Titaniumophilia~~ A Wake-Up Call For Gram-Weenies

(1) Titanium is… The Fairy Queen in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream? Nope. That was Titania. Dang.

(2) Titanium is… Proof that you’ve spent more money on your cook set (or stove, or boot lace tips) than anyone else in your hiking group (extended family, city, state, province, country, continent).

(3) Titanium is… Proof that you’re trendy, and possibly an idiot, though still a trendy one. Let’s hope you can dress the part.

(4) Titanium is… A metal incorrectly described by absolutely everyone stupid as “amazingly lightweight and strong, and perhaps the way to go if you’re obsessive about ounces.”

(5) No, it isn’t. But what would you expect to read in Backpacker magazine?

 

Titanium is a metal. And titanium is light, compared to uranium, but not compared to steel.

Stoveless and cook-pot-less and fuel-less is the way to go if you’re obsessive about ounces, and can gag down cold suppers night after night.

Aluminum, however, is the way to go if you’re obsessive about ounces and grams and price, and if you like to compare the weight of your tools to the weight of their shadows.

Titanium is only 12% lighter than steel, though it has almost all of steel’s strength, while aluminum is 54% lighter than steel and still has 75% of steel’s strength (Spot the trend here?), which is enough for a cook pot.

Titanium doesn’t ding or dent very easily (because it’s tough, which is nice), and titanium is highly resistant to corrosion (which means that it stays pretty). Since it is tough, it can be rolled thin. The thinner the material, the less there is of it, and so the less the finished product weighs, even if it’s made from heavy materials, which is the real advantage of titanium.

But if you want a cooking pot and you don’t care a lot about exactly how pretty it is, but you do care about how heavy it is, then aluminum is the way to go. You sort of care about how tough a pot is and you probably care a whole lot about how much it costs. You may also kind of care how beat up it’s going to end up being, eventually, or not. Your call, eh?

Titanium as a material is significantly heavier and vastly more expensive than aluminum, but tougher, and those who own titanium items feel smarter because titanium looks new longer. A lot of people who feel that way don’t go backpacking because if they go backpacking they will get their clothes dirty and they will get tired, and what they really above all want is to keep that just-off-the-shelf, crisply-pressed, newly-unwrapped look, while continuing to smell of aftershave. Titanium will help with that.

Titanium is for them. Titanium is for people who don’t ever want to sweat or walk uphill or know that bugs might actually be attracted to them.

 

Thanks [and apologies for the mild reformatz] to // so says eff

For me, the bottom line is that aluminum is simply better for cooking… better and more even heating/conductivity, less scorching and burning, perfectly acceptable weight tradeoff… and way less moolah. It’s a 90%/50% thing.

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“Gone In 60 Seconds”

I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to get around to doing a post on foraging. I regularly go out for fiddleheads in the spring, as well as young poke and watercress. I grew up on Euell  Gibbons classic books  “Stalking the Wild Asparagus” and “Stalking the Wild Scallop”, both of which taught me a lot about the things that you can eat from the wild… and what you can’t.

One of the most popular things to forage for are of course wild mushrooms. The taste of morels and chanterelles puts anything from the grocery store to shame.

Anyway, the other day I looked up my side window and saw a large white ball in the grass alongside my driveway. I don’t live where kids can knock a softball up into my yard. Puzzled, I went out to look. What it turned out to be was a giant puffball mushroom. This is one of the few mushrooms that you can find that falls under the category “hard to mistake”. I grabbed it up, and scurried inside in excitement.

 

IMPORTANT FAQ AND DISCLAIMER:

THERE IS RISK THOUGH! [Don’t try this at home, kiddies] Many edible mushrooms can be very, very hard to differentiate from those that are less than edible, and might be fatally poisonous! Don’t eat it unless you are hundred percent sure!

From the net: “Calvatia [species] are fairly easy to identify as long as you know these mushrooms are in a specific class which have no gills inside, they are just fluff all throughout which later turns itself into its own spores, which then are released with the help of an animal, or human who can’t resist smushing or kicking it, and are dispersed by the wind….. Most Calvatia species are edible as long as the inside is pure white; I am not aware of any that aren’t.”

OK. You’ve been warned. Do your own research and assume your own risk.

At this point I will reveal that I DID survive eating the previous slices the other night. This one was indeed a real “puffball”. [Don’t eat it unless you are hundred percent sure!]

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It is shown here already cut in half thru the top, but with several of the larger slices already removed [and consumed!] You can see the soft white flesh that resembles marshmallow both in color and feel. Very delicate and slightly spongy… much more delicate than store bought ones.  This is one of the characteristics that make these relatively easy to identify [againDon’t eat it unless you are hundred percent sure!]

