The bachelor party began at Charlie’s Place in Babb. While the beer and cheesy pizza lured us in the door, it was Glacier National Park, looming outside, that had brought us to Babb in the first place. And Babb would become the inspiration for the curious dialect of babble in which we soon found ourselves conversing, high in the mountains.
The bachelor boy’s grin suggested he’d arrived at Charlie’s ahead of schedule.
“Welcome to Babbylon,” he said. “How are you doing?”
“Not Babb,” I said.
The next morning, Babbchelor Boy’s three-day babbpacking party in the land of melting glaciers began. Three days of babbtizing ourselves in the clear, blue, drinkable meltwaters. Three days of playing among the peaks, watching mountain goats and partying like rock stars. At one point, Sleep When Yer Dead reported, “my babbdominals are hurting from laughing so hard.”
It was nearly four years ago to the day that I and a fleet of sarong-clad young men catered a bachelorette party on the banks of the Blackfoot River. Those were the days. We poured the ladies watermelon sangria, dangled cherries into their open mouths, and served a light but filling lunch of crostini, salad and smoked salmon.
The marinade for that salmon, which I had concocted on the spot, quickly became my default salmon marinade, and remains so to this day. First, squeeze lime on the fish and rub it in. After half an hour, cover the fish in a mixture of equal parts—more or less, to taste—of soy sauce, liquid aminos, sugar and fresh dill (leaves, not the seeds).
Lately I’ve been buying fresh salmon at the store and making salmon jerky this way. But alas, it’s been five years since I last packed salmon into the park. Those were the days. I was with Babbchelor Boy (before he was so) and Sleep When Yer Dead, and both were paranoid about the smell of my salmon jerky in grizzly country. After Babbchelor Boy rounded a corner and found himself nose to nose with a mama and her cubs, those clowns heckled me mercilessly for bringing such tempting bear attractant into the park.
Thus, even though fresh sockeye and coho salmon are available at a store near me, and my marinade rocks, when it came my turn I did not cook salmon for dinner.
On night one, Sleep When Yer Dead made pasta smothered in pesto and butter then tossed with fresh broccoli, sweet peppers and elk sausage, and drenched in parmesan cheese. It was quite a meal to carry 10 miles up the mountain, and it set the bar impossibly high.
It had been suggested beforehand that dinner chefs also provide appetizers—babbetizers, actually—before their meal. I was surprised to see that Sleep When Yer Dead’s babbetizer was a large chunk of smoked salmon, served with crackers.
That’s when I realized I’d forgotten entirely to bring a babbetizer for my dinner, which was the next night. This situation haunted me long into that windy night.
The next day, Sleep When Yer Dead led a small posse on a series of traverses, ridge walks and summit climbs known collectively as the Scenic Death March. Since it was my night to make dinner—and because my body already hurt enough—I hung out in camp.
The plan was to re-hydrate a dried mix of veggies from my garden (zucchini, collard greens, carrots) along with some dehydrated elk summer sausage and then fry it all in olive oil with fresh onion, fresh garlic, chili pepper flakes and a pre-made blender paste of pickled peppers, pickled carrots, fresh garlic, cilantro, coconut, lime, coriander, cumin, raisins and olive oil—all packed in duct-taped Tupperware and triple-bagged in plastic. This stew would be served on jasmine rice.
As I boiled water to make the chicken stock in which I would re-hydrate the veggies, the sun disappeared behind the ridge behind camp. Still no sign of the Scenic Death March posse.
If and when they ever returned, I figured, they would be in need of quick nourishment. And there I was, sans babbetizer.
I hung my head in failure and exhaustion. When I opened my eyes I was looking into my pot of boiling broth.
I remembered the time in Siberia, when I stumbled out of the mountains one winter night on the shore of Lake Baikal. A sable researcher named Ura invited me into his cabin and served me hot broth. That broth brought me back to life.
Just then, the Scenic Death Marchers stumbled into camp, limping, beat and satisfied.
Each man stayed where he had collapsed, and I brought each man his broth. It was slurped down amidst moans of pain and contentment. At the sound of the moans, I knew I had done my part to prepare Babbchelor Boy to tie the knot with his babby.
Ask Chef Boy Ari: Finger-lickin’ fish
Q: Dear CBA,
Thanks for your recent article about the environmental issues created, in part, by the popularity of sushi. I just wanted to point out that although you equated sushi with raw fish, in fact there are many types of sushi. I believe we can reduce our food’s carbon footprint and continue to enjoy this traditional art form by adapting it to local ingredients. Regional livestock, fish and game can combine with local veggies to delight even the most seasoned sushi connoisseur.
Speaking of adapting the traditional art form, Sushi in the Sky (my catering company) will perform a Body Sushi Tasting for the August First Friday art opening at the Badlander. Presentations of local sushi will be arranged on live models, and the public is invited to come taste!
A: Dear Chef Jason,
Thank you for pointing out that sushi does not necessarily mean raw fish. In Japan, I hear, they are currently playing with deer meat in their sushi, in anticipation of a looming tuna shortage. And of course there are vegetable-based sushi possibilities, including pickles (Nara has some amazing veggie rolls). I’m constantly amazed at how sushi, which is grounded in very old traditions—and the Japanese in general are very tradition-oriented folks—can at the same time be so evolutionary, constantly reinventing itself and borrowing from other culinary traditions.
As for the sushi body art at the Badlander…well, I’m there. And I already wish I had brought one of your live models covered in sushi to my buddy’s Babb bachelor party (see above). Beats the old stripper-in-the-cake routine. But I don’t think I’ve ever accompanied a sushi-covered model into Glacier. Do you think it will attract bears?
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