Friday, June 29, 2007

Camp -- Dealing with a Suddent Reduction in Staff

Everything was all set for camp staff-wise this week. I had nine kitchen volunteers lined up for the week, including myself and my wife.

Even though two less volunteers would staff the kitchen this year, I was confident we could do it. This was going to be the third year for this crew. And four staff, including myself, had been on board since the first year.

Sometime before 9 a.m., my lead cook left a message on my cell phone (I missed the call because it was set on silent). CD said she would only be at camp Saturday and Sunday, but expected her husband to be there all week. She was leaving the state Monday to unexpectedly attend to a relative. By early afternoon, both were flying out tomorrow and wouldn't be able to help this year.

I called my camp director mid-morning to tell him the news. At our last communication, he was going to locate an additional volunteer for the kitchen. Then three male counselors backed out and Joe had to focus on replacing them, which became more critical when more boys than girls signed up.

This presents a challenge for Camp 2007. We have become very comfortable during the past two years with 10 and 11 kitchen workers. Although seven is not a critical shortage of workers, it does set us back a few years in terms of progress.

Our first task is to locate one or two additional volunteers. This is a difficult task since most people have made plans for the holiday week -- or are working all week -- and can't take the time off on short notice.

From here, it's a matter of digging into our phone books and contacting potential volunteers. EM -- my dining room host and chef-in-training -- Joe and I each know a person who may be able to volunteer on short notice. At this point, we're each waiting for answers. (It looks like we need to establish a list of alternates for 2008.)

I also plan to discuss the following strategies with kitchen staff tomorrow during in-service training:
  1. Part of the answer is we're going to have to work harder and smarter. This is where training for the past two years is going to payoff. The reality is we may need to work longer hours (a concern for the few with health issues). I plan to pay more attention to prep work and will encourage all staff to help with pots and pans throughout the day.
  2. It's too late to re-design the menu. The food has been purchased and Sysco is set to deliver our big order tomorrow afternoon. But I'll look at the menu each afternoon and simplify production any way possible.
  3. I will reorganize work assignments to better use talent and work habits. EM will replace CD as the morning cook, an obvious choice since she is being trained as my replacement. In the process I loose the best dining room host I know. I have few worries with EM at the helm in the front of the house.
  4. We will look for volunteers from the counselor corps and senior campers (high school age) to operate the dish machine. This may help fill the gap and give my main dishwashers a break.
  5. Purchasing more paper- and plasticware to reduce the load of the dish machine. The down side is the increased load on the garbage stream. This is problematic for the facility we rent, however. The dumpsters are always full when we arrive and garbage service doesn't arrive until Tuesday morning. EM and I have found one compromise -- purchase paper bowls for soup at lunch each day and for ice cream.
I sure my staff will have more ideas when we meet for in-service training tomorrow evening. I'm ready to present the challenges before us and to get them involved in finding answers.

As EM said over the phone this evening, "We'll make it." She's right. And that's a testament to a good crew.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Fortuna Dutch Oven Society Cookout

The Fortuna Dutch Oven Society hosted its Lost Coast D.O.G. Campout at A.W. Way Campground near Petrolia, California from June 22 to 24, 2007. Dean Hubbard, pictured below, graciously permitted me to post his photos of the prime rib roast and Hawaiian braided bread from the event.

Dean roasted an 18-pound rib roast in his Corbelas 20-inch (24-quart) Dutch oven. This signature Camp Chef oven has a notch in the upper oven wall to insert a thermometer probe. A two- to three-inch layer of rock salt goes in the oven first. After you place the roast on the salt, be ready to completely bury it in rock salt.

The key to a evenly roasted prime rib roast is to completely cover it with rock salt. Dean used a 40-pound bag of rock salt to cover the roast in the 24-quart oven.

The licence plate wind shield lends a colorful touch to the meal. Deal cooks the roast with 30 coals on the lib and 10 underneath. You have to add fresh coals each hour for the 2-1/2 to 3-hour baking time.

Dean kneads his Hawaiian braided bread. I find that it takes about 250 strokes to completely develop the gluten in a field bread. That's about 10 minutes of muscle-building work on a lazy day.

Here's Dean's Hawaiian braided bread. Dean is involved with International Redwood Gathering, a biannual gathering of teardrop trailer enthusiasts in the California Redwoods. The inaugural event was help at Pamplin Grove in Humboldt County, California, in July 2006. IRG 2.0 is being held in July 2008. Watch the website for more information.

