterful husband in waders, flippers with brand new float tube firmly ensconced on his hips.
I did have to get the less expensive waders though. Had to pay for that emergency room visit for her right about then. She had this terrible episode characterized by hysteria. Almost couldn't breath, it hit her so hard. Kept saying something like "donut hole."
When the whole package arrived, I immediately took the whole kit and kaboodle down to the lake. On the way, I stopped off at the gas station and gave my tube its first breath of air. Just left it in the trunk, didn't even bother to take it out and inspect it. Filled and off to the lake! Fish beware!
When I got to the lake, I pulled my waders out of the back seat and quickly donned them. Put my rod together, hooked up a crawdad fly and finally, the last step, I put on my flippers. I then went to the trunk and got the tube out. Well, not exactly just then. See, I'd filled it while it sat in the trunk of the car. It was now too large to get out of the trunk. All's I wanted to do was a bit of fishing, but my spatial cognitive skills had been less than perfect. That's something else my bride always told me.
I found that if I deflated the float tube about 1/3 of the way down, I could get it back out of the trunk. Didn't really have to deflate it that far, but it took that much air out of the thing before I figured that one of the "D" rings was caught on the trunk spring. I could go back up the road to the gas station and fill it back up, but it still looked pretty full so I decided to go for it.
It was about 200 yards from the parking area to the lake. About 150 yards across the field, I discovered that you can walk much better if you carry the tube over your shoulder and take off the flippers. You can understand my need to get at the fish had slightly clouded my judgment. No more hanging out on shore with those other slobs, I had a boat.
I finally got down an area that looked like a good place to launch. I had talked to a friend with a float tube and had heard of the problems with mud at a launch site. Not this bubba, no sir. Found a good rock ledge to launch from. There was a rock in calf deep water that dropped off to about 12 feet. You couldn't see the bottom but I figured it was the same distance swimming to the bottom as at my high school swimming pool.
I stood on the ledge, had my tube around me, my rods in my right hand and I launched. I needed a bottle of champagne to drink or break on my tube. It was a joyous feeling. Right up until I found out what that little crotch strap is for. See, when I stepped out off that rock, my butt hit the saddle of the tube, the tube folded up like a chocolate taco and I shot through the bottom, right past that dangly little strap. Didn't even have to worry about a life vest to slow my hi-speed passage through that torus from hell.
Had to let go of the rods as I felt them flex in my hand and was afraid to break them. Came up struggling for air. Be amazed at the water temp in Omaha, Nebraska in the third week of April. I now know how Jesus walked on water. The water was cold as ice and as soon as he hit it, he was on his feet moving. Felt like I was in one of those "polar bear clubs."
I reached out and quickly grabbed my tube and dragged it back with me to the rock ledge. One of my two rods had caught on the right side handle by the reel and I was able to quickly retrieve it. Unfortunately, it was the cheap rod. The good rod was at the bottom of this rock ledge somewhere. This is how I learned how deep the water was.
I stripped off my boots and waders and dove in before I realized how cold, cold could get. Water was a bit chilly to say the least. On my fourth dive, I found a rod and brought it to the surface. It was a wonderful three-dollar Zebco. Went back down and finally found my rod after about two or three more tries.
Now I had a bit of a problem. Hypothermia was setting in. An inability to stop shaking was my first clue. But ever the fisherman, I thought, "wonder what other rods are down there?" I shook off that thought put my wading boots back on, piled my stuff in the tube, SECURED IT WITH THE CROTCH STRAP, and headed back up to the car. The air temp was a brisk 40 degrees with a good wind. I did have to stop after about ten feet and drain the water out of the float tube cover. That area not filled with inner tube from the deflation was now filled with water. Added about 60 lbs to the whole package.
When I got to the car, I dumped my stuff in the trunk but didn't have anything to dry off with. My jeans were soaked and the only thing dry was my sneakers that I'd left in the car.
I now knew there were three opportunities to die on this day. I'd just lived through one, a drowning. I was in the middle of another, hypothermia. I got my clothes off and covered myself with a small rucksack. I then found a rag t-shirt under the seat that I used to check the oil. I turned the engine on and luckily, the car hadn't had much of a chance to cool down and the heater was soon up to full speed.
Now, I figured there would be one other way to die on this day, the most horrible of the three. Not the panic of the drowning, not the slow loss of consciousness of hypothermia, but the death of a thousand I-told-you-so's. If the mother of my children found out about the fact I couldn't get more than three feet from shore without killing myself, what chance would I ever get to go out on a quiet morning and go fishing by myself? She had already insisted that I wear an international orange hat to keep me from turning into the marine version of the lane turtles on the interstate, on a no-wake lake no less!
Couldn't go home. Explain my new oily-t-shirt-and-wet-underpants outfit to the wife. Not on your life. Couldn't go to a laundry mat. The mid-west populace does not look kindly on some shirtless blue Pict in chest waders wandering into the laundry mat and scaring hell out of old Aunt Sally.
But, as a fisherman, I had the answer, duct tape. I had to get my pants and shirt dry. I duct taped my blue jeans to the inside of the hood of my car. This was rather fun as I was now wearing the t-shirt as a toga wrap-around. I then duct taped my flannel shirt to the heater underneath the passenger seat dash. I closed the shirt up with tape so all of the hot air would have to go through the shirt.
Hopped on the highway and took an eighty mile drive to Lincoln and back.
Got back to the lake and in a secluded area checked out my handy work. All, except for the seams of the shirt collar, was dry.
I went home and strolled in, bold as brass (and smelling of gas). My wonderful wife queried me about my fishing. I answered quite honestly that I'd not gotten a bite all day (except frostbite). The poor woman will never really understand me as a fisherman. Her next comment was "I don't know why you just don't fish from the bank. That outfit looks like more problems than its worth."
Ah, but I got a tube!