Picture of ruins

Lucy Raup Camp Cooking

Posted Mar 6, 2016

On June 16th, 1939 Hugh Raup flew into Glacier Lake with his wife Lucy and their two boys, David, age six and Carl, age eight. Hugh Raup was a professional biologist, at the lake to map the area’s biological landscape for the Arnold Arboretum at Harvard University. Lucy was a lichenologist and although not a professional, she had a lot of experience. They had Jim Soper, a Canadian biology student who was studying under Hugh.

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It was 1939 and as was common for women, Lucy’s primary role was that of camp cook. It was a familiar role since the Raups had been on many summer research expeditions, mostly in northern Canada and they continued to do so until after the war. Then in the late 1950s Lucy wrote a book for campers that included a supply and equipment list for such expeditions along with a plethora of time-tested recipes.

From the Raup collection of photos that my husband John and I obtained at the Edmonton archives, we found a few pictures of Lucy cooking at Glacier Lake, in the same campground that we had occupied on our visit to the lake this year. In the photos the Raups were camped maybe a hundred feet deeper into the spruce forest that surrounds the lake. Lucy had canvass bags hanging on the trees that were filled, according to David, by him and his brother, with water from Frost Creek that flows into the lake. There was a large pot sitting on a hand made table, the legs consisting of cut poplar trunks. Lucy had her head tied in a scarf as she crouched by the fire pit.

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I tried out recipes in Lucy’s book as soon as David sent it to me. Some of the recipes didn’t set well, at least at first. For example, Lucy states that “hot cereal plays a much more important part in the camp breakfast than it does in the usual home breakfast … and the morale of the whole day depends, in large measure on this meal.” She goes on to say that the whole-wheat cereals are preferred because they taste better and because of their laxative qualities — something I had never thought of.

But it was Lucy’s cornmeal mush that came highly recommended as the best way to start the day. I never liked porridge much so when we were preparing our food to take to Glacier Lake, I never even suggested we try the mush. Lucy also recommended frying any left over mush and eating it with syrup and/or honey. My mother did this as a kid and the whole idea made me gag. On the positive side, every breakfast of Lucy’s included a dehydrated or canned fruit plus a bread or biscuit. The biscuits are great.

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Lunches were usually soup and cheese on bannock or biscuits. They planned their heaviest meals for dinner.

A big difference between meal planning for Lucy and hikers like us, is that Lucy planned on getting fresh meat. Two weeks after their arrival at the lake, Lucy spotted a moose, which would supplement their supply of canned and smoked meats for their dinners. Hugh shot the moose and it took them the rest of the day to skin, cut and store the animal in the cache. The waste was taken down the lake and left near the shore.

Besides animal meat, the Raups supplemented their suppers with freshly caught fish and birds such as ducks and grouse. Pan-fried fish were quick to cook but the birds usually had to be stuffed and roasted which meant about an hour of work. Lucy usually cooked stews, soups and tougher meat in a pot hanging high over the fire. She did this by placing the pot on a cross-stick that could be raised and lowered so it could simmer but not burn.

Because Lucy’s supplies and equipment were flown in, and her camp never moved, she had things we never use. She perfected the use of a reflector oven to bake items such as bread, fruit pie, chocolate pie and bread pudding. A reflector oven has two pieces of tin/aluminum that reflect the heat from a fire onto the item being cooked. She had to watch carefully so the heat didn’t fluctuate to the point of spoiling the food. She also used a Dutch oven, a heavy pot that could sit in or hang over a fire. It came with a tight fitting, concaved lid that could hold coals and in turn help heat/cook the contents evenly.

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Another difference is that I use mostly dehydrated food that I have prepared and packaged at home. This includes beef burger that needs nothing more than a bit of water and a few minutes of heat to rehydrate. As our staple we used rice and noodles, which also cooked easily over our camp propane/butane stoves or the open fire. One day we also made bannock, a fried bread or biscuit but we had mixed all the measured ingredients at home and included a glob of fat so we could fry it. A bit wimpy as compared to Lucy, kneading bread while swatting bugs, often in the rain and then concocting a form of reflected heat that would raise the bread without cooking it.

I mentioned that Lucy had the primary responsibility as camp cook, and she did, but I’m proud to say that the Canadian on the team, Jim Soper, was happy to take on a lot of the cooking. Hugh mentions this in his journal.

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Jim was much more of a beneficiary of Lucy’s experience than me. In his journal from 1939, he mentions the desserts in words that suggest almost religious awe. And he got the recipes for those desserts from Lucy and used them on his own excursions after he graduated. And, for the rest of his life, he made his own bread as she had taught him.