The goal is a perfectly rare rib roast. The thermometer takes the guess work out of determining the internal temperature of the meat. Remove the coals and break the meat from its salt cocoon when the dial reaches 130-degrees F for rare and 140-degrees for medium.

Place the roast in a pan and let stand for 30 minutes before carving. Protect the roast from the elements with an aluminum foil cover. Dean pulled this roast at 140-degrees, but said he'll stop cooking at 135-degrees next time. Remember to allow for residual cooking when pulling the meat from the oven. The internal temperature of a roast will rise 5 to 10 degrees as it continues to cook.

This is what a cook likes to see -- empty pots and pans. That means no leftovers to consider in camp. Now the important question is: Who's going to do the dishes?

It's Time for Camp

I could write a thousand words about this building. Hundreds of similar camp kitchens and dining halls are busy feeding boys and girls throughout the country this summer. It's the venue where children and staff are served generous helpings of comfort food during their week at camp.

Right now, I busy getting ready to chef my own camp kitchen. The menu is ready and my purchase order will be sent to Sysco Foodservice in a day or two. In the meantime, you can browse my posts from camps in 2005 and 2006.

I grew up at Camp San Joaquin sleeping in similar tent cabins as this one. The boys at the camp slept in a line of tent behind the Blue Box (kitchen, dining area and main lounge) and pool. For the record, we boys were always miffed as why the girls got to sleep in a hard-walled cabin (called the Long House).

Six to eight boys and a counselor lived in each tent for the week that was filled with activity. I lived in Tent 5 for the 1963 Intermediate Boys Camp (10 and 11 year-olds) with Rory, Paul, Lyle and Gary. Our tent counselor was Mr. Swisher of Fresno (Mrs. Swisher was the camp nurse that session).

Buddies Stephen Cater and Scott Schoenfield stayed in Tents 4 and 7 respectively. Scott and I share a birthday. Stephen's tent formed the Off Key Quartet. There may be good reason why I don't remember the group.

"Roger caught a field mouse and gave it to Gary," reported Paul, our official tent correspondent. "We put it in a large tin can. During the night it supposedly jumped out and spent the night with Gary. Tent 5 is the highest so far in tent clean-up. We usually win 10 points by inspection but all other times it's a mess."

While Tent 5 excelled in cleanliness, we lacked any skill in Wednesday's fitness competition. It seems Tent 3 came out on top with our tent coming in second to last. Not one Tent 5 name appears on the camp newsletter's sports page!

This kitchen and tent cabin in the pictures belong to the Berkeley Echo Lake Camp high in Eldorado National Forest. They're visible from the road into Echo Lakes. Hardly anyone was around the day that I visited last June 2.

Fire Season in Full Swing

Driving home from dinner last night I saw a smoke head bellowing from the east. My first impression told me the fire was burning just over Sacramento Hill. I rushed home to grab my camera and run up Highway 49 to get some pictures.

I soon realized the fire was aggressively burning in the Lake Tahoe basin, to the north of the town of Meyers. As of the last update about 10:30 this morning, the Angora Fire had burned approximately 2,000 acres to the south and east of Fallen Leaf Lake.

The sad news is that it has consumed 240 structures. This includes 165 homes in the Washoe Basin area along Lake Tahoe Boulevard and North Upper Truckee Road. An additional 500 homes and business are threatened as the fire moves north toward the Tahoe "Y." Cabins along Fallen Leaf Lake's east shore are also threatened.

The photo looks north from Johnson Pass in more peaceful times. Twin Peaks stands watch (center of photo) over the Lake Tahoe Airport. The Angora Fire is burning immediately to the left of the photograph.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Kick the Can Ice Cream

Here's an interesting recipe that should occupy a lazy afternoon in camp. I found the recipe at, where I recently sighed up under the name of Chef Steve. One member posted this recipe in response to a request for "old school" ice cream at camp. My guess is that this is an old trick used by children's camps as a activity for a hot day.

Razzle Dazzle Recipes contain a variation on this recipe.


This should make enough ice cream for four or five campers.

1 cup Milk
1 cup Sugar
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla
Rock salt

1 one-pound coffee can with lid
1 three-pound Coffee can with lid
Duct tape
Mallet or hammer (for breaking up ice)

Put milk, cream, sugar and vanilla in the one-pound coffee can. Mix well and cover can tightly with lid and duct tape.

