Thursday, July 31, 2008

Camp cooks and alcohol ...

Just to prove that camps cooks and alcohol don't mix, read this story about camp cook Jimmy Mitchell, who allegedly spent "his time during (a recent) hunting trip intoxicated and poaching."

While on a corporate hunting trip, a drunken camp cook allegedly shot another member of the party in the face, leading to a lawsuit against one of the nation's largest animal health product suppliers. [click to read story]
Events such as this only serves to give camp cooks a bad reputation. While I'm certain that pertinent facts surrounding the case will soon be revealed, most camp cooks I know are men and women who carefully guard their collective reputations.

My only question: Why didn't the organizers of the trip send Mitchell packing when his behavior came to light?

Navy cook lends a helping hand

Many sailors have opportunity to lend a helping hand in the states and overseas ...

YOKOHAMA, Japan (July 22, 2008) -- A Japanese man waits in line as Culinary Specialist 2nd Class James Cocking, from Bessemer, Mich., assigned to Commander Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Yokohama Detachment, serves him oatmeal. Cocking and 20 other volunteers prepared and served donated food to more than 100 homeless people at the Kotobuki-cho Welfare Center in Yokohama.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brock A. Taylor.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Turner Joy mixer

The 20-quart mixer is a key piece of equipment on the USS Turner Joy (DD 951). Since it's smaller that the large mixer, the cooks and bakers used it to mix smaller batches, like pancake batter for breakfast or whipped cream for a chocolate cream pie.

The larger mixer (not pictured) has a capacity of 60 or 80 quarts and is adjacent next to the coppers, where the cooks could easily transfer boiled potatoes to the mixing bowl to make mashed potatoes. The baker used this mixer to mix his nightly run of bread and breakfast pastries.

Here's a description of the mixer from a later mess management specialist rate training manual:

Food-mixing machines are furnished in 20-, 60-, 80-, 110-, and 140-quart sizes with the necessary attachments, paddles, and beaters. The wire whip is used for eggs, cream, and lightweight mixing; the flat beater for cake batters and medium-weight mixing; the dough hook for mixing bread dough; and the wire beater for medium-stiff dough.

One part of the machine revolves through the use of a set of transmissions and differential gears. Various shaped paddles and mixers can be attached to this revolving unit.

The lower part of the mixer contains two extended, adjustable arms. A bowl, containing the foods to be mixed, is placed on these arms and the arms are then moved up so the paddles will revolve throughout the mixture. The machines have either three or four speeds. Usually they have an attachment hub that can be used for a vegetable slicer, juicer, and meat grinder.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Cookin' on the railroad

When you read the Pacific Coast Railroad blog, you can easily get lost in the world of the steam railroad.

I'm sure sand dome conversions and boiler inspections have dominated many conversations between chief mechanical officer Phil Reader and crew at the private rail operation on the Santa Margarita Ranch in San Louis Obispo County.

But the railroad -- through the kind labor of couple of lovely ladies -- recently helped a worthy organization raise $90 thousand for Jack's Helping Hand, a San Louis Obispo County-based organization that meets the "unique unmet needs of physically and mentally disabled children and young adults" in the community.

"For lunch Karell made her famous 'Hobo Beans' in a dutch oven that were very good. Later, we were treated to a delicious tri-tip BBQ dinner," said the blog's July 21, 2008 report. Patty LaRose assisted Karell.

Patti and Karell, along with Mary Harlow, operate the railroad's commissary operation, according to the blog.

In case steam domes and boiler inspections interest you more that tri-tip barbecues, roll on over to the Pacific Coast Railroad blog. It contains news of many hours of a labor of love for these steam railroaders.

And, I might add, news of the Iron Horse Chef's quiche made on the backhead of the boiler.

More on the Turner Joy galley

Here's a shot of the mid-section of the galley on the USS Turner Joy. The meat slicer is tucked securely to the port side of the oven stack. The 20-quart mixer is bolted to the small worktable, which was also used to store sheet pans and hotel pans.

Note the stack of sheet pans on top of the oven. They would come crashing to the deck in rough seas.

After serving as an active Navy destroyer from 1959 to 1982, the USS Turner Joy was dontaed to the Bremerton (Washington) Historic Ships Association in 1991 to serve as a museum ship.

The ship is open to the public seven days per week from May 1 to September 30. It's open Friday through Sunday in the Winter.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

USS Turner Joy

Last Sunday the family ate lunch at the Boat Shed, a seafood restaurant located on the east anchorage of the Manette Bridge in Bremerton, Washington. Since it was a pleasant day (as Washington days go, I'm told), we ate on the deck.

