MOSES LAKE -- Talk about classic cooking.
Toss some ingredients in a pot (the experts say cast iron is best), put on a lid, a few coals on top, a few more on the bottom. Back in the day, the day being 1844 or so, every cook on the trail heading west had a pot like that. Modern day cooks call it a Dutch oven.
While it's not as ubiquitous as it once was, the Dutch oven still has a following. "The food tastes really good," said Ted De Witt, a member of the Columbia Basin Dutch Oven Society.
Club treasurer Nancy Johnson said it's hard to explain why. "Well, you just have to eat it," she said. "It just seems like it's so much better."
Club members will be at the Moses Lake Farmers Market on June 21, demonstrating Dutch oven techniques and providing samples. (Technically the club uses camp Dutch oven, with a lid that can hold coals and feet on the bottom to keep it off the ground.)
Dutch oven cooking isn't limited to the stereotypical camp fare of biscuits and beans. "People think all you can do is chili," De Witt said. But "we do some pretty fancy stuff."
"Anything you can cook on the stove or in the stove you can do in a Dutch oven," Johnson said.
That includes prime rib, pizza, cake and cookies, French toast, soups and stews, meat loaf, lasagna, fried tomatoes, casseroles -- and yes, biscuits and chili. The Dutch oven society has published three cookbooks and they have more recipes besides. "We're always trying new stuff," Johnson said.
"We experiment. Everybody does," she said. It is true that her favorite dish is the classic baked beans, but "I like to cook everything in them," she said.
Dutch ovens go from small, 6- to 8-inch diameter, up to much larger; the club has a 14-inch cast iron model they use when serving prime rib to a crowd. "We need two guys to carry that," De Witt said.
The prime rib dinners are the club's charitable project. Organizations like the BBCC Foundation and Youth Outdoors Unlimited auction offer of a Dutch oven dinner, at the time of the buyer's choosing, during their fundraisers.
The prime rib usually comes with crab-stuffed mushroom appetizers, tomato soup, roasted potatoes, green beans with almonds and cake or cobbler. It's all done in a variety of different sized Dutch ovens.
Regulating the heat depends on the size of the oven, which determines how many coals are placed above and below. An experienced Dutch oven cook has a pile of hot coals ready to replace them as they cool, De Witt said.
Of course air temperature makes a difference, it takes a little longer when it's cold, but wind is the real problem. "Wind is not our friend at all," Johnson said.
De Witt said he has learned that it's wise to wear pants and shoes when cooking with a Dutch oven, rather than shorts and sandals. And he recommends welding gloves, he said, a lesson learned when absentmindedly opening a still-hot Dutch oven.
The club is looking for new members; people can get more information from any club member or at the June 21 farmer's market. For more information, go to www.cbdos.org.