Food Preparation


Photo: © Can Stock Photo Inc. / yekophotostudio

Anyone can cook. After all, even Neanderthal man put fire to meat and called it cooking. But the key today is in the preparation. Food preparation in camps, as well as at other venues, requires a variety of knowledge, yet there are some specialties unique to camp food service. A few helpful hints can greatly improve the focus of every camp–the dining hall. Often, there is only one entrée offered at each meal, whereas restaurants and even school cafeterias offer choices. This makes it difficult to please all of the people all of the time, but the more a camp director can satisfy the five physical senses of campers and counselors, the more likely he or she is to have returning staff members and full beds of campers.

A food director should plan a menu according to a given period of time–such as a one- or two-week session–and be careful to avoid the “menu monotony” that so many camps become afflicted with. Although counselors and staff members poke innocent fun by calling the menu a “boring rut,” this attitude is then perceived by the cash-paying camper, who reports home that the food is terrible. The subject of camp food then becomes a mind game. The best practice for all is to remain positive and supportive of the camp’s food-service operations.

Brow-Raising Beef

Cuts of beef should speak to the menu, and the menu should speak to the guest; in all circumstances, quality is paramount. For example, ground beef is a favorite menu item, and although there are many grades available, a blend of 90-percent lean beef consisting of no more than 10-percent fat is recommended.

With roast beef, one learns that the more tender the cut of beef, the more expensive the serving; however, this cut produces a higher yield with less shrinkage overall. This is another factor in selecting one type of beef over another at camp. Keep in mind that shrinkage is also a function of the length of cooking time and temperature. Additionally, lesser cuts of beef may require tenderizing by the use of marinades or moist cooking methods. When using lesser cuts of beef, experience suggests calculating the shrinkage due to the amount of fat content. For instance, a brisket may only yield 60 percent of its raw weight, so a 20-pound brisket may only yield 48, 4-ounce portions for a meal, depending on its quality.

The generic term “steak” is used for many levels of quality for individual portions of meat. It takes on names such as chicken-fried steak, Swiss steak, flank steak, London broil, and tip steak. Many of these are of the sirloin top and bottom round variety that requires a tenderizing method. At camp, these items are favorites among the counselors and staff members, but less popular with younger campers. Some of these items are called “mystery meat” by the less-informed. This is where good training by well-instructed camp counselors can be of immense benefit to the senses and sensitivities of the campers by helping them discern the taste of good food.

Finger-Lickin’ Chicken (And Turkey)

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