When does a meal become a feast? From observations in my own home and from observing interactions in the dining hall of our family guest ranch, I propose that feasting has more to do with the occasion, those whom you are sharing the meal with and the circumstance of sharing the meal rather than the quantity and menu of the meal. When good food is featured as part of a larger celebratory event, the meal becomes a feast.

Currently we are hosting 60 firefighters battling the nearby “Nikowitz fire”. Prior to arriving here at Marble Mountain Ranch, meals were provided by the national caterers. The national caterers do a fine job of generating amazing quantities of food in extremely difficult circumstances. While the meals are assuredly nourishing, I doubt any of the firefighters would consider the provided meals as a “feast”. The meal setting is typically similar to a military encampment and the food quality must be limited to what can be produced in bulk quantities.

While the circumstance of fighting a fire has not changed in the transition to the Marble Mountain Incident Base, the sleeping and dining ambiance most certainly has, and the cuisine has changed to a much more personal style and original set of flavors. Dining to a backdrop of groomed lawns in a quiet resort and with horses contentedly grazing in the nearby pasture is a stark contrast to rows of metal tables lined up on a gravel parking lot.

Dude Ranch Fire Camp Meals

Fire Camp Meals at Marble Mountain Dude Ranch

Tired fire crews, with black smudged faces and garbed in the uniforms of the trade are now lining up to see what is on the menu at the “Marble Mountain Incident Base”. Last night we served hand rubbed pecan wood smoked chicken wings, honey-bourbon St. Louis style ribs, corn bread, caramelized carrots and onions, a Mediterranean salad, and home made zucchini cupcakes with ice cream. The mood of the meal could best be described as one of “shock and amazement”.  One young man’s response: “These ribs are INSANE!”  This meal changed from less of a continuing survival experience to more of a celebration of good food and camaraderie. What was there to celebrate in the face of a fire? How about home cooked meals, service from a family of smiling faces and a meal shared with brothers engaged in a common cause.

We now have all of the ingredients for a feast. We have a bonding event and shared cause, we have good food, and a pleasant setting. Bon appetit my brothers!