From the desk of Christopher Kimball
Dear Home Cook,
We just finished filming our sixth season of Cook’s Country from America’s Test Kitchen and it was much like summer camp. It is a pleasure to spend two full weeks with the test cooks, the crew, the runners, the sound guys, the cameramen, and everyone else who makes our show run without a hitch. Most of these folks never show up in front of the camera, and they deserve a thanks, including our producer, Melissa; our test kitchen director, Erin; Dan and Rebecca, who ran the back kitchen during the shoot; our director, Jan; all the camera guys: Michael, Stephen, Ken, and Peter; our sound engineer, Giles; and, of course, Brenda, who does all the makeup and is in charge of keeping track of the takes. We also put together a crew band every year, and thanks to all of them as well: Ken, Tom, Travis, and Dionne. (We did an all–Grateful Dead set this year that included “Uncle John’s Band.”) For behind-the-scenes photos of the Cook’s Country shoot, just click here.
Bow season just started and I spent the first Saturday in my tree stand and then spent Sunday sitting on a tripod chair just above a good deer run. I did see a half-dozen doe, one of them big, but nothing with horns. This year I used a camouflage face mask that fits over my cap and, to my surprise, it made a difference. I had a young doe walk no more than 20 feet away and then turn to look at me for more than a minute without spooking. I guess human faces really are what scare deer the most. Doug, who lives just past the post office, stopped by recently and told me that, years ago, when he was out hunting with a friend, they saw two deer and then, to disguise themselves, hunched over, took out their bandannas, held them to their butts, and waved them like tails. He claimed that they got real close. Well, does seem like a bit of a tall tale!
I have put up a few game cameras in the woods that take both videos and snapshots of anything that happens by. I caught a few deer browsing, the odd squirrel or two, but also a fox scurrying by. It’s easy to think, as we blunder noisily through nature, that there isn’t much life out there, but my guess is that we are being watched by deer, fox, coyote, porcupines, raccoons, and plenty of other animals every second. Hey, they show up on the cameras once I leave!
My bedroom window faces a cornfield and then wooded hills beyond, and I often hear coyotes late at night. Their yapping starts up without warning, comes quickly to a crescendo, and then stops once they have surrounded and killed their prey. A week ago, however, I heard a different noise: the baying of my next-door neighbor’s two coon hounds at work. I recently interviewed Junior Johnson of NASCAR fame and he told me that once a raccoon was treed, and a young boy had to climb up and shake the branch to get the coon to jump. Not an enviable job!
I had a guy come out from Orkin to look at my field mouse problem. (It’s the time of year that they start heading inside for the winter. I can hear them rustling in the walls.) He looked a bit like the actor in Paul Blart: Mall Cop and was quite impressed with the intelligence of mice. According to him, just about any ruse—loud radios, various tasty foods in mousetraps, sonic devices—works for only a short while and then they get acclimated. I did hear, however, that Slim Jims work like magic in mousetraps—forget the peanut butter!
Caroline, my 22-year-old, has been raising chickens for meat as well as rabbits, so our freezers are well stocked. We produced 80 pounds of honey this year since we turned over our operation to an expert beekeeper, Claude Hoarde. Our barns are full of hay and we will be getting back our beef and pork shortly. Tom and I have not yet taken out Bernadette for rabbit hunting but aim to by the end of the month. Rifle season starts in early November and Caroline is going to come along this year. Wish us luck.
As you probably know, I am partial to Calvin Coolidge, and here is one of my favorite quotes: “We cannot do everything at once, but we can do something at once.” He also said, “When you don’t know what to do, do the work in front of you.” Good advice these days when we seem surrounded by too many projects and too many options.
I leave you with a classic Vermont story about a man who had become an outcast. A summer visitor in the Champlain Valley noticed that there was a local man that the other natives seemed to avoid at all costs. Eventually, the flatlander turned to a local whom he had befriended to ask the reason for this strange behavior. The friend was reluctant but finally admitted that the man was, indeed, an outcast. “Well, you see,” he explained, “he’s a-spending of his principal.” (That sentiment is still true today.)
Enjoy the cool weather, the coming of Thanksgiving, and, of course, hunting season.