Being a camp cook is very rewarding but tiresome work. I’m usually the first one up in the morning, getting a fire going, getting the coffee and hot water on, and making breakfast. In the evening, I’m cleaning up after dinner, setting out s’mores makings and/or a cracker barrel, prepping breakfast, and securing the camp kitchen for the night. Somewhere in between is making lunch and dinner and various other activities.
By the end of the weekend, I’m often sleep deprived, coffee deprived (because I was too busy to drink it), and my hands are as dry as the Sahara because they’ve been in and out of water all weekend.
But it’s all worth it to know that those in my care were well fed that weekend, and my ego never gets tired of hearing the compliments. Still, there are things that could make the experience much better for me.
As early as I sometimes need to get up in the morning, I always try to get up a littler earlier so that I have time to wash my face and brush my hair and get myself ready for the day. Sometimes, before the hustle and bustle of breakfast begins, I even get to take a moment and enjoy the sunrise!
In the morning, it’s okay to be a little selfish and get that first cup of coffee or tea or cocoa, and make sure you take a moment to actually drink it. Trust me. Everyone in camp will be grateful that you did. No one wants a cranky cook!
At meal times, remember to get your firsts before you call for seconds. I remember one time we were cooking for 200+ campers at Camp River Ranch and we made this awesome breakfast and sent all the batches out to the campers before we realized that we did not reserve a batch for us. DOH! Not to worry. We managed to rustle some back to the kitchen, but I can guarantee you that we didn’t do that again! The cooks have to eat too.
Make sure that you are also hydrating throughout the weekend. Often times, we get so busy that we forget to take those frequent water breaks, and it’s ironic because I usually spend all weekend reminding everyone else to hydrate!
Remember to pack hand lotion and lip balm and use them often. After every meal clean up and/or dish washing, I try to pull out the lotion and rub a generous amount onto my hands before I move on to other activities.
Bring a comfy camp chair and, whenever you get a chance, sit down and put your feet up. Take a rest. You’ve earned it.
All this reminds me of an Isotoner Glove commercial circa mid 1980s. Then Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino said he was getting isotoner gloves for all his offensive linemen because he wanted to take care of the hands that take care of him.
If you have a camp cook in your life, remember to take care of them while they are taking care of you. If you are the camp cook, remember to take care of yourself.
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