Day 32: Dinner at camp

Tall tales abound in the north woods of Wisconsin and camp lore.

Scouts and adults alike were greeted to a new day by the crisp clear air of a late June morning in the north woods of Wisconsin. Our day started and as usual, brushing our teeth and getting prepared for breakfast and the rest of the day. I ran into one of our adult leaders who told me he had lost his sunglasses Monday and realized he had probably left them at shooting sports – all the way across camp. He explained that when he woke up, he ran over to the area to find them. He was looking for them when he spotted a deer, a five pointer, wearing them. He told me, he asked the deer for his glasses back. The deer replied, no, they were his. So, the adult leader shot the deer and got his glasses back. He had me going there for a minute. After all, this is the land of tall tales and Paul Bunyan-like stories and the camp has a weather vane in front of the dining hall to prove it. We are all having fun at Tesomas. It truly is a great place.

I knew Monday was going to be a great day and the possibility that Tuesday would be a million and six times better as Bowling for Soup said in the chorus of their song, “Today is Gonna be a Great Day”:

This could possibility be the best day ever!
(This could possibility be the best day ever,)
 And the forecast says that tomorrow will likely be a million and six times better.
So make every minute count, jump up, jump in, and seize the day,
 And let’s make sure that in every single possible way,
Today is gonna be a great day!

We are making every minute count. As it turned out, Tuesday was even better than Monday!

Not all 'geezers' have gray hair. Josh G. a troop 35 alum and Eagle Scout, rests after a challenging morning.

We made it to the flag ceremony and breakfast. The new scouts are learning the routine in the dining hall and the older scouts are stepping up and leading the younger ones. It is great to see and is the ultimate aim of scouting. The scouts were off to their areas and the geezers needed to drive to town to get ingredients for dinner. Tuesday is the only evening when the dining hall does not prepare dinner – scouts cook the dinner and we eat in camp, with camp counselors joining us. We planned chicken surprise with potatoes. However, our ingredients are limited. The dining hall provides a choice of diced chicken or hamburger patties. Last year, we chose hamburgers and it was a disaster; cooking the burgers took forever, many of the scouts lost interest, and to top it all off – dinner was late. We were not going to repeat last year and chose chicken, potatoes, and onions; yet, those do not make a complete meal. Steven, the SPL, has a Dutch oven recipe book and we had thumbed through it looking for inspiration. I had an idea and suggested using the chicken and adding diced onion, green pepper, and tomatoes, with cream cheese and fresh basil. The potatoes would be simple, diced with onion and spices and a stick of butter to make it all taste good. Our trip to town went quickly and the geezers, Kevin, John, and I, were back at camp in time for lunch with room to spare.

Before lunch, the bank opened and I made a few scouts happy. A couple of scouts even deposited money they had remaining from Monday’s adventures. All of our first year scouts and a few adults were eating lunch at Eagle Quest. One of the requirements for second and first class is to cook and prepare breakfast and lunch and it takes place at Eagle Quest, the scouts remain and eat their creations. This made room for a few more counselors to join us for lunch.  A few scouts had received boxes or letter from home and there was excitement in the air. I helped hop, or clean, the tables before re-opening the bank after lunch.  I had a couple of hours before I needed to assist with the dinner preparation and I used them to finish Monday’s post and catch up on a few details.

Scouts chop potaoes and onions for dinner.

Steven, Dan, and Adam took the lead on set up for the evening meal. Because we eat in the dining hall, we had not brought out the patrol boxes or set up camp for meal preparation. It took a bit of time configuring the food prep area and getting the fires started, where Rodger and Davis took the lead. The program areas were open for exploration during free time from 3:30 to 5:30 and only a few scouts were at our campsite and available to assist. William and those working on the camping merit badge needed to visit the climbing tower and rappel 30 feet to satisfy a merit badge requirement. Others headed to the waterfront to sailboard or shooting sports. Having fewer scouts worked very well because there were fewer distractions. We started with the onions and potatoes because they would take longer to cook and then prepared chicken surprise. Dicing the potatoes and onions took a while and I coached the scouts on proper knife handling. Though the dicing went slowly, the kids worked hard and talked as they diced and chopped, and I realized – they just need practice. The enthusiasm was there and they were working and learning. We were making two Dutch Ovens with potatoes and six with chicken. We had enough to prepare one Dutch Oven with potatoes and onions and I worked with Steven got one ready for coals. Noah, Adam, and Aaron finished dicing potatoes and soon we had a second Dutch Oven with potatoes ready and we were on to preparing the chicken surprise. We diced the green peppers, cored the tomatoes, and finished by dicing them. I lined up the six Dutch Ovens on the picnic table and explained to Steven the purpose and we worked assembly line style. Each Dutch oven would get one green pepper, two tomatoes, the remaining onions divided into six portions, as well as the diced chicken, two packages of cream cheese, and cup of milk. We would add spices and stir before putting them on the coals to cook.

