Recipes for Towboats And Sweet-and-Sour
GEERD and Hanni are in Germany for their annual visit to the homeland, but before they flew, we went over to their lovely Camden-by-the-sea to assist at one of Hanni's luncheons and to bid them eine gute Reise. The luncheon, which would make the French and Italians look about to see whatever became of their haute cuisine, was at the usual Hanni-perfection, and included her sweet-and-sour. I had been getting ready for this for some time.
In the spring I sow my garden seeds, and for some seasons now they have included red cabbage - Rotkohl - for Hanni. Hanni is our best authority on sweet-and-sour, and when I take her a couple of mature red cabbages along in late August, she embraces me appropriately and invites us to lunch on the following Tuesday.
Hanni and I have a definite thing about red cabbage.
She will tell you how she makes it, but you'll do well to let her make it instead of telling you how. She says it's simple enough. She starts some shredded bacon, adds the chopped Rotkohl, puts in some apples and raisins, a bit of brown sugar, and so on.
Nothing to it.
She coincides a hefty pork chop, some escalloped potatoes, and a few revered addenda long established in the Heimat lore. Her luncheon is such that come evening, at home, we skip supper.
This gives me a welcome chance to tell you about Geerd, who is well fed and is a marine architect.
To my mind, his finest effort was the William Hilton, a steel towboat he designed for the Great Northern Paper Company for towing booms on Chesuncook Lake during the spring drives. There has got to be something bizarre in fetching the talent of the Hanseatic shipbuilders to America to make a towboat on Maine's Chesuncook Lake. But here was Geerd in Maine, and the order was a challenge.
Chesuncook was formed from several substantial Maine lakes when Ripogenus Dam was built early in the century. It is one of our largest man-made reservoirs and is a very wide place in the West Branch flowage of our Penobscot River - which Great Northern used every spring to float pulpwood from the forest to the mill.
So the loose pulpwood couldn't disperse and get lost in the big lake, it was contained in floating "booms," fence-like contrivances made with long logs chained in a circle, and these booms were towed. In earliest days, the booms were brought down the lake with tedious "headworks" and winches, but now Great Northern was ready to invest in a super-powered towboat and had sought our Geerd Hendel down at salt water.
As you can suppose, certain technical adjustments were necessary to accommodate deep-water condition to fresh water, and Geerd spent long hours at his drafting board.
The vessel was mostly a power plant. 'Twas said she was capable of jerking the Empire State Building right over into New Jersey, and that New York was lucky that none of our Penobscot River "tigers" thought of doing that. But interestingly, the William Hilton, named for an early forest ranger, was never subjected to blue-water nautical lingo. The woodsmen who "drove" the Penobscot and handled the Hilton never heard words like hawsepipe and galley and head and tumblehome and sheet - words every coastal bo y grows up with. On the Hilton, the galley was the cookshack.
Flint Johnson, who cooked on the Hilton, told me once that they towed 50,000 cords of boomed pulpwood into the wind for 17 hours, and ended up five miles behind where they started. This was not a critique of Geerd's design, but merely Flint's Maine-woods way of emphasizing that the wind blows on Chesuncook Lake.
The William Hilton was built at East Boothbay, trucked to Chesuncook Lake in two pieces, and welded together just before a gala launch party by Great Northern. The vessel towed booms for many years before river-driving ceased, and then she was sold to Cap'n Eliot Winslow of Southport for a party boat. Today she is a tug in Portland Harbor.
Geerd keeps in touch with her and frequently recalls how beautiful Mount Katahdin is as he looks down on Chesuncook.