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Alter Egos: John Weber/Les Garner

  Cover Story  

John Weber, director of Computing Services
My first two cookbooks-The Wilderness Chef: The Art and Craft of Lightweight Cooking and The Wilderness Chef: The Art and Craft of One-Pan Meals-are part of a series of cookbooks with recipes for people who need lightweight dry foods for backpacking, canoeing, kayaking, etc. The recipes call for ingredients found in most grocery stores and are an alternative to expensive commercial lightweight trail food. Although they are not specifically aimed at vegetarians, they use TVP (textured vegetable protein) as a meat substitute. The next cookbook in the series will be The Art and Craft of Wilderness Soups and should go to the publisher in the fall. Other books in the series are Outback Oven Recipes, Just Desserts, and Make Your Own Trail Food. The first book is going into a second edition this summer. As a spin-off, I have set up a small business selling prepackaged meals from recipes in the books to Boy Scout groups.

I've backpacked and kayaked since the late 1960s when I moved to Montana. One of the major problems of lightweight outdoor travel is getting lightweight food that is inexpensive and flavorful. Over the years, I've tried a lot of alternatives without much success and finally decided to do something about it when I was living in Arkansas four years ago. In that part of the country it was almost impossible to get lightweight trail food other than expensive commercially prepared meals. (Ever had "instant" grits for breakfast?) I started writing The Wilderness Chef cookbooks so that backcountry travelers could create good-tasting, nutritious, lightweight meals that were inexpensive and made with ingredients available at most medium to large grocery stores.

I also write for the Mount Vernon-Lisbon Sun and other publications as a freelance writer. I have found that it's extremely satisfying to see my words in print. At some point in the next few years I may change professions and take up writing full time.

Les Garner, president
When Katrina and I were living in Chapel Hill, N.C., in the late '70s, we wanted a grandfather clock for our house. A neighbor of ours, Mac McAllister, said he would mentor us through building a grandfather clock if we were willing to learn. Woodworking had been his hobby for years; he was a retired pharmacist, close to 80 when he taught us. We worked three to four hours on Saturday and Sunday afternoons for several months. We carved or turned or cut every wooden piece except the finial, which we ordered.

Since then I've made several clocks from discarded molding found around the campus. I just scrape off the old paint. I like making the cabinet; it's manageable. I've also made two cradles, for my sister and a friend, and a wooden train that circles the base of our Christmas tree now. I do a lot of birdhouses and bird feeders-they're quick-then Katrina paints them. I want to build a grandfather clock for Katrina's brother and his wife. They need a colonial grandfather clock for their house, but I'm more interested in a Prairie Style, made out of oak, since we're out on the prairie now.

I thoroughly enjoy working with wood. The whole design and construction process is interesting. Mac taught us that you have to think ahead three or four steps. It's mentally engaging and it's a great escape, a great release. Most of all, I get something done. I cansee progress. I know where I started, and I know what I have accomplished.
A while ago our church asked me to fix a portion of the altar rail. The trick was to bend the wood. I tried home remedies, but it took me three months to figure out I didn't know how to do it, so I called in Dick Stater, a professional woodworker in Lisbon. It took two days for Dick and me to do it, with Dick showing the way. Six months after we made the repairs, the church remodeled the altar and threw away the old rail. One of my fantasies is to take a month off and be an apprentice to Dick so I can learn the finer points of woodworking.

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