Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Camp Dexter continued

(Ed Note:  This is a continuation of the description in the Sunday Commercial October 2, 1892 about Camp Dexter, held at Small's Mill.)

The appropriateness of these grounds for camps – requiring no trenches whatever – would cause many an old camper to turn green with envy. Shores, the photographer, in a series of pictures, has given splendid views of the grounds, but to properly appreciate the beauty and convenience one must really see them. The first day’s bill of fare in Camp Dexter was a sample of what the succeeding days had in store for the guests. It is difficult to tell how many meals were served during the day. We will not attempt to enumerate them here but will content ourselves with giving the menu for breakfast, lunch, dinner and supper which is as follows.

Camp Dexter menu card Thursday, September 22, 1892
Breakfast (Dejeuner) (Ed Note: All items were in French but Champagne was the last item in the list.)
Luncheon: fried black bass, fried spring chicken, stewed tomatoes, roasted potatoes, bread, butter, beer, coffee, lemonade.
Fricassee--supper: raw oysters, bass smothered with onions, broiled Embarras mussels, clams, fried oysters, stewed oysters, baked fish, broiled oysters, squirrel, chicken, hamburger steak, breakfast bacon, ham, and coffee, tea, milk, toast, cheese, beer

About 50 guests sat at the dinner table Thursday and fully as many were present on both Friday and Saturday. Sunday, however was the big day, and the contents of five large kettles of fricassee that had seeped and boiled and bubbled over hickory coals for five hours, were no more than enough to go around, so large was a crowd and so gigantic in its appetite.

The saint and the sinner sat down together, forgetting the embarrassment occasioned by the first meeting, in their endeavor to appease the craving created by the aroma from the pots which pervaded the whole woods and filled the air with the delicious flavor of onions --good old Indiana onions for no ‘fruit’ was purchased in Illinois.

There were many conscience-stricken husbands there whose innocent wives supposed them to be at divine worship. The day was a perfect one, and the drive from the city to the banks was heartily enjoyed. But no one who has acquired a taste for fricassee – it can’t be cultivated - can properly appreciate the grandeur of sunrise on the Wabash, nor the beauties of stream and forest, when he leaves home bent on eating fricassee. Indeed it is a mooted question whether a man is more oblivious to his surroundings when he contemplates the dish, or when he is in the act of devouring it. The late Jim Dick, in speaking of the palatableness of fricassee said, ‘it makes a poor man forget his troubles and a Christian his cross.’ No better illustration of this assertion could be given that on the occasion to which we refer and the responsibility rests alone with Deck Gardner and George Fendrich, who dispense with lavish hand their delightful mixture to rich and poor, to saint and sinner.

Charles Lamb’s historical roast pig isn’t in it; and had the essayist been permitted to taste Gardner and Fendrich’s fricassee he never would have elaborated so exhaustively on the delicious flavor of swine. The best hostelries in the country can produce nothing like it. The finest French caterers cannot equal it. There is only one way to prepare it and that is in the open woods where flying ashes and charred wood commix with the ingredients.

And what are the ingredients? They are generally chicken, squirrel, quail, onions, potatoes, red pepper pods, black pepper, breakfast bacon, lemons, Worcestershire sauce, claret wine, capers, mushrooms, parsley, etc., etc. Simple mixtures, you think, but there is a way of preparing every article before depositing it in the pot. There is a certain time to drop the concomitants into the vessel, and there are times when the potpourri should boil slowly and then rapidly. While it is cooking the fricassee is constantly tasted by the cook who flavors it by degrees. Too much or too little pepper or salt would result disastrously to the stew. What is wanted is just enough of everything. The conglomeration that enters into it must be accurately proportioned, and at least four hours must be consumed in its preparation before it is ready to serve.

Assorted tidbits of news.
There were no mosquitoes. Everything was the best. There were bankers present. Lawyers and doctors were there. The coffee could not be equaled. Broiled oysters were a great luxury. 80 gallons of lemonade were quaffed. Merchants and mechanics set down together. The fishing was not as good as it might’ve been. Two of the bottles used were accidentally broken. Milwaukee supplied a portion of the products used. The spring water was a novelty to some of the boys. Much amusement was afforded with the boxing gloves. 160 pieces of china were on the table at one time. A perennial stream of pure water flowed from a spring hard by the camp. Vegetables, milk, butter and eggs were brought regularly into camp twice a day. The camp outfit, when loaded on wagons, resembled an army commissary train. Hot coffee and Havana cigars were at the disposal of everybody day and night. It required a poultry yard, creamery and bakery to run the concern for four days. Champagne cocktails except on Sunday were staple beverages at the morning meal. The camp was supplied with barbers, manicurists, chiropodists, servants, and hostlers. Hearts (cards) took the place of progressive euchre when the boys were not engaged in other games. The camp was not lacking in a single detail. There was everything there from toothpicks to barrels. Mr. Ryder’s exhibition with the dumbbells and Indian clubs occurred daily and was a pleasant before-breakfast diversion. The Indian clubs, when not otherwise in use, answered the purpose of weapons against the invasion of hogs, dogs and other objectionable characters.