From our seats I could see the USS Turner Joy (DD 951) birthed across the bay in the Port of Bremerton. After lunch, Debbie and I headed over and toured the ship for an hour and a half.

Two things about the Turner Joy struck me as we walked her decks. First, I remember the ship from my time in the 7th Fleet. During three WestPac cruises in 1972-74, we saw the Turner Joy several times at Subic Bay and other places.

The Turner Joy is the half-sister ship the my third ship, the USS Robison (DDG 12). The Robison is the 11th of 23 ships in the Charles F. Adams class of guided missile destroyers. The Turner Joy was the last of 18 ships in the Forrest Sherman class of destroyers.

Almost every aspect of the ship -- from aft berthing under Mount 53 (Supply Division birthing on the Robison) to the galley and main deck passageway -- was as I remembered it on the Robison. The two classes were so close in design that I easily navigated the Turner Joy with my wife.

As the watch captain of one of two galley watches in 1978-79 on the Robison, I spent considerable time on the Turner Joy's mess decks, located mid-ships on the main deck. The arrangement of the galley with the deep sinks and bread locker forward, griddle and ovens in the mid-section, and coppers and prep area aft, is basically the same for both ships.

The galley is located on the port side of the main deck housing on both ships. To eat, the enlisted sailor (seaman recruit through petty office first class) entered the mess decks from the forward passageway. The the steam line was situated along two-thirds the length of the galley on the port side for both ships. Officers ate in the wardroom mess, located forward while chief petty officers ate in their own mess aft.

When you look through the line you see an efficient use of space. Every flat surface, with the exception of prep surfaces, was used to mount food service equipment.

The meat slicer was tucked in along the bulkhead to the left of the ovens. Sandwiched between the griddle and bulkhead was the warming box. The two drawers held utensils. A 20-quart mixer was bolted to the surface of the centerboard, which had plenty of drawers and slots for sheet pans and hotel pans.

If you look carefully, you can see the meat slicer, mixer and ovens in the second photo.

As watch captain, I could select any job during my shift. In addition to directing the work of the shift, I usually worked the coppers -- called the "copper king" by Navy cooks.

It was my favorite duty of all my assignments in eight and one-half years of active duty. The copper king prepared all the major components of the meal. Anything that would be cooked in a stock pot or sauce pan ashore was cooked in the coppers (steam jacketed kettles to land-lubbers), including all sauces, braised meats (like pot roast or cornned beef) and vegetables.

One aspect of working in the galley on these two ships are the close quarters. On the Robison, three cooks could safely and comfortably work in the galley during one watch (or shift). Any more and you were elbow-to-elbow.

The on-coming watch on the Robison arrived in the galley just before lunch. The leading chief kept the out-going watch on duty until after lunch was served. In that two-hour period, six cooks plus the chief crowded into the galley.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Roadside lunch

We drove 802 miles over two days to join my wife's brother for a family gathering in Silverdale, Washington. During the 16 hours of driving, we stopped seven times to buy gasoline, stretch and eat lunch.

Our 14-month old granddaughter wouldn't let us drive more that two hours at a stretch. And, even though driving non-stop appeals to me on one level, I like the idea taking a leisure trip north.

Everyone -- driver included -- does so much better when we're able to walk off the discomfort that comes being cooped up in a truck for hours at a time.

We took Thursday's lunch at the Yreka Park, located at the corner of West Miner and South Gold Streets in Yreka, California. Lunch gave my granddaughter a chance to run around and play on the swing set. It also helped keep the budget in line since I figure gas will cost about $500 for the trip.

This was the first time that my family enjoyed a roadside lunch in 10 or more years. It points back to a time when we had little money and had to reserve our funds for lodging and one or two restaurant meals.

I think the ice chest will once again become an essential piece of equipment on our next trip.

Chicken Adobo

We set out for the Kipsak Peninsula in Washington State early Thursday morning. The Valley of the Rogue State Park, located just off Exit 45B in Southern Oregon on I-5, broke the 18-hour trip into two manageable segments. The park is a family favorite with its expansive areas of grass and park-like trees.

I wanted to prepare an easy dinner before it got dark. This easy chicken adobo recipe, reminiscent of the Philippine national dish, fit the bill. Dinner was ready in an hour with steamed rice and a quick salad.


