Thursday, October 3, 2013


Have you ever wanted to see a photograph of your blogger cooking bacon in the middle of the Australian Outback?  No, I thought probably not, but here’s one anyway.

I dug out the picture because I’ve been reading Cooking and Camping On the Desert by Choral Pepper, with a foreword by Erle Stanley Gardner, the begetter of Perry Mason.

Among other things, Choral Pepper was editor of Desert magazine, and her books include Baja California: vanished missions, lost treasures, strange stories true and tall, Desert Lore of Southern California, and Western Treasure Tales.  That’s three different books, right?  And it seems she favored faux leopard skin in the desert.

I never knew that Erle Stanley Gardner was much of a desert rat but it appears he was, and sometimes he used to ride around on this thing.

I’m still not sure whether he was much of a gourmet, though internal evidence suggests that food was definitely on his mind when he came to write.  The Case of the Moth-Eaten Mink (1952) feature’s a waitress from one of Perry Mason’s  favorite restaurants who runs out in the middle of the lunchtime rush, leaves a moth-eaten mink behind, and gets hit by a car. The Case of the Blonde Bonanza (1962) features a beautiful girl who’s being paid $100 a week to put on weight. And The Case of the Beautiful Beggar (1965) has a character who kidnaps her wealthy uncle from an asylum and possibly poisons him with Chinese food.  Full disclosure; I looked these up online.

I think that when you’re you camping on (or indeed in) the desert you can’t afford to be too picky about what you eat, see the above picture.  Yes, still with the leopard skin, but even more surprising, why is that man in the background wearing a tie in the desert?  Quite a lot of the recipes in Choral Pepper’s book involve canned goods: canned corned beef and canned potatoes in the case of “Sunrise Serenade,” canned yams for the “Mock Baked Mescale.”  But my favorite lines come under the heading “Barbecued Turtle Steak,” not really a recipe; she simply tells us “barbecue over coals same as you would a beef steak … no marinade is necessary.”  That is so worth knowing.

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