The Joys of Hash
No, not that hash. Different demographic. I am talking about the kind of hash you cook, not in brownies, but generally over a campfire, and even on the stove at home. Plain old fashioned hash. The charm is, there are many variations on the theme, and the joy is that anybody can do it.
I rediscovered the joys of hash, cooking for my kids. They have weighed in that I am not as good a cook as their mom but, it is hard to mess up hash. It’s a basic, starting with basic ingredients. Maybe it’s the Irish in me, but good hash starts with a base of potatoes. I like the yellow fleshed Yukon Gold kind. The rest, is up to the creator and chief cook and bottle washer. You can put what you like. Hash is meant primarily to be filling comfort food. When camping, it is indispensable to providing fuel for nature hikes and canoe treks. The stuff you bring won’t likely go bad and it won’t attract bears. You won’t see bears in a field digging potatoes any time soon.
When we were kids we would head out with army surplus knapsacks and sometimes make a three day event of it, roughing it in the woods. Nobody asked questions, our parents were likely glad to have a bit of peace and quiet, and trusted we wouldn’t do anything overly dumb. Our transportation was bikes, we would ride in a pack over twenty or thirty miles into offroad crown land far back from the farmer’s fields. If we hankered for some meat, we would bring fishing poles to try our luck in whatever body of water was available.
When camping, the hash was generally cooked in rendered bacon fat, although you could also bring along a small container of oil. We raided our parents’ pantries for whatever we could find. Canned vegetable are fine, but beans are a great standard, as is (believe it or not) Spam. Spam has many jokes made about it, including culinary challenges whereby chefs make amazing dishes out of Spam. Spam is the original canned mystery meat that won’t go off backpacking through the woods so if you are in for a bit of protein Spam works. Soldiers in the trenches survived from it as standard fare. It was developed with that practicality in mind. I won’t look at what goes into Spam, only to say that it works in hash, as does corned beef or other canned luncheon meats. Spam does not have good connotations. Using it to describe unwanted debris that can clog up your computer system with bugs might adequately express what most people think of the original product. In times of war, but otherwise.... no.
So forget the $400 Yeti boutique camping cooler. You can go simple and just throw the ingredients for hash into a backpack where it will survive well even on a hot day. Hash works primarily because it is simple and does not require any special equipment apart from an army knife with a can opener attachment. Bring a skillet and some kind of grill you can prop up with stones and you are off to the races.
At some point when an adult, I became nostalgic for a good Spam camping fry-off, and was not disappointed. I am not sure whether the taste is bolstered by the physical activity, but Spam is a great ingredient when added to basic hash. Hash also adequately feeds a crowd. You won’t likely ask “who wants more hash?” and come up with a “no”. I like the idea of hash because it is practical and easy, and of many varieties as you can think of stuff to dump into it. If you have eggs on hand, even eggs go well in a good hash. Think of it as the western version of a stir fry, when Chinese people wanted to empty the leftovers from the cupboard and fridge, and just dumped in whatever was to be had.
Things that are easy, ubiquitous and accessible by the masses are sometimes short in supply. You might come up to value them again. What’s for dinner is the question on most people’s minds around four o’clock in a nation. Don’t know? Go to your pantry, find some and potatoes and have away. You won’t likely fail. You also will find the charm of the most simple solutions out there waiting at your fingertips. Move over Kraft Dinner and Lipton Noodle Soup. Other comfort foods have come long before you, not to be forgotten.
I won’t say “don’t try this at home”. On the contrary, hash doesn’t have to be cooked on a campfire although somehow that adds an element of flavour. By all means cook it at home. If you cook it for kids, they will like it and they won’t ask any questions. Maybe years later when they are semi adults they may ask, what was that really tasty stuff you used to cook for us when we were kids?
No grow op necessary and they won’t check you over the border for this one. It is legal in all jurisdictions and good fare for the road or at home. And kids, don’t say NO to hash. By all means try it. Hash is not something you kids dreamed up today. Tried and true hash has been around for a long time and it will not leave you disappointed.
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