Put the one-pound can inside the three-pound can. Pack layers of salt and ice around the smaller can. Put lid on large can.

Now, roll the can back and forth for 10 minutes. Open large can, pour off the ice water (not onto plant life!). Add more ice and salt to fill the can again. Put lid on and roll 15 more minutes.

Take out small can, wipe it dry, open and enjoy.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Corn, Tomato and Jalapeno Salad with Blue Cheese

Here's a refreshing salad that I prepared for the Carson City Rendezvous last Saturday. You can vary the heat by adding more jalapeno peppers or by using the milder Anaheim or hotter habanero or Serrano.

For a smoky flavor, roast fresh corn-on-the-cob over a hot fire. Prepare charcoal or gas grill. Remove husks from corn. Brush corn with oil then grill until lightly browned. Cut corn from cobs and mix with peppers, garlic, tomatoes and cilantro. Proceed with remainder of recipe.


This recipe makes enough for a pot luck or family gathering. It makes 1-1/2 quarts and serves 12 (1/2-cup) portions. About 5-6 lines will yield the juice needed for one recipe.

2 pounds frozen corn, thawed partially
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 jalapeno chili peppers, seeded and minced
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
2 green bell peppers, seeded and diced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup lime juice
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
4 ounces crumbled blue cheese

Lightly combine corn, garlic, jalapeno peppers, tomatoes and bell peppers in a large bowl. Slowly stream line juice into olive oil while whisking. Pour over corn mixture and stir to combine. Chill until service time. Makes 1-1/2 quarts and serves 12 (1/2-cup) portions.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Noon Meal at Greensburg

Emergency responders pick up sack lunches at the tornado base camp in Greensburg, Kansas. Two hot meals are typically served to emergency responders working forest fires and similar incidents. An enhanced sack lunch is passed out for the noon meal.

Under the 2007 national mobile food services contract, caterers are required to provide the following menu items in each sack lunch:
  • Meat sandwich or vegetarian substitute

  • A second entree, such as a pizza pocket or burrito

  • Fresh fruit or dried fruit package -- dried fruit can only be served once in three days

  • Packaged cookies, brownie or granola bar

  • Two canned fruit juices totaling 11 ounces

  • Packaged snack, such as candy, trail mix, fresh vegetables, pretzels, jerky, shelled nuts or dried/cured meats and cheeses

  • Appropriate condiments

  • Two paper napkins and pre-moistened towelettes
This is a pretty hefty meal that's been formulated for emergency response workers, like wildland firefighters, who exert large amounts of energy on the job. The contractors are required to serve variety, which can be difficult when you consider the limited supply of non-perishable items that can be placed in a sack lunch.

Typically the crews pick up there lunches from a central point after breakfast. Each responder carries his lunch in a day pack until released for lunch. Except for crews located a spike camp, breakfast and dinner are served from the catering trailer in camp.

Photo credit: Mike Ferris of the U.S. Forest Service.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Echo Lake

Lower Echo Lake is the gateway into the Desolation Wilderness. Set in a glacier-carved valley, the lake it reminiscent of Sierra Nevada sub-alpine lakes. The Echo Lakes (the smaller Upper Echo Lake is located to the east of the lower (and larger) lake) are a popular Nordic and summer hiking destinations. The Echo Chalet website has more information on lake summer activities.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Blue Moon

I'm sure you've heard the expression, "Once in a blue moon." Last night I drove out to Pleasant Valley to catch a photograph of the moon. At around 8 41 p.m., the moon crept above the Sierra Nevada Range to illuminate the idyllic valley. This was a rare opportunity for me. This is only the second time I've attempted to shoot the moon.

First time I tried to photograph the moon, the moon itself washed out. Instead of treating the moon as I would any other bright object, I let the camera determine shutter speed and aperture. My Canon Rebel XT attempted to balance light readings from the whole scene.

This time I focused on the moon itself and and shot in manual mode. (I'll post the settings later.) I'm pleased with the result. I do need to work on producing a sharper image, however.

Anyone who's watched the moon can attest that it's really not blue. A blue moon is the second full moon within a calender month. This was the first occasion for a blue moon since July 31, 2004. A blue moon occurs once every 32 months on average according to yesterday's Sacramento Bee.

The moon had a nice reddish cast last night as it sat low in the horizon.