For dinner on Tuesday nights, we split up into cabin and tent groups and work together to make a meal together over a fire. We start preparing as soon as all the campers arrive on Sunday afternoon. Trying to accommodate everyone’s tastes can be difficult, but compromise is part of living in community with seven other girls. The cabin or tent group decides together what the meal will be, and the counselor is responsible for turning in a menu to the kitchen.
Another major part of the cookout is deciding where you’re going to go as a group! There are over 20 fire sites around the camp property. Some counselors like to ask their campers what they prefer, and others have their own favorite fire sites that they go to every week. The Bean Hole was always my favorite, because you got to sit right by the beautiful lake and there was always plenty of firewood.
When dinner time on Tuesday comes, the cabin group collects their food from the kitchen and equipment from Campcraft. Then you gather up your crew, trek out to your spot, and get started!
Cookouts are magic because so many campers come out of their shell during this time. If the first couple days have been challenging, or they’re just not a chatty group, cookouts (often) can change the tides. Girls get a new opportunity to bond and laugh and talk without the confines of a structured meal. Gathering firewood and prepping everything with their own two hands gives them direct control over the next two hours of their life.
I’ve had a lot of great cookouts in my day. When I was training to be a counselor, I forgot to requisition forks, so I played a game with my campers that we had to try to eat without using our hands. (Now they’re Explorers, and they still bring it up every time they see me.) When I was a Division Director, we had a cabin group that was having some issues. When cookouts came around, they invited me to come along, and the teamwork that I saw almost brought me to tears. The girls came so far, and I just wanted to hang out with them all the time after that.
Cookouts don’t always go as planned. Sometimes the food burns, or the firewood isn’t dry enough to keep a fire going, or you forget to get forks. But it’s all about what you make of it. When cabin groups come back singing and chanting, covered in ash — regardless of how the food was — I’d call that a success.
Sarah “Skipper” Frueh is a life-long camp girl. Born and raised in New Jersey, she’s an avid lover of the Jersey Shore and good bagels. Currently, she’s living in Dayton, Ohio, working as an ICU nurse. While she’s not at work, she likes to drink lots of coffee and work on her New Year’s Resolution of reading 50 books this year. At camp, she started as a Camper in Leadership Training in 2012 and served as a Junior Counselor in the Pathfinder & Trailblazer divisions in 2013. She was a Challenger counselor for two years and loved every minute of it, enough to be the Challenger Division director for another two summers. She has also served as the sailing specialist and would spend absolutely all of her time off on the sailing dock…if only we were allowed to sleep out there.