    

For mine I just dredged the slices in a thin flour wash with a little cornmeal added, and pan-fried them for a couple of minutes on each side until they had browned lightly.

Done this way, I find the taste to be that of a fine, delicate mushroom-cheese omelet… just all-in-one. And, Yes… it was “Gone In 60 Seconds”.

If this interests you, get someone knowledgeable to take you out foraging. There are “mycological societies” [mushroom clubs] all over. They are surprisingly easy to find, and the people are happy to share their expertise. Here in southern Maine, we have people who are actually making a living foraging mushrooms, wild herbs, and exotic greens for the up-and-coming, frou-frou, locally-sourced restaurants. And we are just going into prime mushrooming season here from Aug-Oct. BUT…Don’t eat it unless you are hundred percent sure!

 

Laguiole “Picnic” Knife

Last fall I got a wild hair and finally bought a Laguiole style knife. I say “style” because these are one of the most heavily cloned knives out there. “Laguiole is like “Kleenex”… It has passed into common usage for any similar sized, folding pocket knife with a similar sweeping blade. I was under no illusions when I ordered this that it was an actual, handcrafted knife from the village of Laguiole, France, or even the adjoining town of Thiers. For one thing, the Shepherds Cross detail on the handle is upside down, and the rivets are not perfectly aligned. While it actually did ship from France, it is certainly a generic version. And, quite frankly, there is nothing wrong with that.

Here’s a quick link to the Wikipedia entry, and it contains other links at the bottom if you want even more information>>  The Laguiole knife

I have quite a number of what I consider to be decent knives suitable for a variety of purposes, but I lack the money to do any serious collecting of fine blades. This is where my 90%/50% criteria is often used.

The classic Laguiole pocketknife was what you took along to cut up your  fruit and cheese, your baguette and sausage on a picnic in the French countryside. If you had one of the units with the corkscrew, you could open your bottle of cheap vin ordinaire.

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One of the hallmarks of Lagouile knives is the semi three-dimensional bee on the spine of the knife over the ferrule. A second is the engraving along the spine. [the photo at the left is clipped off the Internet, but shows both of these features] Even on the non-handcrafted knifes, the the finer the detailing of these, the better chance of the entire knife being higher-quality. These were two items that I looked for when I started shopping around and comparing the offerings. I was lucky, and the knife I purchased was even more finely detailed than the one shown.

 For my purposes, that is quite enough. This one comes branded “Laguiole L’ Eclair”. It is reportedly made in China of an unknown quality of stainless steel, but takes a very fine, sharp edge with minimum effort. Certainly fine enough for preparing food, and use as a “picnic” knife. The blade opens with a satisfying “snick”, but this is not a locking style knife. However, it does take a firm push up against the back of the blade to disengage the back spring.

The slim blade makes it ideal for slicing. This is why I chose to add one to my camping cutlery. I have big, heavy knives; I have pocket knives and pocket tools. I can dress out a deer carcass, hack up some kindling, and take care of most ordinary camp chores. But none of them have the long, thin blade to finely slice an onion, or to make it a real pleasure to deal with that plate-sized, porterhouse steak that just came off the flaming hardwood coals of your open fire and render it into thin, juicy morsels. The Laguiole does.

It it is also the perfect size to go with my titanium dining set, and carries around perfectly in their mesh bag. Together with the SnowPeak spork, I’m covered. I can prepare and consume in perfect grace, dignity, and high style… while out “roughing it”.

I like using “nice” stuff. That’s how I roll.

Return of the Prodigal Spork

18 months ago I lost my sweet SnowPeak titanium Spork.

I broke camp in the middle of the night because of the appalling nature of the coked-up junkies in the next site. They had returned at 1 AM, started a screaming match, and were being abusive to a three-year-old child. I left to go to the police department and turn in a CHINS report.

When it came time to sort my gear out down cellar after I got home, I discovered I must’ve left my spork behind. I knew it had been sitting out on the picnic table, and I pretty much assumed that I had just overlooked it in my hurry to be gone. I wrote it off as “Oh,well…” and eventually got around to ordering another one off of Amazon when they went on sale.

I was really fond of that little sucker. So fond that I actually used it around the house on a daily basis. [I am on my own since my wife passed away, and using the spork for a lot of things made it easier to just stay caught up on my dishes]. That’s why I sprung for a second one.

For under $10, I highly recommend these. They are available from Snow Peak and several other folks in basically identical form factors. You can even get them heat-anodized into various colors. The prongs are just long enough and sharp enough actually hold food, and the”spoon” is decently sized for scooping up liquids. If your broth is really thin, you are probably better slurping it up over the edge of your cup bowl and using the spork to clean up the chunks. And it’s just long enough cannot leave your fingers completely grotty if you were dipping down into a freeze-dry bag. It’s a great choice if you want to hold your carry down to a single eating utensil. With a good knife to cut things up, It’s really all you need.