When doubling this recipe, you'll need a larger skillet to make sure the sauce properly reduces. Use a heavy 12- or 14-inch skillet for large batches. The larger surface area of skillet will give the sauce the breathing room it needs to properly reduce.

You may need to thicken the sauce with cornstarch when preparing more than 12 pieces of chicken.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
6 chicken thighs without skin
3 cloves garlic, minced
2/3 cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 bay leaf

Heat oil in a 10-inch cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes, then turn over and cook an additional 5 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate and set aside.

Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of pan drippings and return pan to low heat. Add garlic and saute until soft, about 1 minute. Add remaining ingredients and stir to incorporate. Return chicken to pan and cook, covered, for 20 minutes.

Uncover, increase heat to medium-low and cook 15 to 20 minutes more, occasionally spooning sauce over chicken, until sauce thickens a bit and chicken is tender and nicely glazed with sauce. Remove bay leaf before eating.

This recipe is adapted from the March 2007 issue of Sunset Magazine.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Camp 2008 -- Crazy, crazy

You could say Bob is a "wild and crazy guy." After all, Monday was crazy hair day at camp.

A counselor at Northern California FC Camp, he's one guy that takes theme days to heart.

Bob's the kind of guy you expect to dress like a nerd on Tuesday or wear cammo pants on Wednesday to support the military.

He had reversed his clothing in for backwards day when I caught up with Bob on Thursday. His only confession -- he didn't walk backwards that hot day on the Coastal Range near Santa Cruz.

More important that Bob's camp spirit is his example to the young boys and girls under his charge. You see, he's the kind of guy who walks in love as he imitates God.
Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma (Ephesians 5:1-2).
As a boys and girls Bible class teacher, he had much to instill in the young minds. Like Bob's crazy hair, "crazy" themes from Epistle of James -- text for the week at camp -- resonate in the minds of the campers.

Like his example of camp spirit, Bob showed the kids examples of joyfully tackling life's trials (James 1:2-8), emphasised that a living faith works for God everyday (James 2:14-26) and that humble submission to God is the only way to purify their hearts (James 4:6-10).

Bob's actions during the week may not fit the image of a fifty-something guy who takes a week off from work to enrich the lives of the campers. But the kids respect him and love his devotion to God.

And you gotta respect a guy who walks around all day with baked hair goop.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Camp 2008 -- Notes on Sunday, June 29

I've written more about the opening meal than any other at camp. My mind is fresh on Sunday, and I still have lots of energy.

By Thursday, my desire to blog wanes. I often rest for a week before I pick up my blog pen. So, it's time to pick up where I left off last weekend.

I noted in an earlier discussion that the director's decision to eliminate Saturday camp pushed the arrival of kitchen staff back 24 hours.

Allen and Alisa had just finished setting up their tent as Debbie and I pulled in from worship and a Safeway shopping trip. By 2 p.m. -- the start time for kitchen staff on opening day -- the four of us were ready to start dinner prep.

After unloading the Safeway purchase, I immediately put Allen and Alisa to work. Allen scrubbed and cut 40 pounds of russets for roasted potato wedges. Mixing three five-pound packages of brownie mix fell to Alisa while I sliced onions and red and green bell peppers for the tomato-basil sauce.

In the next hour we panned the chicken tenders, sliced tomatoes for a salad and panned and seasoned the potatoes. My immediate goal was to get the time-consuming and time-sensitive tasks done. I was confident that the remaining staff would arrive around 3 p.m.

I put Elisa, Helen and Carol to work as they walked in the kitchen. Dave and Phil were able to set up tents. I wouldn't need their services until it was time to serve the meal. Around 3:30 p.m., I briefly lost Elisa and Helen while they registered children for camp.

In the next hour and a half, Elisa and Helen built the salad bar while others got the dining room tables ready (we don't have K.P. help until Monday morning), mixed beverages (punch and iced tea) and set up the vegetable.

By the time we walked out of the kitchen for 5 p.m. worship at the amphitheater, the meal was in good shape. Dinner was ready with brownies were cut, salads in the walk-in and chicken sandwiches fixin's ready to go.

The nine of us returned to the kitchen just before 6 p.m. This year we assembled the sandwiches instead of serving each item on the steam line.

Elisa watched the front of the house and assigned duties to the line servers (staff on opening night). Allen and Dave set up the dish machine while Debbie filled drink pitchers.

In the back, Carol and I made sandwiches with the tomato-basil sauce. Phil and Elisa (she's a busy woman!) made the barbecue sandwiches. Alisa ran the oven while Helen started working on salads for Monday.

