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Archive for Sunday, June 30, 2002

Shore lunch tasty tradition

Walleyes, fried potatoes, baked beans, coffee typical North Woods fare

June 30, 2002

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— Shore lunch is not endorsed by the American Heart Assn.

But for as long as guides have been taking anglers into the lakes of the North Woods, shore lunch has been a part of the tradition. And the tradition is alive and well among guides working for Campbell's Cabins on Lac La Croix near Crane Lake.

After a morning of walleye and bass fishing, guide Art Ottertail nudged his boat onto a rocky shore near a campsite. He quickly cleaned the morning's catch of walleyes. I gathered and split some wood for a fire.

The fixin's for shore lunch came out of a green wooden box packed by the kitchen crew at Campbell's.

They put together such a box each morning for every guide who's preparing a shore lunch.

"That box is probably 60 years old," said Ottertail, who has been guiding for Campbell's for 40 years.

In addition to walleyesthe main ingredienta shore lunch typically includes fried potatoes, baked beans, bread and butter, coffee and condiments such as tartar sauce.

Ottertail carried the rest of the essentials in his own weathered packa fire grate, a large griddle and cooking utensils.

When the fire was blazing, Ottertail poured a jug of vegetable oil into the griddle. He opened two cans of potatoes and drained the water from them. He emptied both cans into the griddle, where the golf-ball size potatoes began to sizzle.

That left half the griddle for walleye fillets, which Ottertail shook in a bag of fish breading flour and corn meal.

"You want some beans or some corn?" he asked Duluth News Tribune photographer Justin Hayworth and me.

We thought some baked beans would be good. So Ottertail opened the can of beans, leaving the lid attached. He set the can of beans on the edge of the grate where the flames could find it.

The potatoes and the walleye fillets turned golden brown about the same time the beans began to bubble in the can. When there was room in the griddle, Ottertail tossed in some onion rings. He cut a lemon into segments so we could squeeze the juice on the fish.

As the meal came together, Ottertail stacked fillets and potatoes and rings of onion on paper plates.

"Help yourself," he said.

And we did.

Ottertail himself didn't bother with a plate. Every now and then, he'd sidle past the fire, pick up a crisp fillet or a single potato nugget and munch as he walked slowly through the camp.

The fire smelled good. The beans looked good with the can's label blackened by flame. The walleye fillets were thin and light. The potatoes were crunchy and substantial.

Framed by boughs of red pine, Lac La Croix's points and islands were shaded from green to misty blue in the distance. The day was hazy, threatening rain. Wind moaned through the needles of the pines.

It was difficult to imagine eating a better meal in a more peaceful setting.

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