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Back to Quihi

by John Raven, Ph.B.

On what would turn out to be one of the hottest days of the summer this year, I packed the old truck and journeyed south to my friend Scott's "Camp Quihi". The camp is a rock fire ring in a sparse stand of oak trees on the land where Scott's herd of longhorn cattle live. Calling it a camp gives us the illusion of being in camp with the Texas Rangers of old as they pursued outlaws and Indians. We didn't see any outlaws or Indians; I guess it was because we had our BB guns with us.

In attendance at the gathering were Scott Conrad, Barby Brunken and myself. We have been friends since we were in grade school together.

I arrived about noon on Thursday. Scott and Barby already had everything under control. A small fire simmered in the fire ring. We did not have to sit too close to feel the warmth.

We exchanged greetings and road conditions. It was not long before Scott put the pinto beans in the cast iron bean pot and hung them on the tripod over the coals to start simmering. With the lid on the pot, the only attention the beans required was the occasional look and stir and an application of more coals to keep the simmer going.

About Camp Quihi

Camp Quihi is named after the nearby town of Quihi. Quihi was settled by immigrants from the Alsace region of France. The region borders on Germany and, for many years, one country then the other would claim the territory, bringing about a mix of French and German traditions. The Alsatians settled Quihi in 1846. The name came from the settlers' inability to pronounce "Queechie," which was the Indian name for the White Neck Mexican Eagle Buzzard or Caracara, as it is better known.

Indians had been hanging around the area for a long time before the white man showed up. Scott's place has areas where the Indians mined flint to make their stone tools. Occasional artifacts still show up.

The Indians did not take kindly to the Alsatians moving into the neighborhood and treated them with disrespect for about thirty years until all the Indians moved to Oklahoma.

For an afternoon snack, Scott had made a batch of Parisa. Parisa is a dish that came from Europe with the immigrants. It's not found anywhere, as far as I can determine, other than in the immediate area around Quihi, Hondo and Castorville. It's a sort of paté made with uncooked meat. In this case, Scott used lean buffalo for the dish [recipe to follow]. The Parisa and some saltine crackers filled the before-supper void we were experiencing.

The rest of our evening meal consisted of country sausage that Scott boiled until done and then toasted on the grill over coals. We had some excellent tomatoes, and I had some of my light bread to accompany it all. No one left the table hungry.

After our supper had settled, we pulled out the BB guns and had a shooting contest. We wiped out an entire gang of empty pop cans. The scoring ended with a three-way tie for shooter of the month.

Shortly after it became too dark to see the BB gun targets I crawled up in the back of my truck for the night. Scott and Barby not being the troopers I am, retired to the AC trailer Scott has on the grounds. We nearly had a Comanche moon. When there is a Comanche (full) moon over Camp Quihi, you can near read a newspaper by its light.

I was up at six the next morning. I found Scott building a breakfast fire. Barby crawled out, and we did the coffee ritual.

I supervised a breakfast of grilled ham steaks, home fries, scrambled eggs and toasted light bread. Mighty good.

Being our camping was so intense, we had absorbed all we needed by the time breakfast dishes were washed. We loaded and hit the road to our respective abodes. It was really a nice time. I hope we get to do it again this fall when the weather cools a tad and we can have a full Comanche Moon.

Camp Quihi

Cooking in Camp Quihi

We don't do anything fancy in camp. We were all raised on Traditional Texas Food, and it's still our favorite.

Camp Quihi Parisa

  • 14 ounces lean beef (preferably grass-fed), bison or venison
  • 8 ounces mild cheddar cheese, finely grated
  • 1 medium onion, minced fine
  • 1 or 2 serrano peppers, minced
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 teaspoons coarse-grind black pepper
  • Juice of one large or two small lemons
As the meat used is raw, everything must be spotlessly clean when you are making parisa. Trim anything white off the meat. Put it through the meat grinder with the fine plate. It should be really finely ground. Keep the meat cool while you are working with it. After it's ground, keep it in a bowl set in another bowl of ice while you prepare and mix the rest of the ingredients.

You want the meat to be just as lean as you can get it. Grass-fed beef or bison is really healthy fare. The bison used comes from bison farms; it is not harvested by an Indian on a pony.

Mix everything real good. Refrigerate at least four hours before serving. Overnight would be better.

Serve on crackers or toasted bread like paté.

Camp Beans

  • 1 pound dry pinto beans
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 or 3 cloves of garlic, fine chopped
  • 4 slices smoked bacon cut in 1-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon coarse-grind black pepper
Wash the beans and put them in the cooking pot with enough water to cover by about three inches. Bring to a simmer. Add the bacon, onion, garlic and black pepper.

Simmer covered for 2 to 3 hours. Check water level and stir occasionally. Check for tenderness after 2 hours. Continue to test at 30-minute intervals until they are as tender as you desire. Don't forget to stir when you check and if the water is getting low, add a bit more.

When the beans are as done as you like them, add the salt and simmer about 15 minutes longer. Then taste to check the salt level and, if it's okay, move the beans to a place to keep the warm until serving time.

Other Camp Articles:

Grilled Country Sausage

The sausages we had at Camp Quihi were raw, link sausages, which require cooking before consumption. Scott put the sausages in a large pot, covered it with water and put it on the fire to simmer. It will take about an hour for the sausages to get done.

They are done when they are gray all the way through. Best way to check is to slice a piece and inspect. It would be difficult to use thermometer in this situation. If you boil the sausage too hard it will burst. This does not affect the quality but it does look bad.

When the sausages are done, remove from the pot, dry with towel or paper towels and place on grill over medium coals. Leave just long enough to brown and crisp the skin.

Raven's Light Bread

I cooked a double loaf of my light bread ahead of time. The weather was just too hot to mess with Dutch oven and open fire. You can find the recipe for my basic white bread over in Traditional Texas Food.

Breakfast in camp
First off, brew a pot of your favorite coffee. Have a cup or two and then think about breakfast. I was prep cook for our breakfast. Barby did the hot work over the coals. First to go on was a couple of ham steaks about one-half inch thick. No seasoning required -- just put them over medium hot coals and let "em get a tan. I think ham is at its best when there are some crispy edges on it.

Our home fries were easy. I had baked two large potatoes the day before. At camp I peeled and diced the spuds. They went into a well-oiled skillet with salt and pepper. Just stir them once in a while until they get a good brown on them.

Scrambled eggs are a no brainer. Put three eggs per person in a large bowl less the shells. Add a little salt and black pepper and beat them up real good. When the home fries are done, remove them to a bowl and pour the eggs in the still hot pan. Keep stirring and mixing the eggs until they are as you like them.

The toast was buttered real good on one side and browned on the grill over the coals. Some jelly really sets it off.

There you go boys and girls, another adventure with me here on Texas Cooking.

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