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Let’s Get Cooking…with David Fishman: Camp Food

October 16, 2009  • 

In this edition of Let’s Get Cooking…, David Fishman, Middle School Food Critic, dishes about this summer’s camp food. To learn more about David, view his introductory post.

At left, David (far right) and friends enjoy an outdoor meal at a Camp Wildwood cookout.

Camp food and school food are very similar. The cook in both places is cooking for over 150 people on a low budget. So naturally, it’s tough to cook excellent food for every meal. The main difference between school and camp food is that with camp food, while you’re only eating the food for two months, it’s for every meal.

This year, the first night’s meal at camp was fried chicken. Fried chicken. A delicacy at Camp Wildwood for some, the greasy fried chicken combined both bad taste and unhealthiness. But the fried chicken’s sidekick, a mac ‘n cheese dish, was actually quite delicious. It was served in a bowl with a hot cheesy inside and crispy Cheese-It crackers sprinkled on top. The smooth, stringy interior and the crackling exterior of the dish complemented each other.

Hamburgers, hot dogs, grilled asparagus, peppers and barbecue chicken make up a typical Camp Wildwood cookout. Cookouts are easily the most eagerly anticipated meal of the week. Every Wednesday, after our trip day, the K-Team (kitchen staff) gets their day off while the heads of camp put together a large cookout. The cookout is held outside at picnic tables on a warm summer evening, weather permitting. Unfortunately, many cookouts were rained out this year and eaten in the cafeteria instead. It’s just not the same experience.

One truly unique thing about Camp Wildwood is their lake. How is that related to food? The lake, or Woods Pond, is loaded with smallmouth and largemouth bass. Campers have the option to bring their own fishing rods, but in years past, fish have not been caught in Woods Pond. This year, I was walking back to my bunk when I noticed one of the infirmary staff fishing right off the boat loading dock. I went up to him and asked, “You don’t really expect to catch fish here, do you?” He responded with a shrug, “Yeah, I do.” So I sat right down and watched him fish. In the first 10 minutes he caught two good-sized bass! I was both appalled and inspired. I went back to my bunk, pulled out my rod, and started fishing, myself, but had no luck.

After two days of fishing, I finally caught my first fish in Woods Pond. I ecstatically yelled. My bunk and group came running. From that moment on, fishing became a new trend at Camp Wildwood. By the end of the session, I had caught nine fish. I brought two of the fish I caught up to Chef James, who fried one of them and grilled another. They were as fresh as bass can get and tasted delicious surrounded by tomatoes, peppers and lemons.

As you advance in age at Camp Wildwood, you receive more privileges. This year, I was allowed to use the soda machine and order out after visiting day. The soda machine turned into a vitaminwater® machine that was always sold out. But ordering out was exquisite. We did it three times, and each time it got better. Chinese was first. We were given multiple options that I don’t even remember. Most of us picked a partner and shared our food because the servings were so large. It was good to taste our usual take-out Chinese food for once during camp.

Every year, the last night of camp is Banquet Night. Campers of all ages shower and dress up for a meal of creamy clam chowder and small, soft shell lobsters or tough steak with 25% fat. I got a sneak peak of how the “careful preparation” of the lobsters was done: 200 lobsters were thrown into a huge steaming pot. After a short amount of time, 200 lobsters were pulled out, steaming and bright red, and hopefully cooked through. The chowder was filled with bits of rubber, otherwise known as clams, but was creamy and tasty nonetheless. And while the lobsters were small, the meat was tender and sweet. Overall, this year’s Banquet Night at my camp in Maine was a satisfying conclusion to the culinary segment of camp. 

With school in session, stay tuned for David’s critiques of what his cafeteria is serving up this year!