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Camp Kawanhee
A Memory Book


I loved the food at Kawanhee. Do I remember correctly that the bread was fresh baked? To this day I have a fetish for fresh bread and bake it or buy it almost daily.

But you also have to understand that I am an only child in a WASP family. My mother made just enough for the three of us. Three pieces of meat, three servings of potato or rice and three servings of vegetable. No extras. No casseroles. No ini food (that means Italian). I loved my mother's cooking. No complaints. But camp opened a whole new world to me. Seconds!! Chicken pot pie!! They put the veggies in with the meat , and there was great thick gravy in there and then they put a pie crust on top. Pie crusts are for dessert! I loved it and many other "pot" meals that I had never seen before

Of course it was not all smooth sailing in the dinning hall. At least one year I got the dreaded Food Nazi for a councilor. You have to eat your vegetables. The time that sticks in my mind involves those wonderful boiled onions. I actually will try anything today. I love Sushi. I have tried brain and toung. Maybe I owe my food internationalism to Kawanhee?

But back to the Onions. "You are going to sit here until you eat one". The dinning room is of course empty except for a few waiters and the kitchen staff. The councilor leans over me and my plate with one little boiled onion. I am afraid I can't remember for sure what happened. There were probably too many times with too many vegetables that had too many different outcomes. I would like to think that this was another example of now Kawanhee built character in campers. I would like to think that I sat there until either the councilor gave up or G.R.Frank came to the rescue of one of his poor tortured western boys. But it is just as possible that I choked down a mouthful and ran crying to the lodge.

I discovered a whole new side of the food as a councilor, Carlos was in my lodge. Carlos had eaten well in life and knew what good food was. I was not picky about food. The senior councilor, me, would get the platters first. Then it would be passed to the Junior Councilor. Then on to the mob. Carlos would always sit on my left. He would study the meat platter carefully and then point out the piece I should take. I tried to learn from him but I was always drawn to the largest piece instead of the one with the right balance of fat and lean.

As a councilor, you quickly learn why it is so fortunate that the eagle, falcon, panther tables are so short. If you and the junior councilor both stand up, you can almost reach each other in the middle of the table. Alex, in the middle of the bench, takes hold of the FULL milk pitcher and the drama begins. With all his might he gets the pitcher a few inches off the table. There is a slight lean to the left that causes the milk to start to slosh in that direction. Alex has it under control. He adjusts to the right. The milk stops its precipitous slosh to the left and instead proceeds at a slightly increased rate to the right. If you ever want to see an example of increasing isolation, there it is at Eagle table. Alex can have milk all over the table in seconds. But, wait. There is hope. Both councilors have seen what is about to happen, have jumped to their feet, knocking over their chairs and reaching into the middle of the table to capture the wavering pitcher. Sometimes you sat down with that great feeling of having saved the game and sometimes you sent Alex to the lodge to change his milk soaked clothes while you went to empty the camps supply of napkins and get the dreaded mop and bucket. Hey, that was why they paid us the big bucks!

And what was with the birthday cakes? Did they have something in them? I have a normal sweet tooth like anyone, but I'm not addicted to dessert. In fact, we never have dessert at home. But there was something about that birthday cake thing. First minutes, when you meet your new lodge mates, you count up how many birthdays you have! And then wasn't there something about the waiter for that day got an extra piece? And I kind of remember trying to beg pieces from other tables.

But maybe this was just a part of the whole dessert thing. The Raffles!!! The schemes to get an extra dessert! There was a "master list", right?, with how many boys were in each cabin. You got that many desserts. Ah, but if someone was in the infirmary, out with their parents, on Monhegan!! Sometimes the system failed and God bestowed his wondrous bounty on your table, an extra dessert! an extra five desserts!!! After the councilors had had an extra or two, there might be a raffle for the remaining one. Throw out your number on your fingers and we count around. I taught math for 12 years so I should have been pretty good at rigging. As a matter of fact, I think my conscience does remember a raffle or two that just happened to go to the junior councilor who just happened to share it with me. We were just trying to sharpen the minds of those young lads. Help them maintain weight!

Like so many things about Kawanhee, I start thinking of one aspect and my mind cares me to memory after memory. I have eaten in a lot of institutions but I don't have the same set of rich memories from those locals. And I think we even learned a little to respect the people who produced the wonderful food. My memory is that it was not just on Banquet day that we gave them a standing ovation. I think there was an underlying message to all of us to not just respect the powerful. Who would think that institution food could elicit such wonderful memories?

Tom Pears