Have you ever tried to cook without utensils?
Eating without utensils — gophers and rats, for example, eaten al fresco — is easy, but it’s a bit harder to rustle up a full meal without the benefit of cooking implememts. But Cat Scouts are resourceful, and one of the ways to cook a feast without utensils is to build an imu.
An imu (pronounced ee-moo) is a type of cooking fire often used by Pacific Islanders to cook whole pigs, fish and vegetables. In order to advance through the ranks, senior Cat Scouts must master the art of building and cooking in an imu.
You start by digging a hole at least eighteen inches deep and eighteen inches square. It’s like digging to China in your litter box, only deeper. It needs to be bigger if you’re going to roast a whole pig, but you should master imuing on a small scale before tackling a major project like that. For now, focus on a basic dinner for you and your patrol.
After you dig the hole, line it with rocks. If you don’t want to haul rocks up from the river yourself, relegate the task to some Kit Scouts. Then, build a platform of split wood, and layer a pile of crisscross firewood on top of it. Top the whole thing off with a layer of flat stones. Light the fire and let burn until the wood is burned down to coals and the flat stones on the top are white hot.
This will take a couple of hours. Don’t leave your imu unattended!
When it’s ready, level off the flat stones and coals at the bottom of the hole. Then, layer moist vegetable tops or sweet leaves like wild grape, mulberry, sweet gum, sugar maple or sycamore. Lettuce or cabbage leaves or corn husks work well, too. This will form the bed for your food.
For example, place a 2-1/2 lb. chicken in the imu for every four Cat Scouts. And, for each scout, add one white potato, one sweet potato, one carrot, two ears of corn, one green banana, and an apple for dessert. Once the feast is laid out in the hole, cover it completely with a few more layers of moist leaves, followed by a piece of dampened heavy canvas or burlap.
Last, bury the whole thing with 4-6 inches of dirt (the same dirt you dug up when you made the hole) so that no steam can possibly escape.
It’s common to place a tarp on top of the burlap (under the dirt layer) to make it easier to remove the dirt without it getting onto your food, but hauling a tarp is not practical when you are hiking to your campsite.
It is very important that no scout interepret this fine pile of dirt to be a latrine. It’s good practice to post a sign so that your imu won’t be ruined.
It will take about four hours for your feast to cook. You can leave it in there for as long as eight hours, but who can wait that long?
When the time is up, carefully remove the dirt, burlap and leaves to uncover your feast. Serve the baked apples with some cinnamon sugar for the purrfect end to your imu luau!