Although I missed having all the kitchen staff report to work early Sunday afternoon, we put the meal out on time though superb teamwork. I was able to get all menu items prepared on time because of a dedicated staff that's flexible and willing to work.

In the photo, Alisa (left) and Elisa prepare pizzas Monday night.

Western Days in La Pine, Oregon

Sunday, July 06, 2008

When in bear country ...

Innovative camp kitchen ideas come from the most unlikely sources. A Google blog search led me to a picture and blog article by a camp cook in Aialik Bay, Alaska.

Children's author and literacy advocate Jen Funk Weber recently served as camp cook for 10-days at Kenai Fjords Glacier Lodge while husband and photographer Mike Weber and others build a new lodge. The regular camp cook was scheduled to replace Jen around the first of the month.

What's unique about this remote Alaskan camp kitchen is its selection of storage furniture. Bear country cooking demands sturdy bear-proof storage.

The lodge employs a heavy-duty Knaack jobsite storage cabinet to secure food and personal items from hungry bears. A cabinet designed to foil construction-site thieves should deprive bears of an easy catch.

"Because this is bear country, all food, toiletries, and smelly items are stored in a variety of secure lockers. My apron, the hotpads, unwashed coffee cups, etc. are all stashed in here. The doors are kept closed unless someone is in the tent," said Jen.

You can read more about Jen's complete camp kitchen set up on her blog. Since drinking water must be shipped in from Seward, the camp uses sea water for dish washing in a triple-sink set-up. Another unique feature is the use of glacier ice in the coolers.

Click here for a complete description of the kitchen.

Camp 2008 -- Goal #3: Watch food production worksheet instructions

My third goal of the week was to carefully watch the instructions that I give to the cooks via the food production worksheet. We were only moderately successful at accomplishing this goal.

This ties nicely with the other two goals -- to reduce volume of leftovers and reduce end-of-camp donations. This point is important because I use the worksheet to communicate meal instructions to the crew.

My intent here was to improve the staff's use of the worksheet. Until two or three years ago, I was the only one recording information onto the worksheet. Then in 2005 or 2006 I started training the cooks to record to use the worksheet.

It's difficult to get the cooks to take time to document their actions. Most cooks like to focus on cooking, not record keeping. I spent most of the week reminding my second and third cooks to record the number of portions that they prepared, final cooking temperatures for potentially hazardous food items and leftover portions.

I say I was moderately successful because the cooks were using the worksheet about 60 to 75 percent of the time. I filled in the gaps for about one out of three meals.

We'll keep working on the importance of keeping good records next year. The food production worksheet, along with the inventory and food safety log, give me the history (click here and here) that I need to plan for next year's camp.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Camp 2008 -- Remember why you're at Bible camp

The cooks completed their last Bible study this afternoon. As I've said in the past, don't neglect the whole reason for coming together at camp -- to study God's word and to grow as Christians.

Elisa asked me last Sunday if the camp was going to have an adult Bible class each afternoon. I said no. Study time for adults was cut last year when classes for campers were reorganized.

She then asked if the cooks could study on our own. I quickly agreed because I know the importance of spiritual growth. I'm thankful she was looking out for our spiritual welfare.

Our study this year came from the "implanted word" (James 1:21) from James' letter to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad" (James 1:1). James 2:17 formed the main point of our study this year at camp: "Thus faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead."

James is a book of action. He stress throughout the letter the importance for Christians to take display a faith of action. He emphasises in the second chapter that the only viable faith is one that's working.

This year -- as in the past seven -- the cooks will go home with a broader understanding of God's word. They be ready to work in their communities, at home and in their churches as they put their faith in action.

Here's what I wrote in 2005 on the topic.

Camp 2008 -- Goal #2: Reduce end-of-camp donations

The second goal is to reduce end-of-camp donations to less than 4.5 percent of total purchases (when measured in dollars).

Cooking for or a stand-alone camp presents several inventory management issues. Key among them is getting rid of perishable inventory at the end of the week or weekend. We can't hold perishable food until the next camp, some 51 weeks away.

Dutch oven chocolate cream pie with cookie crust. Five (14-inch) Dutch ovens fed 135 campers and staff. You can serve approximately 15 to 25 portions from each large oven.

In an ideal world, the chef purchases just enough food for the campers. You're okay as long as the campers eat all the food that is prepared and presented to them. But few work in such an environment.

