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Friday, May 29, 2020

COOKING WITH LEWIS AND CLARK

The idea began after one of those Scholastic Book Fairs that we all remember from our childhood.  Elementary and Middle School libraries, all across the nation, were converted into mini-store promoting reading and selling books and other knickknacks to school aged children.  (As a side note...as times have changed these Scholastic Book fairs have gone the way of the Dodo bird.)  Sometime during my first few years of teaching I escorted a group of kiddos down to the mobile trailer that was temporarily serving as our school's library while the building was under construction and I spied a book of recipes.  What caught my eye was a children's book that outlined basic items that Lewis and Clark (and the Corps of Discovery) packed and ate while on their epic journey.  The seed for what would become one of my favorite parts of my school year was planted that day at the Scholastic Book Fair.

Three very nerdy middle school teachers...Eric Gimbi, Dave Raymond, and Mike Graham -- May 11, 2020

At first, COOKING WITH LEWIS & CLARK was nothing more than a small section of the bulletin board on the back wall of my classroom.  Each week I would hang up a new set of recipes and ingredients used by Lewis & Clark.  I got them mostly from the internet...but eventually got nerdy enough to take them from the journals kept by the explorers while on the expedition.  Stapled to the display was a manila folder containing fliers with the recipes for those students brave enough to take them home and try them. As time went on...COOKING WITH LEWIS & CLARK evolved into a lame Power Point presentation that I would deliver to my students.  I mean...I really tried to sell it.  I donned my Licence to Grill apron, wrapped hair net around my bald head, wielded a spatula, and made references to bad 80s music...all while prancing around my classroom presenting the ingredients and recipes.  Proof that you have to be a special kind of crazy to teach in a middle school.

Mr. Raymond presenting COOKING WITH LEWIS AND CLARK. -- May 2014

In the back of my head, I had always wanted to turn COOKING WITH LEWIS AND CLARK into something more.  The first time I tried to make a video out of it I really didn't put much thought into the process.  I had decided to try a recipe that just basically was a mixture of hominy and bacon.  Not only did I not put too much thought into it...there wasn't much effort either.  I just saved a couple slices of bacon from the morning breakfast and asked my neighbor, Mike, to record me on my cell phone as I mixed the bacon with a can of corn in a little skillet on my gas grill.  It didn't even resemble what the actual recipe called for...but when I showed it to the kids they were kinda into it.  So...I kept going.


After that first episode, I moved from the gas grill to my back yard fire pit to make the whole thing seem a little more authentic.  I even began purchasing the actual ingredients instead of cheating like I did in that first episode.  (I would never again think of using a can of sweet corn instead of actual hominy.)  Some things were easy to find at the local grocery stores...but for other things, like sunchokes...I had to to hit up local farmer's markets.  Each episode featured a different recipe (at first I stuck with only the things that I knew I would want to eat) a crackling fire, bad jokes, and a nerdy history t-shirt.  That first year, with the exception of the help that I enlisted to do the video recording, was a solo adventure.  But just as Batman needed Robin and peanut butter needed jelly...Lewis needed Clark.  Things are better in pairs...so the second year took things to an even higher level when I invited my colleague and one of my best friends, Mike Graham, to assist me.  Things were taken to the next level almost immediately!

I was solo my first year of making COOKING WITH LEWIS AND CLARK -- April 29, 2017

Mike Graham, with his quick wit and timing, has the ability to make me laugh like no one else.  
We've known each other for over a decade, but in the Fall of 2017 he was placed on my team as our Science teacher.  It is uncanny how well the two of us work together.  He jumped at the opportunity to help  me with COOKING WITH LEWIS AND CLARK.  Mike brings to the table, not just his amazing sense of humor, but his boundless knowledge of science.  What had started as a bulletin board had now morphed into a cool mash-up of science and history...laced with our own brand of really bad humor and even a little merchandise!  The first year that we filmed together I kept things really simple and recreated the same recipes that I had made the year prior...but by year two together we really tested the limits of our pallets with things like golden squash and fennel.  We even began channeling our inner MCU and started adding post-credit scenes and an outtake reel.  

