Sunday, January 07, 2007

a yurt christmas

Usually I spend Christmas pretty much the same way: hanging out at my parents' house, eating food, opening presents. Now that adventure boy is in my life, it seems things are going to be a bit different. Will's parents planned to visit us during Christmas so the two of us (well, mostly him) came up with the idea to spend Christmas in a yurt at 9400 feet. The trip required a 5 1/2 mile cross-country ski with full packs (never mind that my entire cross-country skiing experience consisted of an afternoon out at the nordic park three days before departure). We intended to spend two nights at the yurt with Will's entire family, but travel problems prevented both of his siblings from arriving and delayed our journey one day. But one night was probably just right for me.

The Uintas are a high mountain range with shallow valleys. The first part of our journey was a fairly gentle glide on partially groomed trails through pines and aspens, leading to a final steep slog up to our yurt which is appropriately called the Ridge. The yurt was nestled into a slight depression in the ridge.

As far as winter camping goes, a yurt is pretty luxorious. There is a wood stove, so you can keep yourself pretty warm (if you don't choke on the smoke from the faulty drafting). You get to sleep off the floor on wooden bunks. There is an outhouse. There is a propane stove and lantern and a large stack of chopped wood. Still, seeing as I detest winter and being cold, I was a bit apprehensive about the whole thing. But thanks to a new down, zero degree sleeping bag and some good food, I survived (and am even looking forward to making another yurt trip in two weeks).

But the food. Trying to plan Christmas dinner that can be cooked entirely on a propane stove is a tricky thing (especially when you have to consider the weight of your food). With a little brainstorming and Will's willingness to be a workhorse and tow in a sled full of food, we ended up with a very satisfactory Christmas feast.

For lunch on our arrival, we nibbled on bread, spanish olives, manchego, salami, and Will's mom's fruitcake and nutmeg cookies. And tea of course--lots of tea while waiting for the stove's warmth to kick in. We also got to work melting snow on top of the wood stove (a continual process during our stay).

The obvious plan for Christmas eve dinner was pan-fried ham. We added mashed potatoes (mashed entirely--and quite handily, I might add--with a dinner fork) and asparagus (totally out of season, but. . . ) to round things out. And for dessert, rice pudding--which not only happens to be one of few stove-top desserts but also happens to be a Christmas tradition for Will's family. Will's dad is apparently the family's rice pudding master, but he was kind enough to step out of my way and let me craft the pudding (even though it was my first effort); it felt like a bit of an honor that I was trusted with the family tradition. Part of the tradition includes hiding an almond in the pudding which provides its discoverer with some luck. Rice pudding is a good choice for deesert when all you have is a stove-top, but at 9400 feet liquids boil very quickly making it tricky to properly cook rice leaving the pudding a little, well, chewy. We topped off the evening's meal with hot chocolate (chopped Scharffenberger with milk, to be exact) and peppermint schnapps.

For Christmas morning (after clearing our lungs from soot-filled sleep), we ate french toast from some chocolate chunk challah bread I'd baked at home, bacon, and reheated (and surprisingly tasty) mashed potatoes.

This is the kind of winter camping I can support: slighty warm conditions, good food (and lots of it)

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Blogger Sarah said...

What a wonderful new tradition! Maybe every Christmas will be a yurty one from now on. The food sounds just as good as anything you would have had back home (and I bet the hot chocolate and bread pudding tasted even better than they would have if no cross-country skiing had been involved).

7:57 PM  
Blogger Judy said...

Glad you had a good time. It does sound scary at first, but I suppose once you get used to it it would be kind of fun. I've only been camping once, in the summer, and I didn't like it. I grew up on a lake in the country, so I'm cool with bugs and campfires and other campy stuff, but I like a real bed and a real toilet. My parents actually still have an outhouse, out of use for years, but it's still there on the property.

5:34 AM  
Blogger lis said...

I actually love camping. I'm just not too keen on doing it in winter. But the yurt trip was actually really fun--a great way to make winter camping a little more tolerable.

11:44 AM  
Blogger tara said...

That bread pudding in particular sounds great. Chocolate chunk challah! And considering how food always tastes better when you're camping, I can only imagine it was awesome.

In other news: Help! I'm locked out of the new version of Blogger! It won't let me switch to the new version (and thus I can't post at all). I've been reading up on the tech support page -- Melissa, it sounds like you might have to send me a new invitation to "join" the blog. grrr.

Hurry! I have very important things to say about the new episode of Top Chef. There is much newfound Marcel love in this household.

5:18 PM  
Blogger lis said...

bread pudding? there was no bread pudding. just rice pudding. and french toast with the challah bread.

sorry--I hope my switching to the new blogger didn't screw you two up. sending invitations right now.

9:46 AM  
Blogger tara said...

Sorry -- rice pudding + french toast somehow amalgamated in my mind to become bread pudding. yikes ...

Thanks for the re-invite -- I think I might have to re-create my Blogger profile, but after that I should be all set.

3:21 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

yeah, me too, sorry about the bread pudding confusion!

7:40 AM  

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