There was a classic This American Life piece called Notes on Camp that first aired in 1998. In it, host Ira Glass explains to listeners that there are two kinds of people in life. Camp People and non-Camp People. Sleep-away Summer Camp is transformative for anyone who spent their youthful summers in the woods for 8 weeks. Those who did not spend their summers this way don’t understand how amazing the experience can be for young girls like myself.
I am a Camp Person.
When I was young and April finally hit, we campers started looking forward to an entire two months of outdoor fun at Camp Navarac. Our mothers scheduled an appointment in “the city” with the camp outfitter where uniforms were fitted, gear was purchased, and nametapes sewn for the coming season.
Our Saranac Lake setting in those days was MYTHIC. The 6,000,000 forever-free acres of Adirondack Park in Upper New York State were breathtaking in every sense. Besides the setting, there was so much to look forward to! The over-the-top competitions in archery, boating, swimming, and tennis. A girl could work up an appetite!
Over the course of the summer, there were many opportunities to eat outdoors. My early budding culinary interest was piqued! The kitchen staff had a day off every Wednesday, and each bunk received rations for an adventurous outdoor picnic. Sliced turkey, salami, potato chips, fresh fruit and, most importantly, we were given the opportunity to actually select the picnic location of our choice . My personal favorite was the large rock overlooking Saranac Lake where much of my favorite daydreaming took place. We were fancy free to eat quickly, roam around and not be tied down to the more formal dining ritual of every other day. Lovely.
Overnight camping trips, where cookouts were a feature, were highlights. Cue early life catering experience! First, we had to “pull our party” or, in camp parlance, “pack for our camping trip”. That meant visiting the stand-alone “camping shack” where, as a group, we were handed a list of provisions. Flatware (yes!), matches (yes!), hot dogs (yes!), water canteens (yes!). Forget anything and you were out of luck. My counselors were always singing my praises for the ability to lead the group in packing for these trips! A little foreshadowing for my future catering career!?
Parent’s Visiting Day, and the special outdoor picnic it involved, was a ritual highly anticipated by each of us campers because it came only once each summerand it boasted the most glorious picnic. In retrospect, it was amazing not only because the food was delicious, but because the presentation was so formal and outdoorsy. Uniformed chefs (complete with toques!) standing behind white linen tables on the athletic field hill, offered each of us individual white bakery boxes tied that had been tied tightly with string and contained a serving of the most heavenly fried chicken, buttery hand baked soft cloverleaf rolls, and divine brownies with freshly squeezed lemonade, poured from chilled pitchers.
It was outdoor entertaining at its very best.