Dinner cooks - it really works!

Prep time took longer than I expected – lesson noted for next time – and we were slightly behind schedule. We needed to be ready for dinner at 6:30 and it would be closer to be ready at 6:45. Not bad, definitely better than last year and I knew the food would be better, at least that was the plan. We had the ovens on the coals, we cleaned up the food prep area, and moved a picnic table to use as a serving table. Our guests arrived and we talked and shared our experiences with them. A couple of the scouts had been fishing and returned to camp just before we served dinner.  The ovens cooked slower than I expected or it was taking longer than predicted, nevertheless, dinner was ready to eat a little after seven. Still, better than the year before.

Roasted potatoes and onions, what could be better?

We pulled the tops off the both of the Dutch Ovens with potatoes and two of the chicken surprise Dutch Ovens and the scouts formed a line. Daniel, our troop chaplain, said grace and we invited our guests to enjoy dinner. Adults followed and soon the scouts had their fill. The crowd was silent – which is good at dinnertime in a scout camp. I filled my plate and enjoyed the dinner. It needed a little seasoning, but hey isn’t that what why we have salt and pepper shakers? Our guests, from camp pronounced the dinner tasty and enjoyed full helpings. Overall, it was a success with most scouts and adults enjoying dinner. Steven, Adam, and Daniel agreed it was good and we exchanged notes on how to improve it for next time.

Chicken surprise, ready to eat! Yum.

The program areas were open for the evening to all scouts and they were antsy to leave, but we had a cleanup job ahead of us. Scoutmaster John and Assistant Scoutmasters Kevin and Stan announced that the adult leaders would clean the troop gear, Dutch Ovens and utensils, and the scouts could leave and enjoy the evening fun only after they cleaned their personal gear. They also announced we would have cobbler for the scouts when they returned to camp after nine. I do not think I have ever seen so many scouts happy to clean their personal gear! Clean up went quickly and we were left with adult leaders, dirty pots and pans, and good campfire. Kevin and a couple of scouts, who stayed behind, worked on cobblers. They made apple with yellow cake and chocolate cherry cobblers. It was impressive to see the scouts give up free time to cook and they did a good job. Our cleanup went quickly. Adam, who was working on his fishing merit badge returned to camp with a keeper bass and proceed to filet it and cook it. Of course he needed help as ‘Billy-bass’ flopped and slipped in his hands, and a couple of the adults offered advice. He accomplished a major part of his merit badge by catching, filleting, and cooking his catch. He also, did a fine job of cleaning up the mess.

By the time, the scouts returned to camp, the Dutch ovens were quickly cleaned, seasoned, and stored in the troop trailer. The cobblers were done and the sun was setting over Crystal Lake. With the cobblers ready and uncovered on the table: the scouts grabbed their bowls and spoons, served themselves, and sat down around the blazing fire. The chill of the night air did nothing to cool the warmth of the cobbler, the fire, or of a day well spent at camp. Scouts of all ages shared what they did with the day, what they learned, and what they dreamed to do tomorrow. It was noisy and yes, it was a great day, possibly the best day ever. Could Wednesday be a million and six times better?

5 thoughts on “Day 32: Dinner at camp

    1. It is actually a pirated recipe inspired by Trader Joe’s – 6 raw chicken breasts, 8 oz whipped cream cheese, 1 jar bruschetta topping (in glass jar) – lay the chicken in a caserole dish , mix the cream cheese and bruschetta in a mixing bowl and pour over the chicken – bake at 350F for 30-35 minutes – longer is better but test the chicken for doneness… serve with pasta or rice. Thanks for asking and I hope you enjoy it. Clay

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