(Cast) Iron Chefs…

Greetings from Camp!

Last night was our second cabin cookout of the summer.  On Monday nights, cabin groups head into the woods to designated cookout sites to cook their dinners over an open fire. Now when we cook over an open fire here at Nebagamon, we are not talking about hot dogs on a stick, we are talking about real deal great food. Cabin cookout is a great event, employing all sorts of wilderness cooking skills and cast iron dutch ovens. 

First, you should know the purpose of the cabin cookouts. The goals behind the program are twofold. First, the boys get a chance to practice many of the skills they have learned down at our wilderness skills program. They use their wood chopping skills to generate the wood to cook with. Yes, that’s right parents of 6th-9th graders, indeed we have placed an axe in the hands of that boy that you don’t trust to pack his own school lunch!  They use their fire building skills to build fires for cooking. Yes, that’s right parents, indeed we teach your son how to build a raging fire; the same person you don’t even let light birthday candles. They use their knife skills to cut up all of the ingredients for the dinner. Yes, that’s right parents, indeed we teach that son whose meat you still sometimes cut (admit it…sometimes you do!), to chop up any manner of vegatables. I still believe one of the coolest things about a kid coming to Nebagamon is the fact that by the time they go home, even after only their first year at camp, they are able to make a truly delicious meal over a fire. Think about that…think about how unhelpful your son feigns being throughout the school year. Don’t buy it for a second…if you were to hand him a box of food, a pile of wood and a dutch oven, he could make you a legitimately great meal. Not sure the local fire department would be cool with it…but at least your bellies would be pleasantly full when the citations arrived.

Secondly, the cabin cookout is a family building exercise. Cooking a meal for an entire cabin takes individual effort along with a lot of cooperation and teamwork. That is to say, that in order for the cabin cookout to succeed, the campers must be able to take personal responsibility and work as a team. Cabin cookouts are that perfect intersection of independence and interdependence that is camp at its finest. I spent the evening wandering from cookout site to cookout site, watching the boys tend their fires and listening to the boys in their family conversations. 

The menu last night was an all-time classic, tacos. Tacos is kinda the perfect menu to achieve our goals. Teamwork is required as there are tons of different things that need to get chopped up so there is something for everyone to do. Wilderness skills are required because the fire has to be built well enough to create a bed of coals strong enough to brown the meat for the tacos. Next is the process of actually cooking that meat. Then, in the end, you get to assert your individuality and create a personalized taco with exactly what you want in it. And the cherry on top is the dessert…pineapple upside down cake made with donuts, brown sugar, pineapple and butter. (Ummm…so maybe the donuts don’t require much teamwork, skill building, and lofty ideals but, well, we just all love donuts!)

The kids did an absolutely fabulous job. There was great energy all night, great spirit all over the place, and the kids LOVED their meals. There is nothing more delicious than a meal that you make for yourself over an open fire. The kids emerged from the woods at the end of the evening very dirty and very proud of themselves…with that smell. I realize that the combination of the smell of smoke and hot and sweaty boys is by all empirical standards a fairly objectionable one.  But, to all of us, the smell is perfect…it is the smell of camp. Not that I could live with it 24/7, but once a week, on a Monday night, nothing could be better.

All is well in the North Woods…