Teaching old dogs new tricks


One of the keenest pleasures of camping is being domestic– making a home in the great outdoors. Few aromas create domesticity more than the scent of coffee, promising you’ll soon be cradling a hot cup in your cold-morning hands. Our coffee pot is pictured above. It’s busy doing its job, boiling water and pushing it through a percolator system that will, in five minutes, produce a dark, fragrant coffee making the morning bright.

I am embarrassed to say that for 35 years, that fine coffee pot was cradled in a cook kit we got for a wedding present. We used the two big cooking pots of the kit, we ate off the 4 plastic plates that fit under the fry pan/lid, which we also used, but the coffee pot was employed to heat water, for instant NesCafe, never to function as a dignified coffee percolator with real ground coffee.

Until two years ago, and I can’t say why, I thought I would pack real coffee from our local coffee house, Northwoods Roasterie in Lindstrom for our upcoming canoe trip on Michigan’s Au Sable River. The first morning out, I measured four cups of water into the pot, and eight heaping teaspoons of coffee into the little basket with the perforated lid, threaded the basket through its metal stand and placed it in the pot, surrounded by water. Then I lit the stove, put the coffee pot on the burner, and stood back to see what would happen.

To my delight, after a few minutes, little brown bleeps of coffee appeared in the glass knob atop the lid. As the water boiled more enthusiastically, the bleeps increased in tempo. My river kitchen got down to serious business. Coffee scented the air and oatmeal bubbled next to the coffee pot.

The coffee pot and I came into our own on the Au Sable that morning. The pot was finally making coffee and I was making a home that offered fresh-brewed hospitality.


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