If you are looking here for continuation of The Baker’s Passport series you’ll need to wait another week or so while I get this post out of my system. I’ve been away for two weeks on holiday. And while this is a bit of a "what I learned on my summer vacation" this next statement will shock a good many of you so I’m just going to put it out there.
I was on an Alaskan cruise. Not a big mega cruise ship but a small cruise line, Cruise West based in Seattle. And do they know how to show a girl a good time. This trip is a huge benefit of my job and the best surprise of all to me is that I would do it all again and again. There ships are designed for an up close and intimate experience, sorta like Alaska in hi-def. And they are conscious about the impact they are having and do something about it actively by reaching out to the communities they travel in. Plus if you are into the nature up-close thing their boats can do "donuts"…oh there a whale, no wait over there…!
Over seven days 70 of us floated among bitty bergs and glacial waters peeping at glaciers, (they are all pretty much receding), bears (looking very lean from a longer than typical winter), and humpback whales, dolphins, stellar seal loins, puffins, and the one of the single most spectacular moments of my life occurred in 25 degree weather at 12:30am, a viewing of the Aurora Borealis. My 8th grade dream realized!
I’m a bit of a lucky gal as this was my second time in Alaska. I’ve stayed at Camp Denali during a fall pro photographer’s tour a few years back and now I’ve seen the Inside Passage from a puffin’s view (interestingly they do look as they appear on the Trader Joe’s cereal box!). So, the icing on the cake on this sailing was that most of the passengers onboard were not only there for the marine and wildlife they were all into talking about light, exposure, pixels and the ongoing raw vs. jpeg debate. (When will this question end?) Mark Kelly, a local Alaskan and professioinal photographer helping out with the logistics of putting us in the right spot at the right time (see photo above) and their was another professional, Julie Smith, helping us out with all types of photo-related problem solving.
Vacations to state the blind obvious, are magnificent things. Often we don’t realize how much we need the escape of routines. To be pulled from the ho-hum ordinary into the extra ordinary. To hear stories about others and to think maybe, just maybe I could be that, I could do this or that. That’s what this trip did for me. You see if you have a leaning, I mean a real passion for something like nature, or for the bigger prouder "environment" you need to go to Alaska. The size and shape of the land will shock you and humble you all in one breath. And it’ll sneak right up on you and make you re-evaluate most of what you thought was important in existence. Really, it’s that big. You learn to use the full range of your senses allowing you to return to your previous existence slightly changed.
Before the trip began I took a rather indulgent and pricey 40-mile excursion south of Juneau on a float plane over the Juneau Ice Fields taking in the Taku Glacier and landing for lunch at the same-named lodge. Now what drew me to this quiet rather senior citizen outing was of course the notion of eating the pink fish in Alaska in a wild and rustic setting. Oh yes and although I persuade people all day to buy things they may or may not want I was drawn in by the "your cool beverage will be chilled with chips of 1,000 year old glacial ice." Hey, we all by bottle water so back off.
The lodge site is between two glaciers on the Taku River. Lunch was already in progress. The BBQ pit was being stoked and fanned with alder wood by the young chefs in preparation for the wild King salmon bake. Inside the lodge the finishing accompaniments of reindeer sausage, baked beans, blueberry coffeecake scones, baked compote and herb biscuits was being pulled together. There was little to be seen of Scarface the bear that lives well during the season on salmon droppings.
After lunch we heard the story of the long-time previous owner of the lodge Mary Joyce who in 1935 at the age of 27 decided that just for fun she’d like to drive a dog team 1,000 miles from Juneau to Fairbanks. Frankly, everyone thought she was off her sled but she arrived in Fairbanks, where she learned she was entered in the Miss Alaska beauty contest and declined that in favor of honorary membership in the Pioneer Women of Alaska. Ms. Joyce also had a salmon-eating cow and a connection to the Smith in Smith-Corona but that’s a whole ‘nother story.
Finally we were invited to ask questions. After I asked enough appropriately worded but pointed questions about personal observations on global warming, waste disposal, the source of the wild king salmon (locally caught and sustainable) and about the realness of glacial ice in my glass all was confirmed with the yarn about "how" these young lodge keepers keep their "refrigerated" goods chilled by an itty bitty berg.
Imagine that, all in the last true frontier, and just one day.
Taku Herb Biscuits
Adapted from Taku Glacier Lodge Secret Recipes
These biscuits were all flaky goodness.
4 cups bread flour
3/4 cup dry milk
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 level tbsp each of dried thyme, parsley, tarragon, basil
1/2 tbsp. garlic powder
1 cup cold butter
About 1 1/2 cups very cold water
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Place all ingredients except butter and water in mixing bowl, cut butter into mix (so pieces are not smaller than a peanut).
Make a well and add cold water. Don’t add all the water at once. Work enough to make a slightly sticky dough, adding water as needed.
Place dough on floured board. Fold, turn it over and fold again. Do this about 8x. You may need to add a little flour between folds if the dough is too sticky.
Pat into a square about 1" thick, cut into square shaped biscuits or simply use a round cutter.
Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes.
Best served hot accompanied by butter and honey.