I started cooking and baking before I was ten and received my first cookbook (Betty Crocker's Cookie Book) soon afterwards. Since then I have collected over 400 cookbooks. I am not sure exactly how many since I quit counting several years ago. Occasionally I will force myself to part with some, but then I always get replacements. Many have come as gifts, some are gifts to myself, and lately, I've even added some rummage sale finds. Taste of the Gunflint Trail is an example of a cookbook I received as a gift - a birthday/Mother's Day gift from my oldest son's family. For over a decade, my sons and some friends have traveled in May to Quetico Provincial Park in Canada for a week long canoe trip on Wilderness Lakes. Since this trip usually happens over Mother's Day and/or my birtday, I've gotten treated to some nice gifts from Canada and the Boundary Water area.
My favorite types of cookbooks are the ones that I can read cover to cover, the ones with some historical notes, family stories, or other written bits of interest. The Gunflint Trail is of Minnesota wilderness lakes, some of which became part of the Boundary Waters. The trail was home to many lodges, cabins, and outfitters, many of which had their beginnings in the early 1920's. Some lodges were owned by the same families for twenty years or more, creating a rich, rugged heritage that can't be duplicated by today's vacation condo industry. While the summers and falls brought paying guests and long days of endless work, winters with no stores, schools, or even paved roads for over 50 miles brought isolation and hardship. A Taste of the Gunflint Trail was a project undertaken to capture those stories of hard work, entrepreneurship, and love of nature before they were forgotten. The book is dense with old photographs of the log lodges, their owners, and the scenery. As I read, I felt like I was immersed in a photo album rich with local history. Although I've nev
er been to the Boundary Waters, I have been a north woods fan since early childhood. One of my earliest vacation memories is of our family and two aunts families vacationing in several cabins (complete with outhouses) on a northern Wisconsin lake. I can imagine that hundreds of children (adults now for decades) who ventured to the Gunflint Trail have similar memories.
And yes, there are recipes in this book, too. Some are definitely in the historical category. I will not be trying bear lard pie crust anytine soon, although the basic proportions of fat, flour, salt, and water are almost identical to my long-time pastry recipe. Different cooks (usually the wives of the lodge owning couple) had special recipes that earned them culinary reputations up and down the Gunflint Trail and beyond. Other recipes are simply family gems. Now that I have savored the stories of the hardworking families that made the Gunflint Trail, I will finally search out a few recipes to share with my family. And if you are interested in the trail, check out http://www.gunflint-trail.com/ First thing I noticed about the their website is the photo of a paved road winding through the trees. I bet those early Gunflint businesses would have loved the luxary, or maybe not.