September 04, 2005

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake... Why's It Upside Down?
entry, September 4, 2005

Friday night I went camping with my daughters, and I brought my dutch oven.

Before I continue with my tale of diphenhydramine citrate, pineapple upside-down cake, and really deep middens, I have two announcements:

  1. The entry Archives aren't done yet, but the September 1st issue is in place for those of you who may have missed it. Yes, it has a zombie in it, along with an address where you can send children's books.
  2. I'm at Dragon's Keep on Monday. If you're currently local to Utah Valley, come by and get a free sketch. The new digs are really, really cool. If you're a tabletop or card gamer of any kind, you really, REALLY need to check this place out.

And now, on with our story...

An hour before heading up Hobble Creek Canyon for the church's annual Daddy-Daughter campout, I decided I wanted to make pineapple upside-down cake. I googled a recipe, shopped for the ingredients, and grabbed all the necessary equipment: Dutch oven, secure in its carrying case, Dutch Oven "lid lifter" (a curiously-shaped long handled tool that only a dutch-oven user would recognize), charcoal, scout-water (also known as "lighter fluid"), a lighter, a mixing bowl and whisk, and no oven mitts.

The no oven mitts are foreshadowing. [cue dramatic music]

Cooking with a dutch oven is simple once you know a few tricks. The first trick is "briquette math." Let D equal the diameter of the oven in inches. Put (D-4) briquettes under the oven. Put (D+4) briquettes on the lid. For a 12-inch oven, that's eight down and 16 up. This ensures even heating inside the oven, which is what you need if you're making a cake, a pizza, or something trickier than what you could have done in a frying pan. The second trick is "talk to somebody who knows what they're doing." The recipe I used is here, and this guy obviously knows what he's doing. It was the first result on my search page, and I believe I know why. Somebody at Google tried the recipe, and then boosted the rank of the page based on how things turned out.

This nameless Google results-cooker obviously had oven mitts.

I won't trouble you with the preliminary details, like how the oven was rusty in spots thanks to improper stowage, or how I used 50% more butter than I should have. No, I'll just say that in a pinch, wet newspaper will work very nearly as well as oven mitts, except for the steam. The final step, you see, is to take the (still very hot) dutch oven and flip it upside down. Only as I was flipping it did I realize that I was using my drawing hand in a situation where a) I could easily burn it, and b) while burning it I could easily smash it.

[cue more dramatic music: Dun dun DUUUN!]

I escaped unscathed.

The upside-down cake was perfect.

There was plenty to share.

You read this far, and there was no dramatic payoff. It's a good thing I never do this while writing Schlock Mercenary. You people would lynch me.

The rest of the trip was less perfect. I drugged myself to sleep with two Excedrin PM -- I knew I'd be contending with allergens, insomnia, and back/shoulder pain, and the blend of diphenhydramine citrate and acetaminophen is pretty much tailor-made for that set of symptoms. Unfortunately, it wore off by 5am, and my back and shoulder hurt enough that continued prone-ness in any position was out of the question.

My daughters had me at my wits' end the whole time, running off into the woods, exploring the creek, shouting that they'd found a rattlesnake (none of the adults ever got a look at the snake, so I'll just comfort myself in the knowledge that my daughters don't know squat about snakes except "stay away from them") and basically being KIDS while what I wanted to do was slip off into a drugged stupor.

Don't get me started on the toilet. Suffice it to say that my 4-year-old was taken aback, and very worried that she'd fall into that stinkin' deep hole.

There is happy news. This is the first Daddy-Daughter campout I've attended in four years. Not working for Novell anymore made that possible, and both my girls reported back to Sandra that they had a GREAT time, and can't wait to do it again.

A year from now, I might just be ready. And this time I'll bring oven mitts.