We’re in session at Camp Myrtlewood in Oregon – this is a guest post by longtime staffer and Kitchen Coordinator Franny Bannen.
photo by Dandy Denial
My day begins at 7am when my alarm goes off. It’s hard to get up because it’s cold and I stayed up too late but I bundle up and make my way to the kitchen. It’s one of the few moments you can be up and experience camp as totally quiet. The field is scattered with groups of people in sleeping bags. I come into the kitchen and put on pots of water for tea, standing huddled for a minute over the warmth of the burners. I get potatoes in the oven and start battering and frying French toast on the flat top. By 8:30 a few other staffers are up and fellow staffer Janie is here to help me with the French toast project. Breakfast is at 9:30 and everyone is excited for the break from eggs and potatoes every day.
Life in the kitchen at camp feels like a loop, there’s never really a break between meals, breakfast bleeds into lunch prep to dinner prep to late night snack and prep for tomorrow’s breakfast. Someone seems to be making food of some kind from around 7am til midnight or 1 in the morning.
There are superhero groups who filter in and out on dishes throughout the day and worktraders who come in for a few hours at a time. These are the campers we get to know the best as they spend between 12 and 48 hours with us throughout the session, some of them year after year.
We’ve been holding community meeting outside in the chapel in an effort to connect more with this amazing piece of land but the cold shade has been a point of contention so today we experiment with moving into the field and having a standing meeting in the sunshine. It’s lovely but the ultimate result is that we will move meetings back inside. This is one of the things I love about camp – when something we’re doing isn’t working there seems to always be an immediate movement to try a whole bunch of different solutions.
Lunch is sweet potato fries and lentil soup. The group of campers in Dev’s Adventure Project have chosen to skip lunch and see what they can forage from the forest here. What they don’t know is that we will be bringing them food when their foraging project is over, and when they see us emerge from the trail with pots and pans they jump up in excitement and hunger as if they’ve been in the woods for days instead of the 3 hours since breakfast.
We move right into dinner prep. Dinner is curry but the big project is making naan from scratch. We stand around the table, cooks and worktraders, rolling and flipping and brushing butter. These are the moments I love, we’re talking about prom and how the session is going for people and what we should make for dessert. The naan project (and the litany of naan puns such as “it was a naan issue”) takes longer than we plan for and by the time it’s over evening meeting is starting.
In the evening we try out a brand new event: “Crazy Culminators.” The gist of it is this. We divide the campers up into 7 groups and assign each group a Culminator. We have already instructed the campers to have their silliest and most outrageous articles of clothing in the bathrooms for easy access. The campers will have 45 minutes to capture their Culminator, dress them in the most outrageous way they can and set them up with a backstory. On the count of 3 the Culminators run out the door and everyone else stampedes after them. The rest of us settle into wait, a much needed 45 minutes of sitting down and socializing for me. Everyone comes back in and we begin the show. The Crazy Culmintors are wearing a wide array of layers, socks on arms, hats on top of hats, rolls of toilet paper tied on with string and all manner of hilarity ensues. Logistics Goddess Matt MCs and we give them all 30 seconds on the clock to tell us their backstory, show an anti talent (ranging from bad piano playing to dramatic screaming) and answer a variety of questions such as “alternate acronym for NBTSC.” The event is a huge success and everyone is all giggles. My night ends with cutting warm banana bread and putting it out for late night snack.
As I sit in the kitchen before bed, making a list for tomorrow, I feel exhausted and my feet hurt but in this quiet moment my mind still settles on how much I love this job. Love dreaming up new crazy food projects, love working with campers and teaching them knife skills and learning about their lives. Love being a source of nourishment and being nourished by this place and these people. So it’s with a smile that I sleepily gather my things and stumble off to bed, ready to be back in a mere 7 hours and start again.