You can almost hear the crackling campfire as you flip through the pages of Bill Tyschuk’s recipe book.
Now a resident of Wind River Hospice in Whitehorse, Tyschuk has compiled some of his favourite recipes to cook up at the campsite in Wild Bill’s Bush Recipe Book.
Tyschuk, who has been a Yukoner for decades, was eager to share some recipes and stories; having been a cook at restaurants, highway lodges and hunting camps, he has a lot to share.
The book that he self-published with assistance from hospice volunteer Erica Bourdon contains 14 recipes suitable for the open flames and cast-iron cookware that mark mealtime during many Yukoners’ camping trips.
The book is dedicated to Tyschuk’s mother who taught him to make Ukrainian dishes like perogies and cabbage rolls and also gave him his start cooking in the cafe she operated in Onoway, Alberta, near Edmonton.
“I am forever grateful to have had the opportunity to learn from her as she was a loving mentor in my cooking journey, one that fuelled my lifelong passion for the Culinary Arts,” the dedication reads.
After working in the Onoway cafe for years, Tyschuk moved north to cook at Alaska Highway lodges at Rancheria and Swift River. He was a breakfast cook and says he met a lot of interesting people travelling along the highway. Tyschuk also lived in Faro and cooked at the Studio Hotel.
He also did a lot of cooking at places no highway or city street can take you to. During the 1990s and beyond, Tyschuk would periodically tend to meals at hunting camps. His first camp was at a hunting outfit his cousin operated in Alberta.
“It’s pretty rugged. You feed everybody good and you hope you have everything you need,” Tyschuk said.
When cooking for some of the camps, Tyschuk would be in charge of doing the grocery run before the hunting party arrived and ensuring the food could be packed in the light aircraft used to access the camps.
“There was quite a bit of logistics,” he said.
Some of the recipes in Tyschuk’s book call for the wild game which he cooked for successful hunters at the camps, but not all of them were there for meat.
“Some of them were Americans. All they wanted was the head,” he said.
In some of these cases, he said the guides passed the meat on to local elders.
Tyschuk says he was never a hunter himself but liked to fish. Lake trout are his favourite quarry in the Yukon — Tyschuk likes the fight that large and powerful fish put up on the end of a line. The book contains a dry rub mix well suited for use on fish.
The recipes in Tyschuk’s book are simple, hardy fare well suited for capping off a day of fishing, paddling, hiking or any other pursuit in the Yukon’s great outdoors. His favourite places in the territory to set up camp and cook up a meal are the campsites at Johnson’s Crossing and Teslin Lake.
The recipes in the book are to be cooked on an open fire. When selecting firewood in the Yukon, Tyschuk says birch is best as it is the only hardwood widely available for burning in the territory and it is much easier to control a fire built from birch than from pine or spruce. In order to keep a cook fire going and control its heat, Tyschuk said it is helpful to have different-sized pieces of firewood on hand, some large and some small.
Collected in the book are recipes for wild sheep curry, a stew with dumplings and rice prepared with coconut milk and hot peppers that is inspired by Tyschuk’s travels to Jamaica.
Sweeter treats like pineapple upside down cake and pancakes with Grand Marnier Syrup are also included. These are some of the recipes that Bourdon, the volunteer who helped Tyschuk with the book, has had a chance to try cooking since work on it was completed.
Bourdon, who has volunteered providing companionship to hospice residents for a couple of years, says she has never been asked to assist with anything of the scale of Tyschuk’s book but really enjoyed the project.
“I love cooking so this was, you know, of interest, but also, I just wanted to see how this would play out,” Bourdon said.
Tyschuk’s passion for cooking was immediately evident to Bourdon. The pair got the book together between March and May of this year. A book launch was held at the hospice in June and Bourdon said Tyschuk signed copies for fellow residents.
“His story was a big piece, too, that he wanted to have in there. Because I think, you know, the Yukon has played such an important part in his life,” Bourdon said of the biography that begins the book.
Tyschuk still has copies of the recipe book available. Jenny Charchun, a hospice social worker, has agreed to help facilitate sales. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact Jim Elliot at email@example.com