Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Eat like a Lumberjack

Samoa Cookhouse
908 Vance Ave.
Samoa, CA

Nobody would confuse me for a tree hugger.

But even jaded ole Suit757 can get just a bit awestruck staring up into the California coastal mist at a 500 year old, 350 foot tall redwood tree.

There’s something mysterious gazing upward at a grove of redwoods that have stood as silent witness to the centuries.
Just standing there quietly rising into the misty sky. Just doing their thing -- sprouting heavenward until one day they’ve become among the largest living things on the planet.

Equally amazing, hearty redwood is virtually immune to insects, termites, fire and rot. It’s among the most ideal building materials ever created by God.

So naturally, when modern man discovered these majestic giants clinging to the hillsides along the California coast, a new industry was born.

The stately historic mansions that dot the hillsides populated with wealthy San Francisco leftists were built from redwood trees.

Redwood lumber became a lucrative natural resource.

Burly men from across America came up into these remote mountains of Northern California to swing axes and work the sawmills that turned redwoods into hotels, hospitals and homes.

These manly men worked up quite an appetite, as you might imagine.

That’s where Samoa Cookhouse was born.

Samoa was a company town for the Vance Lumber Company, where Paul Bunyan types would live in company housing, shop at the company store and dine at the company cookhouse.

Each morning Samoa Cookhouse would fry up hearty breakfasts of all-you-can-eat stick-to-your-ribs cooking to line the stomachs of lumberjacks for their long day ahead out in the woods.

Believe it or not, that tradition has continued uninterrupted here at the Samoa Cookhouse, even though the Vance Lumber Company -- and the town it built and owned -- is now nothing but barbed wire and crumbling buildings.

Of course today nobody swings axes and grinds saws against 350 foot tall redwoods. The tree huggers have put an end to all that.

Besides, who wants to work in a sawmill when you can elect a Socialist like Barack Obama to the White House and then collect unemployment, food stamps, subsidized rent, free healthcare, Obama phones and 250 free minutes per month?

I mean, that’s progress, right?

Big burly men these days are more likely laying on an Army cot in their Section 8 housing collecting welfare than out working for a living.

Sure enough, the only folks chowing down at Samoa Cookhouse these days are tourists planning a long day navigating their SUVs through the paved scenic drives of Redwood National Park.

Oh, well. Tourists have to eat too, I suppose.

I guess that explains why Samoa Cookhouse has survived and thrived serving meals uninterrupted for 120 years.

At some point during the 1960s, after the ecofreaks told Paul Bunyan and his buddies to find another line of work, Samoa Cookhouse opened its doors to the general public.

Today this is the last remaining lumber camp cookhouse in North America. It says so right on the historic plaque outside the front door.
The set-up is still the same as during the glory days of the lumber camps.

Long communal tables draped in red checkered table cloths are arranged neatly through the cavernous dining hall.

Industrial sized pots and pans clang in the open kitchen.

Paintings and pictures of mustached lumbermen felling unimaginably gigantic redwoods line the walls interspersed with tools of the trade.

A 26 foot long hand saw is mounted above a picture of a dozen men proudly posing in front of the 25 foot diameter redwood log they just conquered.

Snapping pictures and toggling the cruise control on a Ford Explorer may not burn as many calories as working a 26 foot long hand saw all day, but that doesn’t stop those tourists from loading up on lumberjack breakfast food anyway.

Just like in the old days, you don’t get any say in what you’ll be eating.

Don’t like it? I’m pretty sure there’s a Denny’s somewhere across Arcata Bay in Eureka.

The food was better than I thought it would be.
I mean, let’s face it. The system here isn’t that far removed from your college “caf” dining hall. Or those god-awful banquet hall rubber chicken dinners you get at every political fundraiser and wedding reception.

Perhaps coming here for breakfast was a good call.

Breakfast food holds up better under mass production assembly lines than industrial chicken cordon bleu.

First out of the kitchen was a plate of biscuits and a bowl of cream sausage gravy.

Not the greatest biscuits and gravy, but a good way to kick off a stick-to-your-ribs kinda meal.

Next came communal bowls of scrambled eggs and good link sausage.

Best of all were the pancakes.

I’m not normally a big pancake guy.

Too often pancakes are boring bland soggy sponges for low quality syrup.

But not at Samoa Cookhouse.

These were some of the best pancakes in the history of breakfast.

Sweet, tasty and griddled to a perfect dark brown, they held up stoutly to the butter and maple syrup.

Rather than being simply soaked up by the pancakes, the good syrup actually complemented the doughy taste of the flap jacks.

The efficient waitresses at Samoa Cookhouse will keep on bringing out the bowls of food until you holler “Mercy.”

By the time I pushed back from the checkerboard dining table and explored the lumber camp museum and artifacts behind the dining hall, I was more than satisfied.

Stomach lined for a long day ahead I was ready to head up into the California forests.

Like everyone else at Samoa Cookhouse, Suit757 was acting like a tourist today, cruising through the redwood forests that the Vance Lumber Company never got to.

As I gazed up into the sky at trees taller than 30 story sky scrapers and wide enough to drive a truck through, I appreciated the fact that there are still plenty of redwood groves around for tourists like me to gawk at.

Just don’t call me a tree hugger.

Rating: Seriously Thought about Buying the Shirt.

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