The good, bad and ugly of outdoor snacks
By Paul Bruun, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
March 6, 2013
The young customer seemed happy as he emerged from the Riviera Beach, Fla., tackle store. One hand toted a plastic bait container of live shrimp for the pursuit of redfish and spotted sea trout. The other clutched several tiny tins he hungrily examined on the way to his nearby vehicle and skiff.
His purchases were predictable, right down to those small cans of Vienna sausage, outdoor mainstays for as long as anyone cares to remember.
I fear the majority of once-favorite hunting and fishing snacks would rate a disapproving frown today from News&Guide nutrition columnist Therese Metherell. Yet tins of sardines and Vienna sausage and cellophane-wrapped jerky strips remain satisfying treats to many.
Several of my cherished memories as a youngster involve fishing trips to Everglades City, Fla., in the company of Paul and Hugh Horton, the father-and-son press/composing room team of The Miami Beach Sun, the newspaper where Dad worked. Their plug casting/fishing skills were surpassed only by the exceptional life support they administered daily to the antiquated Linotype hot-lead typesetters and cranky web press they kept alive to print tabloid Sun issues throughout the 1950s.
During Everglades outings, Paul and Hugh were almost unrecognizable without their normal patina of ink layered on hair, faces, clothes and hands. I welcomed their enthusiastic white grins from behind these inky masks when I’d arrive after school to their back shop. Taking a smoke break, they’d open Cokes and start telling me stories. The Hortons operated like a symphony. Their finely tuned Pflueger casting reels twitched, sinking red and white or mullet-colored MirrOlures as the boat drifted along wide Everglades bays, past mangroves and creek outlets of dark brackish water. Everything was in sync, including their constant smoking and Coke drinking.
The central feature of their spic-and-span fiberglass runabout was a 64-quart aluminum ice chest stocked with thick 6.5-ounce Coke bottles. Alongside sat a yellow wooden 24-bottle case. When empties filled the case, that morning or evening plug-casting session was over. Hugh and Paul then returned to Ted Smallwood’s cabins/dock for lunch or dinner.
Central to this cast- and Coke-a-thon was their habit of adding a bag of Tom’s Toasted Peanuts to a bottle during consumption. My dad explained this was how machinists one-handedly ate peanuts and drank Coke. Barbara Mandrell’s “I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool” mentions peanuts in Cokes and is a fond reminder to me of the Hortons.
Tobacco products routinely accompanied outdoor recreation, especially in the “Tobacco Road” portion of North Carolina where I joined friends fishing and hunting during college. Ray Respess, of Pantego, was a homegrown UNC basketball star who regularly chased bass with me on the Chapel Hill water supply lake.
“Care to join me in a little lunch?” Ray would would say with a grin, opening a tackle box holding at least five Beechnut leaf pouches.
My tobacco-chewing began early. After outings with Ray, I later enjoyed redfish, snook and gator trout wading trips with John “Redman” Pinder on Florida’s Indian River. We reveled in surrounding wads of Redman with Big League Chew bubblegum, thereby creating the sweet substance called gumbacco. Bladder cancer in 2001 ended my chewing tobacco habit.
Major League baseball doesn’t excite me, but the wholesale dugout transformation from chewing tobacco to sunflower seeds wasn’t unnoticed. During South Dakota pheasant hunts, Jay Buchner and I developed a taste for the supersize Old Dutch and Dakota Kid Jumboz seeds grown and distributed by SoDak farmers. Now even my wife, Jean, discreetely totes a paper cup on road and fishing trips for spent sunflower hulls.
From Nabs to Lunas
My most venerable outing snacks are the packs of small cheese- or peanut butter-filled cracker regularly referred to as “Nabs” by my native Carolina Piedmont-region college pals. Nabs, I discovered, was a Southern abbreviation for Nabisco. Even today it’s rare to peek in the jockey box of a bass boat or a hunting outfit and not spot a slightly crushed pack of Nabs. Austin and Keebler are my favs, but Ritz and Lays are acceptable.
Floating the Snake with longtime Virginia friend Don Laing some years ago, we were joined by his son, Chris, then working in the Jack Dennis fishing department. Chris gave me a hunk of one of his new energy bars. A bite of marinated sawdust called a Balance Bar cured my taste for that latest food craze. Only after Therese Metherell’s “Sound Bites” review of the new Luna Bar’s positives did I ever risk anything but a Baby Ruth. A day on Henrys Lake with local fishing guide Paul Rice yielded a collection of modern energy bars scored from his snowboarder star son, Travis. Today Lunas and other energy bars are my standards.
I’ve written previously about a history of hauling grapefruit on lengthy Everglades bass fishing and backcountry outings. Recent Lipitor prescriptions halted this grapefruit passion. Oranges are replacements.
During a fruitful period of big trout catches from Montana’s Beaverhead River, Jack Dennis revealed that his lucky snack item was barbecue-flavor potato chips. I tried Jack’s talisman before learning from recognized professor of chipology Dr. Dennis Butcher that “plain” kettle chips and Berwick, Penn.-produced Wise regular chips are keys to an excellent fishing day. Rob Gipson, Wyoming Game and Fish’s area fisheries czar, demands Tim’s Cascade Chips for long Jackson Lake work days.
Cheetos Natural White Cheddar Puffs are mainstays behind my truck seat.
East Texas is home to super bass fishing, super heat and hundreds of rural C-stores where Dr. Pepper, Twix Bars, Gatorade, Snickers, bottled water and Bud Light (not in dry counties) sell by the carload. Visits there are always entertaining. One particular trip to fish Lake Pinkston near the town of Center found me with a pair of Texas bass legends, Lonnie Stanley and Mike Dyes. Plastic bottles with screw-off caps had just come on the market, and these two Stanley Jig Company partners were constantly arguing about whose Dr. Pepper in the ice chest was being drunk and which Twix Bar was theirs. When I pulled out my treasured but horribly melted Little Debbie Nutty Bar, they both began laughing.
“Boy, you gotta get you a Chico Stick,” one of them exclaimed. “It’s the best fishin’ candy anywhere, ’cause it doesn’t melt.”
Ever since, when I can find them, orange-colored peanut butter and coconut-flavored Chico Sticks have been on my outdoor food menu. Sorry, Therese.
After years of 6 a.m. visits to Albertsons to purchase food for the daily float trip, a hot burrito from the deli section became a welcome habit. Now that guiding days are over, and whenever we’re away from Jackson for any length of time, that burrito comes to mind. My pal, Bart Taylor, from Etna, still gives me an early morning call routinely while heading to the river, to relate how much he’s enjoying his burrito.
Those calls are low-calorie and pseudo snacks I still anticipate.
JH Ducks Unlimited banquet
Save $15 on early purchase of single or couple (regular $80 and $100) tickets for the March 16 gala fundraiser at Snow King. Buy them by March 14 at Orvis and Jack Dennis Sports. Rake in extensive firearms loot by nabbing a corporate table.
Jackson’s annual Ducks Unlimited event (the 39th) never lacks excitement and great gimmicks, including a new restaurant-dinner-winning Dog House game and all-night access to Grand Teton Brewing beers for $5. Trips include a Chesapeake Bay body booting duck hunt with Charles Jobes and family, a Pica Zuro Lodge Argentinan dove shoot, a Sweet Water Travel Montana fishing trip and plenty of work by Mangelsen, Kingwill and other artists. Local DU chairwoman Jennifer Wolf promises doors open at 5 p.m., auction at 8 p.m. and done by 10 p.m. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org; 307 413-4439.
Paul Bruun writes weekly on his adventures and misadventures in the great outdoors.