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19 July 2005


This post came about from Jay’s reminiscence on his days at summer camp. In his post of 10 July entitled “Summer Camp '05--Day 1,” he mentioned that they utilized the “family-style” approach to the serving of meals.

Oh, how I long to go back to those days!

At the camp I was just at this past week, they used to serve things family-style (ah, those were the good old days). Fifteen minutes ahead of each meal, a cabin took the rotating duty to set up for the meal. They would set 21 tables for ten people each. Ten place settings and one of each dish were set up on each table. No one complained (imagine that!). During mealtime, the Golden Rule was observed.

No, not that Golden Rule. The Golden Rule that states that “if you kill it, you fill it.” If you took the last chicken nugget from the bowl, and there were still people who needed them, you would be obligated to take the empty bowl up to the serving window where a friendly member of the Kitchen Staff would gladly refill it with a smile.

Fast forward to the days of 2005.

The dining hall is still as crowded as ever, as it is very hard to fit 21 tables in there as it is. On top of that, however, they’ve thrown in a buffet line. A buffet line! What kind of sacrilegious mealtime fiends are these people? They’d scrunched the tables together, and put in an extravagant dual-line buffet, and they were using the serving window as a third line. The cabin that had to set up for the meal now only had to put out silverware and pitchers of juice or water.

If that isn’t bad enough, the Golden Rule of Camp Mealtimes was becoming rapidly extinct. If people wanted more food, they just waited until everyone had had one turn through the line before they took a second. So, people were getting lazy. Even for the pitchers of beverages (which were exhausted quickly, as it was a very hot week), common courtesy had disappeared, even though the refilling stations were also self-service.

Now, I do give the camp half credit for coming up with the buffet line idea, but not thinking it completely through. They entertain many different “specialty camps” throughout the summer (each has a different theme). Some camps have as few as 50 people, but as you’ve probably gathered, campership during my particular week hovers near 200 (it is consistently their largest camp each year). It seems feasible to get 50 people through three buffet lines rather quickly, but 200? Come on, who do they think they’re kidding?

So the typical lunch would proceed as follows: At 12:00, the designated cabin would (ahem) barely set up for the meal ahead. By 12:10 they’d be finished and would spend the rest of the time talking amongst themselves. At 12:15, the counselors would start letting people into the dining hall in small groups, and campers would begin looking for a counselor holding up fingers, indicating that there were the corresponding number of available seats at that table. By 12:20, we could pray, and at about 12:21, the director of our week’s camp got up to the microphone and started calling tables to go to the buffet, no more than three at a time so as to avoid crowding.

It was often 12:30 by the time my table was called, but I waited patiently as I had made a new best friend and enjoyed talking to him. At 12:32, I’d be halfway through the line, when the Chief of Kitchen Staff walked by to refill something. “Excuse me, but what’s in these wraps?” I politely asked. No response. Apparently, she was too busy doing other things (just what, I don’t know).

After having not eaten a mystery wrap, I finally finished my meal at about 12:40, which is when the camp director finally called the last table and got into line for himself (the poor thing, he did this every meal). By 12:45 my table had started cleaning up, my cup was taken and I wanted water. Looking next to the cereal dispensers, I saw a Styrofoam cup. Unfortunately, it had already been used. So, I rifled through the sleeve of Styrofoam cereal bowls to see if there were other cups nearby.

Up comes the Chief of Kitchen Staff. “The cereal’s for breakfast only,” she said plainly (and rather coldly, too). I said that I was not looking for cereal; I was looking for a cup. “Oh, well I can give you one of those,” and she did.

However, to think that she didn’t have enough time to answer my earlier question about the mystery wraps, but had all the time in the world to scold me about proper cereal-eating times was infuriating. Well, I guess I sort of found out what she was too busy doing earlier.

The morals are (yes, there are multiple morals): If you’re a camper and you see a buffet line, be prepared for the worst of all disasters, especially if the camper-to-buffet line ratio is high. If you run a camp kitchen, don’t choose buffets! They can be quite horrible! And finally, if you run a camp, don’t hire a Chief of Kitchen Staff like the one I just mentioned, especially if you’re a Christian camp. It just ruins things.


Miles C. said...


Wow, your style of eating DOES sound like a disaster! I'm glad I go to Boy Scout camp instead. Although my mess hall has some problems as well. For example, you have to be 18 to make hot chocolate, to prevent burning of the little ones hands. How many adult leaders want to spend time making hot chocolate? (not many) Plus, they always make it too weak! ALWAYS!

P.S. Sorry for not updating in a while. I'm working on that now.

Lexi Elizabeth said...

omg, at girl scout camps, they have like the worst process for food! omg, it's hectic! i mean, it's just, nuts! and so unorganized! haha. what were we talking about again? i hate hot chocolate. it's too chocolatey.

Miles C. said...

What!! No post while I was gone!? Darn...

Laurel said...

So wasn't it supposed to be a month with no posts and the site shoudl be deleted isn't that what you said? Well where is your post! Everyone is thoroughly disappointed TJ!
Lots of Love!

Tim Parenti said...

What I said was that after a month, the blog should be declared dead. Craig just happened to delete his blog before it got to that point.

And just so you know, hospitals declare people dead all the time, only for them to make a miraculous recovery. I'm working on a post right now, and "Randomness" will come back to life!

Anonymous said...

....*sigh* the good ole days of camp...haha and meals.

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