(The best laid schemes of mice and men / Go oft awry.)
…it was all very Steinbeckian….
I had a couple of relatives, Guy and Herbert, that were young men during the Great Depression. With times hard, and jobs harder to come by, they were in a fix for gainful employment. Herbert had heard talk of “jobs by the 100’s” as farm workers in the vast growing valleys in California and had convinced Guy that their chances would be better… that they could make a pile of money… that they could change their lives if they could get out there to one of those farms.
As best as I can understand, there wasn’t a whole lot of planning…. they said their goodbyes…..

and hopped on a train….   
…in the back….
… in a boxcar…
and forgot to bring food

…or enough money.

By the time they reached Kansas, Guy and Herbert were starving. When the train finally stopped to restock and refuel, the boys decide that they need to take advantage of the time and find some food. Herbert heads off in one direction and Guy in the other – each on a mission to beg something for dinner.
Guy came back empty-handed, but Herbert showed up at the boxcar with a pot of beans and a pone of cornbread, saying that a farmer had taken pity on them and given them the food. The only stipulation was that they had to return the pot when they were done…. and since Herbert had gotten the beans, it was only right that Guy could return the dishes so he could thank the lady properly.

Guy returned much later that night, severely beaten  – it appears that Herbert had neglected to tell him that they hadn’t exactly given him the food…he had sneaked into their kitchen and taken it. The farmer’s wife had nearly beaten him to death with a frying pan before he could get away.

Sad to say, the boys didn’t find their future and fortune out there in California. For just as Herbert had heard of the bounty of jobs – so had young men in every other state. There were no jobs to be had.

I had my first Hobo Dinner when I was around 8. The church we attended had a small cabin on the back side of the property that the RA’s and GA’s used for weekend retreats. Every so often the men-folk at the church would take a Saturday and clean up the grounds and do odd jobs to keep the place up. At night, they would build a bonfire and cook Hobo Dinners for everyone that helped out. Sitting on a log and eating food out of a foil pouch while people played guitars and told stories. Those are just memories that stick with you forever.

Okay, a hobo dinner really isn’t cuisine, nor terribly difficult, but what a great way to get out of the house, leave the TV’s, Wii’s, ipods and cellphones behind, and spend time with your kids…. eating out under the stars.

Hobo Dinner
1 Pouch for each Person
Ingredients Per Pouch
1/2 Pound of Meat
(Make up Meatloaves, a Small Steak, a Boneless Pork Chop, or Chunks of Stew Beef)
1 Potato – Cut Long-wise into 6 Wedges
1 Carrot – cut into Sticks
1/2 Onion – Cut into Wedges
1 Tablespoon Onion Soup Mix
1 – 2′ x 1′ sheet of Aluminum Foil
A Fire
A Pair of Tongs

  • Fold the foil in 1/2 to give you a 1′ x 1′ square
  • place the meat on the foil and top with the onions
  • Add the potatoes next with the carrots on top
  • Sprinkle the top with the soup mix
  • Fold the foil in half to create a pouch, and tightly roll and crimp all the edges
  • Place the pouches directly on the hot coals
  • Cook for 35 to 40 minutes (err on the side of over-cooked, if you’re in doubt)
  • Turn the pouches over every 15 minutes
  • When they’re done, pass out the pouches and eat up.

Hobo Side Dish – Fireside Onions
1 Onion per Person
1 Large Sweet Onion
1 Strip of Bacon
1/4 Teaspoon black Pepper
1 Tablespoon Brown Sugar
1′ x 2′ Sheet of Foil
The same Fire from above
A pair of Tongs

  • Peel the onion and cut a 1″ deep “+” in the top
  • Wrap the strip of bacon around the  middle of the onion
  • Place the onion on the foil and top with the sugar and pepper
  • Fold the foil and create a pouch, crimping the edges tightly
  • Place on the coals and cook for 35 to 40 minutes – turning every 10 minutes or so