Anyway, for all those reasons, I was really delighted when I put on my hunting vest recently and found it tucked in a pocket. I hadn’t “lost” it after all.

More Bang For Your Buck

At one point last summer I was passing through the EMS store down Babylon. I courteously allowed them to relieve me of some of my money [about $10 bucks] and picked up the orange Sea To Summit Delta plate. Together with the green “squishy” bowl, this made for a fairly nice dining kit to go with my titanium utensils.

Then, a bit later in the season. TOG and I were in Walmart on our way to go out on the lake upstate. We grabbed complete the red and gray set there… total cost?… about SEVEN BUCKS! StS sells a single set that includes a matching bowl for $30 over on Amazon.

Both versions of the plates seem to be made from the “food grade Nylon 66, BPA free” that StS advertises. Both have a nice honeycomb pattern on the bottom; I assume that this adds strength. However, both kinds have developed a slight upward bow in the center after use. The only major difference is that the StS version has the thumb grip on one edge… I do have to admit that that is a feature that I greatly appreciate. You get grimy enough in the woods without sticking your thumb in your stew.

The Walmart kit of two plates, two bowls and two sets of Delrin utensils all came in the nice nylon and mesh drawstring bag which is plenty large enough to also carry a bunch of small food or condiment items. Is a really decent extra and also makes it easy to hang up your cook gear with your bear-bag to keep the critters away. I am not too excited about the collapsible cup/bowls, but they are nice enough I guess… it’s just that they seem like they would be awfully easy to somehow collapse during use, the ridge-rings don’t make them that utilitarian as actual bowls, and I always have something else to drink out of.  Now, the utensils are really nice. I already had one of the knives, and it is easily sturdy enough to cut into a steak. The spoon is also quite exceptional as it has a large, deep bowl, and is also long enough to reach down into most freeze-dry pouches and MRE retorts. WallyWorld used to sell these same utensils at $.89 each piece, so you can see that $7 was an excellent deal for this entire kit. [I believe they currently sell the knife/fork/spoon as is set for about a $1.89… I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend you pick up a set as a spare].

I was certainly not displeased with my existing combination of the orange plate and green bowl, so they will continue to be my “go to”.  They come in at just over 8 ounces, which is perfectly acceptable given my usual car and kayak camping circumstances where a couple of pounds extra weight is not particularly problematic. As for the others, the good news is that the WallyWorld set will just stay Upptacamp, so that it is always there if we get a whim to take the kayaks out on the lake

This is a really classic case of discovering that you can get 90% of utility for 50% or less of the cost.

[BTW- I subsequently purchased a second WallyWorld set for elfLiza and I to go in our picnic tote down in NC. I have a dreadful feeling that the price at that time ended in $o.*1… and I am fairly certain that is their code for clearance items]

Fidget Cube : Fidgetively Speaking [6]… A Truly Antsy Backer™ Escapes Upptacamp

My buddy, TOG [The Other Geezer] and I escaped up into the Northwoods for a couple of nights, and I got to take a break in the incessant refreshments of my emails. TOG teaches at the vo-tech, and we always get up for a couple or three days during the February school break. This was about the 10th year in row.

We are fortunate to be able to get away Upptacamp at least eight or 10 times a year… Mostly during the better weather. This fall we missed out on a two, and the last time we had been up was Columbus Day weekend. Since we’re only 4 miles from one of the nicer, and taller, ski mountains, TOG was actually heading back up again the day after we came down to go skiing with another of our friends. I don’t do the falling off the mountain thing.

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We had to cut steps into the six-foot tall whitewalls to get out of the lane, and then TOG stamped out a path up top with the snowshoes while I excavated a slot just wide enough to walk through out of that lump on the porch. We were actually walking over nearly 3 feet of snowpack. There’s a flight of steps that go up to that deck in the picture below… four by my memory.

[Also, note the 2 1/2 foot long “brow” hanging off the snow shed roof]

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This is the view out back to the trout stream. Yeah, IT’s under about 4 feet of snow because of the drifting.

file_000-3 We also like to eat.

I brought along Frenched rib lamb chops, venison, and fresh burger. TOG raided his meat locker for bacon and sausage from his pigs, and a dozen fresh eggs from the chickens… his pets make him breakfast.

We spent a lot of time reading our Kindles with our eyes closed, and I’m happy to report that I didn’t worry about the cube crisis for a single moment. And, of course, I came home to no shipping email.

[today, back home here in lower Maine at the Château, I had 72° on my porch]