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How-To's for Wholesome Camp Menus
As a camper, I distinctly remember the silver cafeteria trays and the colored globs of food that were plopped into the tray’s individual sections. That was then and this is now. The cooking arena in camp kitchens today needs to not only focus on better presentation but a wholesome diet as well.
The role of the food service director and food service staff in the camp industry is vital. What gets served from the camp kitchen supplies nourishment, warmth (both literal and figurative), and energy to the campers. It is up to the food service staff to provide a healthy, yet enticing menu so all concerned will leave the tables full, satisfied, and properly energized.
The Tried-and-True Kid Rules
Believe it or not, healthy, wholesome food that campers will actually eat is not hard to figure out. Just follow the tried-and-true kid rules:
Focus on the Basics
To create wholesome, enticing foods for campers, focus on the basics that guarantee success. The basics include breads, simple meats and other proteins, pastas, lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, starches, and a few treats thrown in to make campers smile.
In the salad arena, try interspersing a few dark green leafy additions such as spinach, green or red leaf lettuce, or even some of the other specialty leaves that can add a touch of color as well as quite a few more vitamins. Try a few creative tricks with other colorful vegetables (corkscrew cucumbers and flower-sliced carrots).
Healthy Cooking Tips
A properly balanced and health-fully prepared diet can still be quite appealing. Here are a few suggestions:
Baking versus frying
Cheese and oil
Offer fats, gravies, and sauces separately
Vegetarian and meatless choices
Campers will respond surprisingly well to healthy foods. Make an effort to present all foods in a visually appealing manner. Campers will be more likely to eat more balanced meals, and as a result, have more energy and a better attitude in general. The healthy camper plays better, doesn’t get as tired and crabby, and even appears to blossom before the director’s eyes.
Go ahead, focus on healthy, wholesome meals. Try it, campers will like it.
Viki Kappel Spain is the food service director for the West San Gabriel Valley YMCA Camp Ta Ta Pochon in Southern California, and has been cooking in the camping industry since 1985. She is the author of The Camp Kitchen Guidebook, available through the American Camping Association Bookstore.
Originally published in the 1999 July/August issue of Camping Magazine.