A short span of jagged tile floor meets with a stainless steel counter wall, forming the only defense separating and keeping us safe from the undead camper hordes. KIDDING. This isn’t the Walking Dead... BUT, the serving line can be quite a circus on Thursday night! And that is because Thursday night is Country Fried Steak Night.
Green beans steaming up our glasses making it hard to see the gravy slopped on our feet, arguments about the rolls, and campers clamoring for the camp special are all parts of the famed “Country Fried Steak Dinner”. (Side note: That’s also an exaggeration but I’m trying to make this more interesting than the average blog so bear with me). Growing up a camper I never really understood why this night is so special but I always remembered being a camper and getting the Thursday-night-hype so there must be SOMETHING different about this meal than the other fourteen or so meals we serve in a week. Is it possible that the smell of the steak chemically alters the campers - stripping away inhibitions, manners, and the ability to feel full? Or could it just be that it's the last dinner before everyone leaves and it's a special country fried communion. Either way it's always the wildest meal and I hope if you're reading this that you have had a chance to experience this meal! If not, come on up and we'll be happy to show ya!
Transition time... I need to stop yapping about just one meal, even if it is the most glorious of meals, as we do serve more than one, after all. And I suppose I’m not necessarily even trying to focus particularly on Thursday night dinner, it just always seems to be the most memorable, so it stands to mention first. But really, I would just like to take a few minutes to give you an inside look into what goes down on the other side of the serving line. Most campers or visitors only ever see from the outside in and they never get to know or partake in the "arguments" we the staff have among ourselves pertaining to who gets to serve the rolls or has to serve lasagna, or how insanely hot it gets when it is the middle of July and you're standing in front of a five-gallon pot of still-steaming corn - I’m honestly getting sweaty just thinking about it. On-the-real though, what you see from the dining hall is pretty calm compared to what goes on down in the trenches... Trenches meaning the kitchen-side of the serving line, but I can probably stop explaining this now. I’m sure you get the idea.
So by now you get the serving food part of my job, but there's a little bit more that goes on in this sacred, industrial-sized kitchen - void of air conditioning and stocked to the ceiling with every size and shape of pot, pan, and spatula you could ever imagine. Basically, it’s broken down like this: if you are not on pots and pans duty, you help serve, and sometimes even if you are on pots and pans duty, you still serve. The job has to get done (lest we risk the wrath of ninety-something hangry campers made even angrier by the Georgia summer heat), so if that means leaving a crusty unidentifiable substance to mellow in the bottom of a pot then you had better leave that mess and glove up! Also, depending on the situation, one staff may have to double or even triple up on serving to try and make sure the job gets done as quick as possible. Then, when the job is done and all the campers have scurried away to the carpetball tables, you get back to your pan where the unidentifiable substance has almost certainly hardened into something like concrete that you couldn't scrape out if you had a snow shovel. I speak from personal experience. Also, after all the campers and volunteers have come through, we count out what 's left and scream out "seconds!" at the top of our lungs. Depending on what we served that meal there might either be a stampede of people or a complete disinterest - not everyone wants seconds of pancakes on a stick. After "seconds" it's time to put it all up and save anything that could possibly still be good a week later. Most food keeps alright but sometimes you just have to throw it out because week-old reheated sausage patties aren't the most appetizing thing at 8:00am. And while I don't have any fun stories about sausage patties, I DO have a classic story about gravy...
You wanna hear it...?
Good, 'cause I'm going to tell you anyway.
It all started about five years ago. We have this tradition in the kitchen that if there's a lot of gravy left over and we don't have another meal we can serve it at, we pour it into a small garbage bag then put it into an empty box and throw it away. It saves us from filling the bottom of our trash cans with gravy and keeps the gravy from spilling all in the dumpster. However, one night after dinner some mischievous staff members decided to sneak in the staff cabin and slip one of those trashbags filled with leftover gravy into another unsuspecting staff member's pillow. That night all the staff were going to bed and they expected him to find the gravy bag in his pillow and they'd all have a laugh, however, he instead just laid down and went to sleep right away! The pranksters were surprised that he didn't notice so they decided to wait and see how long it would take him to find the gravy. As it turned out, Okie, the "victim", slept on the gravy bag for about a week before he realized the softness of his pillow wasn't the result of well-stuffed feathers or even cotton, but that it was, in fact, week-old gravy. (Cue laugh track).
Anyhoo, in closing, the serving line is a pretty enjoyable part of being in the kitchen, and it’s certainly more fun to try and convince campers to try the coleslaw than it is to have to clean up the coleslaw off of the floors and sometimes walls. Really, serving food to a bunch of smiling faces is always a rewarding experience, and since we aren’t counselors, it’s sometimes the only time we get to have a funny little interaction with the campers, whether or not gravy goes on top or beside the mashed potatoes.
YO! If you’re interested in more content on camp-life and what the campers are up to, feel free to head on over to one of our social media pages!
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I can’t guarantee I’ll be interesting on either of those accounts, but I’ll do my best!