Sunday, August 1, 2010

C is for Camp Food

I have just returned from my annual trip to "camp." And yes, I mean that I am an actual grown-up and I still go to summer camp. But this is not just any summer camp. It is this fabulous oasis on the shore of Lake Walloon in northern Michigan that is owned and run by the University of Michigan for alumni and their families. My parents (both Michigan grads) started taking me there when I was six years old, and twenty years later, I still love it. The funny thing is, I am far from the only one. Most people who "camp" there have also been going for 10+ summers, and everyone tries to camp the same "week" so that you can see your friends again year after year. I have become incredibly close with my "camp friends," to the point that one of them is a bridesmaid in my wedding.

Us camp friends think nothing of visiting each other cross country (duh, we're friends from camp is how we explain this to others who look at us like we are insane) and rehashing old memories is half the fun of every reunion (Paul, do you remember that time when I beat you in the "Teen Regatta" when we were 13? Oh yes.) And that's only half the fun. There's windsurfing and sailing and horses. Archery and rock polishing. Booze and campfires. Everything you could expect from a summer camp that caters to people of all ages, and that includes delicious, nostalgia-laden camp food.

What says camp more than s'mores? Whether you are 5 years old, making them for the first time, or trying to impress the boy next to you with your mad s'more making skillz at fourteen, eating the ingredients right out of the bag at 3am while trying not to fall in the fire when you're nineteen, and then back to eating them like a normal human when you're an adult, s'mores are delicious.

There's also crispy bacon and slightly soggy scrambled eggs in the morning. Yeah, they are probably egg beaters, but so what? They are fuel for the big day of activities ahead, and just squirt a little ketchup and sriracha sauce on those bad boys, serve with a side of corn flakes and some spotty banana and you are good to go!

And let's not forget baked beans and corn on the cob and slightly undercooked hotdogs. Nor should we forget burgers that are grilled to hockey pucks alongside veggie burger pucks, for any vegetarians that are missing their daily dose of carcinogens.

There's also the salad bar where the grandmas always take an hour to move through the line, picking out any and all cherry tomatoes, radishes, broccoli, cauliflower florets and lettuce pieces that are not bruised or browned as they go before you have a chance to get any.

And then there is "bug juice!" My dad always told me it was made of bug juices (duh) and for a while I believed him, although what it really means is that those drinks are so sugary that the bugs are drawn to it like a bright red (or yellow or purple) drug.

And of course, there is "Fun Dip" and Pix Stix, Ice Cream Sandwiches and freeze pops of course. Plus those bizarre little ice-cream cups you eat with that wooden stick that is your "spoon." Deserts so blissfully sugary and filled with food coloring, the highlight of the entire experience was not the taste, or even the sugar high, but the fact that it turned your tongue, lips, fingers and teeth a very unnatural color.

It is worth saying that camp food has improved from a gastronomical perspective over the past twenty years. We now have a frozen yogurt machine and taco night, an omelet station and even Mongolian barbecue. And yet I still look forward to "cook out" night, where I don't care if I get baked bean residue on my watermelon, and while I would never eat a burger that was black on the outside, still moo-ing on the inside, ANYWHERE else in the world, when it is on the shores of Lake Walloon, I can simply can't wait to bite in. A glass of over-sugared, sandy lemonade while catching the perfect breeze is just a bonus.


  1. I love your description of how we ate s'mores ate age 14 and 19, too funny and so true!

  2. Haha isn't it?? You got a little shout-out yourself :)