It seemed like winter went on forever this year…but springtime has finally hit, and summer is just around the corner. And with the warmer weather, our thoughts drift away to the great outdoors.
I’m no “outdoors-woman”—I don’t consider myself a true adventurer, gardener, fisherman, athlete, golfer or bicyclist. I would call myself more an admirer—a connoisseur, a spectator—of the outdoors, but I have at least tried to make an honest effort at many of these activities.
I purchased a new bicycle several years ago, recalling many fun outings—first as a child, then as a parent with a child carrier on the back. Riding from Alta to Princeville on the Rock Island Trail makes for a great family time—especially with the reward of a meal at a friendly diner at the end of the line. With each ride, though, I flash back to a bike ride years ago when my husband hit a rock and went flying head-over-heels over the handlebars, ending up with a nasty gash on his head. That was before helmets were considered necessary gear for children and adults alike—see page 32.
I first remember fishing as a young adult in Canada. I asked my companions why they needed to travel so far (at least an hour by boat) and so early (before daybreak) in the dark (and in cold Canadian temperatures) in search of a “secret” fishing spot, when there was a beautiful lake just a few feet from the cabin. “The fish aren’t here,” I was told. At my insistence, I was shown how to cast late one afternoon. After my third try, I shouted, “I think I’m stuck on something…” To everyone’s amazement, I had hooked a ten-pound Northern, and was struggling to hang on to my fishing pole! They suggested then that I would be truly “hooked” on fishing, although my success was surely just a fluke.
As a college student, french-fried mushrooms from a nearby restaurant were a special treat. When I first heard of the morel (page 28), I wondered what made them so special—some of my friends would scout out secret locations in the woods for hours in search of a handful. Indeed, there is an art to striking “morel gold.” Last year, conditions were perfect, and my husband discovered several large morels growing in our front yard! Those were the tastiest—and we are watching that spot very carefully this year.
Also in this issue, read about the experiences of culinary students here in Peoria (page 20). I enjoy gourmet cooking, but don’t always have the patience for complicated recipes if the end result can be achieved with pre-packaged ingredients. As my friend, local baker Mary Ardapple, once told me, “So many of this generation think that ‘made from scratch’ is a store-bought frozen apple pie. They don’t appreciate the taste difference of finding the right apple, peeling it, combining it with the perfect blend of cinnamon, sugar and butter.” And she’s right. In an age of hyper-convenience, fresh ingredients make all the difference.
Growing up, my children were blessed with a freezer stocked with northern pike and walleye fillets, Grandma’s sweet corn, fresh peas and canned green beans, and her famous raspberry preserves. I never had to purchase those items at the grocery store—we were all spoiled with the bounty!
So get out and enjoy the springtime! After a long, cold winter, the hunt for outside activities is sure to be at the top of your list. a&s