Editor’s Note: The Best of Bud is a compilation of some of the advice and recipes gathered by the late Ralph W. “Bud” Leavitt who retired as the BDN’s executive sports editor and outdoor editor in the fall of 1988. He continued to write a weekly column for the paper until his death on Dec. 20, 1994. During his nearly half-century as the BDN’s outdoor columnist he penned more than 13,000 columns and one book, “Twelve Months in Maine.” While some of the folks Bud interviewed have died, their contributions and memories remain with us.
Maine guides, who are justly proud of their culinary skill, consider the beginner well grounded if he can make light and fluffy biscuit or johnnycake, a tasty stew and a good pot of coffee.
The late and very-much missed James (Jim) Henderson had few peers when it came to manufacturing a baker sheet heaped with a marvelously-contrived johnnycake.
Years ago in Jim’s company, I learned a whole lot about cooking and the advantages of a reflector oven.
One noon we came ashore near Winchinpaugh Brook at Branch Lake after a morning of fishing. Our shoreside party was composed of Merle and Gertrude Bowden, George and Jane McMahon, Jim’s wife, Adelaide, and my mate, Barbara.
Since he’d spent a good part of his life guiding and trapping out of Chesuncook Lake, Jim was nominated to cook the lunch.
I have a special fondness for johnnycake, and because of this, I consider myself to be an authority on such matters.
“How ’bout makin’ us a hot johnnycake?” I asked.
“Sure,” replied Jim.
I remember Jim taking a seat in front of the fire, his legs crossed beneath him, and watching as he mixed the condiments.
¾ cup cornmeal
1¼ cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup milk
¼ cup shortening
1 12 oz. can Budweiser beer
“Jim!” I protested, “You’re going to ruin the johnnycake!”
He never stopped pouring the beery contents into the batter.
The pleased expression on his great round face, lit up like a full moon, remains as fresh as yesterday.
Jim poured the rich, thick batter into a large sheet, spread the contents evenly, and placed the rack on the holders inside the reflector oven.
We all stood around and watched. It was like waiting for the takeoff of a moon shot. Some 20 to 25 minutes later, baked in 425-degree heat, Henderson’s superb Chesuncook Johnnycake was served in 4-inch squares. The contents, an indescribable delicacy 3 inches thick, passed every conceivable test.
Hold the beer, there’s more!