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June 19, 2013

I Want to Eat

All the time. I want to eat all the time. And then when I do sit down to eat, I eat quickly, not really tasting the food, although I eat a lot. The food is good, but I've already tasted parts of most of it in the kitchen, where I graze. I graze on what we're making, and I graze on what we've made. I find drawn to the starchy stuff, all the stuff I've been subtly avoiding over the past year—bread and muffins and croutons (THE most amazing croutons, and yes they are just bread, but rosemary garlic bread, sauteed in olive oil...) and pancakes and so much for eating healthy foods all summer. They're not bad foods, but it's these starches I've been craving, and my belly hurts. But then I'll go for another crouton, anyway, and maybe sneak a piece of chocolate from the pantry.

It's been an adjustment. It's not quite the quiet, nurturing environment that I'd conjured up in my head, so lush with trees that I'd hardly notice my work. We work in a regulated kitchen. I wear closed-toed shoes, and my feet hurt. The closest tree is not right outside the door; it's across the street. So far, I sleep indoors. I actually have to interact with people. On one hand, there's this annoyance, and on the other hand, I'm lonely. It's a bit different going to camp in your mid-30s than it is as a kid, or as a counselor fresh out of college. Or even after a few other experiences. Not that I expected anything different, but we don't always know what we expect until we get something else.

The morning, at breakfast, went pretty well. Tonya and I bonded over the trials and tribulations of making pancakes together, one side of the skillet burning the batter while the batter on the other side of the skillet (sigh) remained raw. Celia and I talked about my background, and I was sort of grooving on talking about the GPS stuff. After breakfast and some lunch prep, I took a break, and came upstairs to work on UNAVCO's Facebook feed. When I went back down to the kitchen, the conversation had changed. They were talking about.... heaven forbid...


I'm out of my league. Dish ideas, whimsical talk of cherished ingredients, techniques for baking a crust. Then it got even more personal. One of the cooks asked the other when she first knew she loved food. A tale ensued, with appreciative interjections, and then the question was reciprocated. Of course it was. Still, I hoped the question wouldn't come around to me. Maybe they would get distracted.

We chopped fresh fennel, broccoli from the farm, cauliflower, and onions; washed spinach and kale; ducked into the walk-in refrigerator repeatedly for herbs, fruit, vegetables, and eggs—some, like the broccoli and spinach, from the farm. We're surrounded by food. We are feeding people. I am a cook. I love food. I don't know why I am a bit bewildered when people project these assumptions onto me, categorize me in this way. No, I want to say. You don't understand. I don't even like cooking. That's partly why I'm here.

It would have been impolite and awkward to not ask me, in turn. "Beth, when did you first know you loved food?" I hesitated. "Just one of the moments," Allison continued. "It doesn't have to be the exact first time."

I stuttered through something about not really having that moment, not really knowing I loved food. I might have even ventured to say I wasn't a huge fan of cooking. Then I veered away by saying I have had plenty of food moments, moments of food appreciation, like garlic moments in which I'd bitten into a whole clove of garlic and just been completely in love with food, and we moved on to those instead. Yes, I can remember when I first really began to appreciate garlic, I said. I was with a college friend, Scott, either in college or shortly after, and we cooked something that would become the basis of most of my cooking, still today. He taught me the beauty of simplicity in food. Olive oil and garlic. We sauteed up some onions and mushrooms and whole garlic cloves and diced garlic in olive oil, caramelizing the lot of it, and served it over spaghetti with freshly grated Romano and freshly ground pepper. Delicious. I can taste it now. I want to taste it now, because 1) It's delicious, and 2) It's starchy. What is it with me and starch? I'm going to start thinking of this as fat camp. The camp I went to to become fat.

So, a narrow miss on that one. I faked my way through it. But how much longer will I be able to hold up this thinly veiled guise? There's only one remedy: I have to fall in love with food. In my own way, and not because anyone else loves food. I have to fall in love with food because of what it gives me. And what I can give to it.

I just hope I can fall in love with vegetables and fruit and meats and legumes and starches equally. Can one partition their love equally between the four food groups?

Posted by beth at 2:13 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 17, 2013

How I Got to Camp

I drove.

Across the plains.

Through a rainstorm.

And past some wind turbines.

Through another rainstorm.

With Bear Bear at my side.

We slept a night somewhere in Nebraska, and then the next night outside Chicago, with this Joker.

Who is actually my friend Pam's masterful mask-making daughter.

We had so much fun that I got a late start the next day. Since I was heading east, I had to watch the sunset in my rearview mirror.

I bedded down for the night in a homey, cozy KOA. Right next to a busy road.

And then drove some more, finally making it to some interesting hills.

Through another storm...

Until arriving at my destination.

A much different road.

Posted by beth at 2:58 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 12, 2013

You Are How You Eat

I'm going to camp!

Yes, you read that right: I'm going to camp.

I'm done with my degree, I have a gig lined up for the fall, and this summer I'm going to camp. I'm getting back to my hippy roots and taking some time to rest, reflect, absorb the forest, swim in a lake, read, write, and learn about food. I will be cooking at Tamarack Farm, the teen work camp of Farm & Wilderness, a Quaker-based system of seven summer camps in Vermont. The philosophy is living simply; values include inclusiveness and growth. Some of the food is grown on the farm, by the staff and the youth who come to work and live there. I am looking forward to cooking for these youth, learning more about where our food comes from and how to prepare it, and hopefully sharing some of my own communication skills with the campers.

The choice to do this was not an easy one. I'm 36, turning 37 next month, and just finished a second master's degree. Surely I'm qualified for something more than going to camp. Surely I can do something more exciting and exotic than spending a summer in Vermont. This can't possibly build my resume.

Yet, as much as anything, it feels right right now. I have had some upheaval in my life, and some uncertainty, and some big questions to confront. When my dear friend Anne put forth the idea to me in the Eastern Sierra, it started to make more and more sense. Elizabeth Gilbert went to Italy, India, and Bali. I'm going to Vermont.

The idea of feeding people—serving them in this way—sounds delicious. Participating in a camp focused on inclusiveness and working directly with teens is a great test for whether I want to pursue that in my professional and/or extracurricular life. (I love to teach.) And chunks of time outside to read and write in fresh air, and sleeping every night in a three-walled cabin, sounds dreamy.

I will try to update the blog throughout the summer, but time online means time inside. So, don't expect too much, as much as I'd love to write here prolifically.

Best wishes to you for a lovely summer.

Posted by beth at 2:44 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack