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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Man's Weekend

By Chris Siciliano

On a Friday in February, 2011, fifteen men traveled up US-131 and converged for a two-night stay in a cottage not far from the Croton Hardy dam. The occasion was the third annual “Man’s Weekend”, a late-winter retreat for the beard-growing members of our species only. Those familiar with the hallowed tradition of camp de la deer (deer camp) would undoubtedly recognize several overlaps between it and our group’s private holiday: whiskey, cards, food, and farting were all in abundance, interrupted only for a few short hours Saturday, when half the company strapped on snowshoes to venture out into the forest, blazing trails through the snow where previously there were none. Even then we had beer with us, and good one’s at that, two bottles of cellar-aged Kentucky Bourbon Stout, which we passed from man to man while gazing out at the frozen surface of Hardy Pond.

Man’s Weekend. Those who might be offended that such a thing exists, rest assured: misogyny this ain’t. Besides a beard and beer gut, all who attend have at least one trait in common, great love and respect for the women in our lives (go ahead, ask them). The fact is an event like Man’s Weekend is a deeply necessary thing, the kind of relief valve hardworking folks need this day and age. At its core, it’s nothing more than a chance to cut loose for a few short days, to drink beer and BS with the boys, to smoke cigars, to suck down bacon, to tell stories, to tromp around the woods, to stand around fires, to sit at poker tables, to curse and carry on in the exact way frowned upon—with good reason—by polite society. Without Man’s Weekend, without deer camp, without the man cave, without the fantasy football league, without whatever it is you and your friends do to stay sane (men and women both), who knows from where and how else that relief would come.

Highlighting specific incidents from man’s weekend is unnecessary—it’s just not that interesting to people who were not there. However, we can and should for reasons of posterity recount the food and drink, cataloging the tasty vittles and suds so that the bearded generations to come might know how to continue this tradition.

Kraut, meat, bread

Dinner Friday included six full pounds of kielbasa from Lewandowski’s Market, boiled first then roasted in the oven. We then sautéed 1.5 quarts of sauerkraut in olive oil, adding a pinch of sugar and maybe a little salt too. Though the sauerkraut was my contribution—I fermented it myself it over a period of months—my father, Steve (the boss), took control of its preparation. Whatever he did he did it well. The kraut was the best I ever had, with a touch of sweetness to take the edge off the otherwise pleasing sour tang.

Along with the kraut and kielbasa we ate thick slices of homemade sourdough wheat bread and washed it all down with many pints of beer, either Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale or Founders Endurance, both poured from icy-cold 1/6 barrel kegs (5.16 gallons) that we set outside in the snow. The beers were the perfect accompaniment for this kind of hearty meal. Though the Endurance was sharper and lighter than its maltier counterpart, each showed the necessary hop backbone to cut through the fatty richness of the kielbasa.

On Saturday, when we woke up hungry, former Siciliano’s employee Tommy Huizing took control of the kitchen, whipping up a classic breakfast of flapjacks, bacon, scrambled eggs, and fried potatoes. I sliced and toasted a loaf of my cheddar-jalapeno sourdough, which normally receives high praise. This morning however my old standby was overshadowed by a new invention—the Man’s Weekend breakfast taco. Former Siciliano’s employee Wes Eaton caught the wind of divine inspiration when he wrapped one of Tommy’s famous flapjacks around a strip of bacon and some banana. Liberally doused with home-rendered maple syrup, this hand-held delight proved to be one of the more remarkable culinary moments of the weekend. The salty, crispy bacon both tempered the syrup's sweetness and  complemented the soft "give" of the banana. Trust me, this is something you'll want to try—the result is true perfection.

Proof of the divine

Before breakfast was on the table, Wes was already making dinner—a venison roast that would slow cook for hours with various root vegetables until all individual components melded into a singular, fantastically earthy taste. When it was finally time to eat, the meat and veggies were so tender you could cut them with a spoon. The natural juicy drippings were rich and satisfying, especially when sopped up with yet more slices of homemade whole wheat sourdough.

As if that wasn’t enough, there were two huge pots of soup simmering all day on the stove. The first was Grandpa Sam's exceptional take on minestrone, a beefy, big-bodied alternative to the all-veggie version that did not disappoint. The second was a smoky, fiery jambalaya with loads of chilpolte peppers. This dish had heat to it, and not a little, and it made for a great excuse to return often to the third and final beer on tap: Founders Harvest Ale.

By Sunday we had all had our fill and it was time to put the wraps on another successful Man’s Weekend. We cleaned the cottage, collected our things, and said our goodbyes, slightly sad to be leaving, but ready too for real life again. Man’s weekend is long enough.


Special Thanks

To Kyle Dood for the Founders sixtels and maple syrup, to host Steve Siciliano for the Celebration Ale, to Greg 'Swig' Johnson for the kielbasa, to Doug, John, and Zack for the Jambalaya, to Jason 'the vet' Chudy for the roasted corn, to Wes for the venison, to Larry for teaching Wes to hunt, to Tommy and Brandon for breakfast, to Alex for the KBS, to Mark for the Stella Artois (Stella!), to Grandpa Sam for the soup and for refilling all our beers.

Chris "The Perch" Siciliano is a writer, teacher, and the managing editor of The Buzz. Recently he relocated to Grand Rapids with his fiance, Gena. Chris would like to apologize to all attendees of Man's Weekend he did not mention here by name. Likewise, he would like to apologize to all attendees of Man's Weekend mentioned here by name. He can be reached at

1 comment:

  1. Incredible that that all really happened...amazing tact in underpinning the spirit of Man's Weekend in ways that render individuation unnecessary...even uncouth