Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Feeling Like the Man Who Invented Dump Cake

by Pa Rock
Dump Cook

I have a small stove top cooking utensil that I dearly love.  It is actually a little skillet that is hinged to another identical skillet -  a contraption which closes and allows food to be cooked on the stove and then flipped at the appropriate time by turning the skillet over instead of messing with the actual food.  It is so simple to use and is particularly well suited to eggs-over-easy and grilled cheese sandwiches.  I found this gadget at Walgreen's, and was so pleased with its performance that I bought one for each of my kids.

I can make a wicked grilled cheese sandwich - or several - in just minutes!  And I'm getting better and better at coming up with ideas for the little two-sided skillet.

This week I had a hankering for salmon patties, and I also had a convenient can of salmon just sitting in the cabinet waiting to be put to good use.  My mom made wonderful salmon patties while I was growing up, but I have never been able to make them anywhere as tasty or firm as hers.  So I decided to try the little skillet.

Instead of almost floating the patties in hot oil, I simply sprayed the ceramic surface with a non-stick spray, and placed the prepared mixture (one can of salmon, two farm-fresh eggs, and a handful of cracker crumbs) into the form of one big patty.   It cooked great, looked great, and even smelled great, but most importantly, the big patty was delicious - and it only took a few minutes to prepare.  I dumped a can of cream-style corn over it, and enjoyed a wonderful warm meal that was washed down with a cold glass of milk.  The scraps, which weren't many, went to some mighty grateful chickens.

A few days later my son brought over a container of fried potatoes and onions.  The potatoes weren't as brown as I preferred - again harking back to my mom's wonderful fried potatoes which were on the Macy family menu almost every evening.  After letting Nick's potato leftovers sit in the refrigerator for a couple of days, I got them out and discovered that they were just the right amount to fit nicely into my little double skillet.  The potatoes and onions browned nicely in just minutes - and they tasted so delicious under a good dumping of store-bought chili.  My leftovers again went to the chickens who were delighted to get them!

I am so proud of myself and my flippin' skillet that I almost feel like the man who invented dump cake.

No offense to the lady cooks, but it was obviously a man who first stumbled on the idea of "dump cakes" and "dump dinners."  The notion of pouring two or three ingredients together and then putting it on a fire to cook corresponds to the way men think.  Women plan, and measure, and sauté, and simmer, and pre-heat, and pre-boil, and pre-bake, and garnish, and do a whole host of things to ensure that a perfect meal presents like something out of a doctor's office magazine, while men just want to get in there and get to cooking.  Kill it, skin it, burn it, and eat it!

And yes, I know that the "dump cake" and "dump meal" pitch-person is a woman.   Her creations, particularly the meals, seem to be getting more and more complicated - and looking more and more like main dishes prepared in a nice restaurant.  Some men may be concerned with praise and applause - a few notable chefs, for instance - but I would argue that most are more focused on producing a quick, hot meal - comfort food in a dutch oven, skillet, pan, or bucket.

The old chuck wagon cook, let's call him "Cookie," made stew by throwing whatever was available into a big pot and then letting it simmer over a campfire..  The word "soufflé" never passed his parched lips.  A good evening around the campfire would also include black coffee and sour dough biscuits - all cooked over the same flame.  The fire had no thermostat, no range hood to suck away the smells, and it was adjusted through stirring and spitting - or worse.   Cookie could have made a hell of an info-mercial!

One of the first "recipes" I ever learned was essentially a dump creation.  It was during my time in the Boy Scouts, and the desired outcome was peach cobbler.  The only equipment needed was a campfire with plenty of red-hot coals and a well-seasoned, cast-iron dutch oven.  The ingredients were a couple of cups of dry biscuit mix and a can or two of peaches in syrup.  The directions were to dump the ingredients into the dutch oven, stir, and bank hot coals all around the cooker.  The end product was wonderful!

(Another Boy Scout favorite was potatoes baked in mud.  Yup, mud.  The simple directions called for covering each large potato in a thick coating of mud, placing them on the ground like a nest of eggs, and then building the campfire on top of the muddy potatoes.   After the rest of the meal had been prepared on the campfire, the potatoes were removed and their earthen crusts were cracked and taken off.  Those potatoes were almost as good as the peach cobbler - or my mother's salmon patties and fried potatoes!)

Be forewarned, however, for every miracle meal that is dumped together at random, there are two or three failures.  That's why it is always good to have a flock of hungry chickens foraging in the back yard!

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