During our third week of camp this summer we welcomed our older campers, aged 11-15. We took a culinary road trip from California to the Appalachians, making regional dishes and highlighting the local populations that have influenced the regions’ food cultures.
Monday: San Francisco
We started off the week by having each table of campers form their own team names based on common foods of their regions. The Crabsters, Terrifying Tortillas, Spice Girls, Carolina Cooks, and Dehydrated Green Beans came into camp ready to earn their chef’s hats! After dividing into teams, the campers played a game of Human Bingo and learned more about each other, from everyone’s favorite foods to the most interesting thing they’ve cooked at home. One camper had even made their own Sourdough Bread before! After learning knife safety from Ms. Jennie, the campers dove into food brought to the San Francisco area by Chinese immigrants, making their own pork dumplings and smashed cucumber salad. The Crabsters stayed in to help Counselor Josh finish steaming the dumplings while the rest of the campers played Refrigerator Tag outside.
Tuesday: The American Southwest
As our camp group begins our trip east, we made our second stop in the Southwest to learn more about traditional foods of the Navajo Tribe. The campers started their day by painting their own portraits of the multicolored corns that are central to many Native American cultures. Then, Janelle put on her best Alex Trebeck impression and led the campers through Southwestern Food Jeopardy! The Spice Girls won our little friendly competition, learning about traditional agricultural techniques like the three sisters and more along the way. After jeopardy the campers broke into their cooking stations for the day. We made fry breads, a green chile and corn beef stew, and a roasted corn and lima bean succotash. One camper even connected the traditional fry breads to unsweetened beignets!
Wednesday: Louisiana Cajun
The third day of our road trip found us back pretty close to home, but specifically highlighting the Cajun traditions of Louisiana. To start the day, we held our own version of Chopped Junior! The campers were given blueberries, sour cream, rotisserie chicken, and white bread in their mystery baskets. Following chopped, Janelle gave a short presentation on the differences between Creole and Cajun cuisines. Today, we ditched our usual cooking stations set-up and each team cooked their own brown jambalaya at their tables. While everyone waited for their rice to steam, The Spice Girls stayed inside to perfect the seasoning of the jambalayas as the other campers played our version of infection, Salmonella, outside.
Thursday: The Carolinas
Our campers took a turn up North and stopped in the Carolinas on the fourth day of their culinary road trip. The day started with Ms. Jennie leading the campers through making their own pie dough to be used on Friday. Then, Janelle taught the campers a quick lesson on the influence of the Gullah people on Southern soul food before they embarked on their Southern food tasting stations! The campers tried candied yams, pickled okra, and black-eyed peas. After the tasting stations we went back to our usual cooking stations set-up. We made fried chicken, baked mac and cheese, homemade honey mustard, and cornbread muffins. The campers got a chance to learn how to dredge and fry chicken, as well as the technique of making a blonde roux. The Carolina Cooks stayed inside to work on their plating presentation techniques and frying skills while the rest of the campers played Squirrels and Clams.
We finished this week’s road trip by heading a bit inland to the Appalachia region. The campers got a chance to decorate and sign each other’s cookbooks for the week, complete with all the recipes used in camp so that campers can recreate their favorite dishes from the week at home! This week we were very grateful to have Chef Terry helping out the counselors. Chef Terry recently retired as a culinary instructor and has been working in the food industry for over 50 years! The campers had a chance to ask Terry any questions they had about his experiences with cooking, and they each received their own chef’s hats. For our final meal of the week, the campers used their pie dough from Thursday to make spiced meat handpies and mini apple pies. Some campers got to test their artistic skills, decorating the pies with lattices and other designs. Our culinary roadtrip sure ended on a sweet note!