Back In The Saddle On The Slow Road To Recovery

Well, I’m back in the saddle, so to speak, after having rotator cuff surgery on my right shoulder in early January.

And no, it wasn’t caused by reeling in too many big fish. (I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard that one in the past four weeks!)

As anyone who has ever had rotator cuff surgery will attest, the surgery might not fall into the “major” category, but the recovery is lengthy because the healing process is so slow.

I knew what I was up against going into it, and everything I heard was correct. Recovery is very slow.

I’ll have my right arm in a sling for three more weeks.

Obviously, that is going to limit my ability to get out of the office and do the kinds of stories I most enjoy doing for the Sunday Outdoors section. Favorite wintertime activities such as ice fishing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling aren’t going to be in the cards for awhile yet, and chances are good that winter will be giving way to spring by the time I’m able to get “out there” the way I’d like.

I have a fishing trip with friends planned for the Minnesota Walleye Opener, and I definitely plan to be able to wield a fishing rod by that time.

For now, I’m taking it pretty easy. Slow and steady wins the race, as they say.

Roots of a recipe

Among the hundreds of emails that hit my inbox during my absence from work, one that stood out came from John Guenther, a longtime employee for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. We met in the mid 1990s when he was regional director for the DNR’s Northeast Region in Grand Rapids, Minn.

Guenther was writing about a wild rice casserole recipe that has become a tradition during an annual grouse hunting rendezvous every October at the getaway in northwest Minnesota. The recipe, officially known as Foolproof Pheasant and Wild Rice, first came to my attention in a cookbook by the late Bob Schranck, a longtime Twin Cities outdoors writer who spent his later years in Devils Lake.

It’s a fantastic recipe, and we adapted it to the area we hunt by substituting ruffed grouse for pheasant.

As it turns out, the recipe dates back even further than Schranck’s cookbook, explained Guenther, who winters in Texas. Here’s part of his email:

I’m writing to give you, as Paul Harvey used to say, “the rest of the story.”

Bob Schranck was a close friend for whom I had made the dish a number of times. That was what he wanted if I was cooking. I would never let him watch me make it, alway talking of “magic” ingredients.

Ultimately, I gave him the recipe for his “Wild in the Kitchen” cookbook. That was in the mid 1980s when I was, as Bob recognized in that book, working for (former DNR Commissioner)Joe Alexander.

Bob’s preface to the recipe in “Wild in the Kitchen” was, “The secret is out.”

The recipe moved from there to Dick Sternberg’s Sportsman’s Library cookbook, and outward from there.

Someone here in Texas wanted a recipe and I remembered seeing Foolproof Pheasant and Wild Rice online a few years ago. There I found your piece regarding your fall tradition of wild rice casserole. It felt like home hearing you enjoy a recipe I wrote and I’m pleased to have Bob recognized.

In an interview when Gene Merriam was appointed DNR commissioner he was asked his favorite food and he said, “John Guenther’s pheasant and wild rice.”

This note is just for you so smile and say hello when you’re in your grouse camp and ready to eat.  

Best wishes.

John

Guenther’s letter made my day, and there’s no doubt the recipe is a classic wild game dish. Here’s a link to the recipe as it appeared on the Herald website in October 2014.