Camping in the Sierras, Late Spring

Palace of the Blue Butterfly | Episode 13

I don’t know where you’ll be when you read this, but I’m going hiking, and, if we can finish all the chores around here, we’re planning to car camp. Yes, by a river. I just want to be sitting on a rock, reading a book, listening to the rush of a waterfall as it tumbles over granite into a blue-green pool.

Raymond Chandler Book CoverWhat am I reading? Well, it’s almost summer, and since the book group just hefted Anna Karenina, mentally and physically (Best. Novel. Ever.), we’re reading something lighter, or maybe darker — Farewell My Lovely by Raymond Chandler. But hey — look at what the critics say about it.

“Raymond Chandler was one of the finest prose writers of the 20th century. He wrote like an angel.” Literary Times

“Nobody can write like Chandler on his home turf, not even Faulkner.” The Boston Book Review

“Raymond Chandler invented a new way of talking about America, and America has never been the same since.” Paul Auster

Anyway, it’ll be a great read on a rock in the sun or by the campsite at night with the light of the kerosene lamp. Can’t wait. And for this expedition, I’m making a great vegetarian chili.

Here’s the recipe.



6 cups of Rick Bayless’s homemade pinto beans (recipe follows)
3 TBS. vegetable oil
3 onions chopped
1 diced carrot (must be diced small. You want the sweetness and a little crunch, but not hunks of carrot)
2 diced SWEET red peppers( not hot!)
4 cloves garlic minced
28 oz can diced tomatoes
1 chopped chipotle chili in adobo
2 tsps. dried cumin
1/2 Gebhardt’s chili powder
1 cup diced green chilis
salt to taste
dash of sherry or cider vinegar
cayenne to taste
sour cream, cilantro, chopped onion, cheese, flour tortillas


Saute onion in vegetable oil until translucent. Add carrot, followed by red pepper and saute until tender but not mushy. Add garlic and saute until fragrant, but do not let it brown. Add the rest of the ingredients EXCEPT vinegar and cayenne. Simmer for fifteen minutes. Add the cooked beans and simmer another ten minutes or so.

Taste for salt and heat. Add the cayenne, a small amount at a time, until you reach the level of heat you want. Follow with a splash of vinegar. Sometimes I skip this and serve the chili with a wedge of lime because it’s pretty.

Add chopped raw onion, grated cheddar cheese, cilantro, sour cream to the bowls as you like. Serve chili with warm flour tortillas and cold beer.

So I’ll pack the cooler with the above, plus blue corn pancake mix for breakfast. All that’s needed is the red checked tablecloth, a mason jar for some wildflowers and a couple of oil lamps. Plus a table with a view of the King’s River.

Just me and my guy. Heaven.



Rick Bayless’s Frijoles de Olla

1 lb. pinto beans
vegetable oil
1 large onion
1 clove garlic

Soak beans overnight in 7 cups of water. Discard water.
Saute onions in large dutch oven for ten minutes. Let them get a little brown.
Add garlic and saute until fragrant.
Add beans and 6 cups of water.
Cook until tender.
Add salt to taste only after the beans are done.


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