Products like fresh tomatoes, lettuce mix and milk give me the most problems. Each year, I adjust my order based on usage and remaining stock from the prior year. The number of anticipated campers also factors into the amount of food that I purchase.

Some years, my adjustments work. In other years the campers eat less (for a variety of reasons) and I'm faced with large quantities of leftover stock.

Now that it's Friday, I'm well on my way to achieving my goal of reducing the end-of-camp donations. Last week when I submitted by purchase order to Sysco, I was able to reduce my order by 10 to 20 cases.

I don't see a need to purchase an unneeded product just so I can donate it to the next camp. While it benefits that camp, it costs our camp money at a time when budgets are tight.

I've been monitoring the remaining food stocks closely and adjusting the menu to use these stocks up before tomorrow morning. My sous chef and I discuss the menu day and work on strategies to reduce excess stock. I'm confident that, at this point in the week, that my end-of-camp donations will come in much less than four percent.

Instead of making more cookies with the two remaining boxes of cookie mix, I used them to form the crust for a Dutch oven chocolate cream pie for lunch today.


This morning, for instance, I made a Dutch oven chocolate cream pie in five (14-inch) camp ovens. I took the remaining two (5-pound) boxes of basic cookie mix and made cookie dough using the instructions on the box. I then pressed 2 pounds cookie dough into each 14-inch camp oven. It doesn't matter if you use regular or deep-style ovens for this recipe.

After baking the cookie dough over charcoal for 350 degrees F. for approximately 20 minutes, I used eggs, milk and sugar (all excess stock at this point) to make a chocolate cream pie filling from scratch. I cooled the filling and then poured 1-1/2 quarts over the cookie pie crust in each oven. You can also use your favorite instant pie filling if desired.

The five Dutch ovens fed 135 hungry campers during our Independence Day cookout. This is but one example of a way to use excess stocks.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Camp 2008 -- Camp coffee

What happens when you run out of coffee filters?

You go to plan B. If it was good enough for the wagon cook, it's good enough for the camp chef.

Camp 2008 -- Finger saving tips

The mandoline -- the sleek hand-operated vegetable-slicer, not the instrument (a mandolin) -- is an essential culinary tool in my book. In the hands of the right person, it saves time and gives many dishes a nice, professional look. The mandoline's sharp blades will slice vegetables to a uniform thickness.

But I don't allow sliced fingers in my kitchen. The bite of the mandoline quickly disfigures in the hands of an untrained operator. One slip quickly means the loss of a finder tip. Any time gained is quickly lost as the chef puts in a 9-1-1 call to the camp nurse.

Each cook who uses the mandoline must study my five rules of mandoline operation. They're designed to save finger tips and to speed up production. They are:
  1. No multitasking when using the mandoline; your single job at this point is to cut the food and to watch the blade, because it bites.
  2. Use the blade guard at all times; it will protect you fingers.
  3. No distractions allowed; this means no talking and no visiting when cutting on the mandoline.
  4. Know where you fingers are at all times; otherwise, you'll find them when the blade bites.
  5. Your finder is more valuable than the last bit of food; in other words, you don't have to be a hero and balance the food budget with the mandoline.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Camp 2008 -- Soup from leftovers

Remember, one of my goals this year is to reduce the leftover load on breakfast Saturday morning. Instead of preparing Navy bean soup as planned, I made a cheesy potato soup with broccoli from leftover from the first two days. This helped reduce our leftovers by three dishes.

First, you must safely cool the leftover food. Cool leftover food through the danger zone (135 to 41 degrees F. ) by placing the pan in an ice water bath. Most state and local laws in the U.S. allow you to use the two-stage cooling method. You have two hours to cool the leftovers from 135 to 70 degrees and an additional four hours to cool the food from 70 down to 41 degrees or lower.

This pan of leftover pan of sausage gravy is in the second phase of cooling.

Once the leftovers have been properly cooled, store them in the refrigerator at 41 degrees or less. Use the leftovers as quickly as possible, but always within seven days.

To prepare the soup, I placed 5 quarts cheese sauce in a double boiler with 2 quarts fresh milk. I then added 2 quarts leftover cottage fried potatoes and 3 quarts leftover broccoli. I stirred. You then have (by law) two hours to heat the soup (or any leftover dish) to 165 degrees. It took 1-1/2 hours to heat the soup to the proper temperature.

I didn't measure the finished product. You should get about 25 (6-ounce) servings from this soup. Remember, the quantity you make will depend on the quantity of ingredients that you use for the soup.