Mike Graham and Dave Raymond.  Together we make up 1/3 of the NMS Green Team.  Mike is the Science Teacher and I teach American History. -- September 2017 


Dave Raymond and Mike Graham.  A super cool mash-up of history and science!  -- May 2019


Mike Graham and Dave Raymond showing off their new COOKING WITH LEWIS AND CLARK merchandise. -- May 31, 2019


Mike Graham and I filming COOKING WITH LEWIS AND CLARK with a special guest appearance by my principal Mike Alessandroni and my student teacher, Eric Gimbi. -- May 1, 2018
 

Of course, Mike and I could never have made COOKING WITH LEWIS AND CLARK by ourselves.  Along on the journey is a huge list of neighbors, friends, relatives, and even students (who happen to live in my neighborhood) have helped film our antics.  Mike and I have enlisted the help of my wife, both of my neighbors, Jon Senko and Mike Alicea, my daughter, Blythe, and my son's girlfriend, Emma. We've even had a few guest appearances by our principal, Mike Alessandroni (who always makes a point that he has no responsibility in the episode and serves only as "eye candy.")  When he is home from school, my son, Alex (who is a videography major) uses his incredible talents to make us look more professional than we deserve.  We also added another colleague to the line-up.  And again...just as Lewis and Clark added (and needed) Sacagawea to the Corps of Discovery...Mike and I decided that we just couldn't do the Season Four episodes without my former student-teacher, now colleague, friend, and brother...Eric Gimbi.  


Eric Gimbi, Dave Raymond, and Mike Graham -- April 30, 2020


Alex Raymond directing and videoing Mike Graham for the intro to COOKING WITH LEWIS AND CLARK. -- May 11, 2020


Over the years we've eaten some horrible concoctions...and some surprisingly good recipes.  Here is what the guys had to say about their favorite (and least favorite) foods that we have prepared.

MIKE GRAHAM

Mike Graham hiking in Michaux State Forest.  He truly is outstanding in his field! -- March 16, 2020

WHAT DO YOU LIKE THE MOST ABOUT COOKING WITH LEWIS AND CLARK?
I really like just hanging out with my friends and enjoying a laugh or two.


WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE EPISODE THAT WE HAVE FILMED?
Smoked Salmon Soup.  I liked interacting with the camera man near the end.


WHICH FOOD DID YOU ENJOY THE MOST?
Everyday Hominy & Bacon.


WHICH FOOD DID YOU LIKE THE LEAST?
The Simple Meat Soup.  I know it was a favorite of the crew BUT I found the meat to be tough.


WAS THERE A FOOD THAT SURPRISED YOU...GOOD OR BAD?
I was surprised that the frontier coffee turned out so well.  I was nervous that it would fail.


HAVE YOU MADE ANY OF THE RECIPES LATER FOR AN ACTUAL MEAL?
I made hominy and bacon while camping in Lake Placid, NY.  We had to first find a store that sold hominy.  Then it started to rain so the cooking had to be done in my tiny popup camper.  The camper smelled like bacon for days!




ERIC GIMBI

Eric Gimbi enjoying the view in Michaux State Forest. -- March 26, 2020

WHAT DO YOU LIKE THE MOST ABOUT COOKING WITH LEWIS AND CLARK?
Combining history with my love of eating...and getting to see my brothers.


WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE EPISODE THAT WE HAVE FILMED?
Everyday Hominy and Bacon sticks out to me.  I never had hominy before and it was one of my first episodes.


WHICH FOOD DID YOU ENJOY THE MOST?
The recently made catfish.  I don't like a lot of fish and ever time I had catfish before it was not good.  I was shocked how good it was.


WHICH FOOD DID YOU LIKE THE LEAST?
I'm not a big fan of hazelnuts.  I thought it overpowered the rest of the dish.


WAS THERE A FOOD THAT SURPRISED YOU...GOOD OR BAD?
The simple meat soup was shockingly good for who easy of a recipe it was.


HAVE YOU MADE ANY OF THE RECIPES LATER FOR AN ACTUAL MEAL?
Besides the hardtack, I  have not made any at home.



ALEX RAYMOND

Alex Raymond (cameraman extraordinaire) in Michaux State Forest. -- March 19, 2020


WHAT DO YOU LIKE THE MOST ABOUT COOKING WITH LEWIS AND CLARK?
The surprisingly good food that comes out of it.


WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE EPISODE THAT WE HAVE FILMED?
Hominy Fritters...I guess.


WHICH FOOD DID YOU ENJOY THE MOST?
I'm between Simple Meat Soup and Hominy Fritters.  Simple meat soup is so simple (just beef and potatoes) yet the flavor is so good.  Hominy Fritters tasted just like a funnel cake in my opinion...so mega plus there.


WHICH FOOD DID YOU LIKE THE LEAST?
I don't think I tried any of the terrible ones...so I can't really answer this.


WAS THERE A FOOD THAT SURPRISED YOU...GOOD OR BAD?
Hominy Fritters were surprisingly good.




MICHAEL ALESSANDRONI

Mike Alessandroni in Devil's Den at the Gettysburg National Military Park -- May 19, 2017



WHAT DO YOU LIKE THE MOST ABOUT COOKING WITH LEWIS AND CLARK?
The comic relief coupled with valuable historic facts and information.


WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE EPISODE THAT WE HAVE EVER FILMED?
Hominy and Bacon.


WHICH FOOD DID YOU ENJOY THE MOST?
Catfish was the best.


WHICH FOOD DID YOU LIKE THE LEAST?
Hardtack.  Yuck.


WAS THERE A FOOD THAT SURPRISED YOU...GOOD OR BAD?
The bacon coated catfish was GOOD!

This episode proved to be a favorite of all of the guys!



As for me...I guess the reason that I enjoy making COOKING WITH LEWIS AND CLARK so much is because it combines camaraderie, adventure, and food.  Alex and I have been camping and hiking together ever since he was a little boy.  Mike Graham and I enjoy hiking together.  He even got me out of my comfort zone and has taken me kayaking.  Recently, Eric has joined us on a few adventures.  Our trips resemble in no way, shape, or form the hardships that were endured by the members of the Corps of Discovery...but they are epic in their own way.  I've eaten my share of pretty disgusting things (golden squash and Salmon Soup come to mind) but some of the recipes that we discovered in the process of making COOKING WITH LEWIS AND CLARK have become regular dinners on camping trips.  Simple meat soup, hominy and bacon, and frontier coffee have become campfire favorites on our trips.  Personally, the episode that I enjoyed making the most was Hoe Cakes.   I think it perfectly shows the chemistry that Mike and I have with each other.   Here are a few pics of our adventures together outside the classroom walls and two of my favorite episodes from COOKING WITH LEWIS AND CLARK.


Dave Raymond and Mike Graham in Ohiopyle State Park -- June 20, 2018


Mike Graham and Dave Raymond on the Appalachian Trail  -- August 14, 2019


Mike Graham perfectly in his comfort zone...and me nowhere near mine!  -- October 24, 2019


Mike Graham and Dave Raymond on Blueberry Trail in Michaux State Forest. -- March 16, 2020


Alex is ever so confident while Mike Graham and I check the map.  -- March 14, 2020



A socially distant Mike Graham and Dave Raymond in Michaux State Forest -- March 26, 2020



Eric Gimbi, Mike Graham, and Dave Raymond -- March 26, 2020


Eric Gimbi, Dave Raymond, & Mike Graham stopping for lunch while exploring Camp Michaux -- March 26, 2020


All eyes forward while exploring the remains of the latrine at Camp Michaux. -- March 26, 2020


Dave Raymond, Alex Raymond, Mike Graham, and Eric Gimbi exploring Michaux State Forest. -- March 26, 2020






Just as everything else on the planet was cut short due to the pandemic that we are all living through right now...so was the end of our school year at NMS.  I, with every other teacher across the country, quickly became acquainted with "distance learning."  The directive our administration gave us was to engage  our students as much as possible.  Thankfully, we had already started putting together a few episodes of COOKING WITH LEWIS AND CLARK prior to Pennsylvania's stay at home orders issued by Governor Wolf.  The ironic thing is that this abbreviated season is our best so far.  My son's Junior year of college was cut short, too and he was home to help us film the episodes...in a down right professional way, I might add.  In a world that seems so different right now...at least Mike, Eric, and I (with the help of my son) were able to produce some super cool...and super engaging...lessons for our students.  It seems that everyone has had to rethink normal during a quarantine...and we are no exception.  We decided to each film an in-home, quarantine episode and make HARDTACK.  We gave the footage to my son and he pieced it together brilliantly.  By thinking outside of the box...what we ended up with is, in our opinion, our best work yet.  So sit back and enjoy our favorite episode of COOKING WITH LEWIS AND CLARK.  Bon Appetit!

Hardtack made in the kitchen during quarantine. -- May 11, 2020


Life is a journey...not a destination.




David A. Raymond -- May 29, 2020



The guys of COOKING WITH LEWIS AND CLARK...Dave Raymond, Mike Graham, Alex Raymond, and Eric Gimbi (along with another colleague, Russ Blake) hiking at the Gettysburg National Military Park while filming an epic (virtual) field trip for our students. -- May 12, 2020

Our shortened school year meant the cancellation of so many events that the kids look forward to...so the guys of COOKING WITH LEWIS AND CLARK made a trip to Gettysburg National Military Park to film an EPIC (VIRTUAL) 8th GRADE FIELD TRIP.  We even incorporated a little COOKING WITH LEWIS AND CLARK into our trip.  So...if you've never been to Gettysburg...or if you would like to relive your middle school years...come along with us on this epic journey!





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Here are the GARMIN maps and data from the adventures featured in this post.  #OptOutside2020











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