My Boy Scout James is away this weekend at his troop's annual cooking contest campout. Each group of boys - a patrol - plans and makes a delicious meal in competition with each other. This is his second year attending, but his first as leader of a patrol and thus in charge of the meal. At 5 pm - just 8 minutes away - the judges (adult leaders of the troop) will be at his patrol's table to see how their meal turned out.
James is not a cook, though he has been practicing. And this is not a stereotypical Scout camp meal, of meat and veggies wrapped in foil and buried in the coals. The boys are required to cook at least part of their meal in the Dutch oven. They have to brown their meat, not just toss it into the pot. The meal must be balanced meal with protein, carbs, vegetable, etc. A dessert is required. A beverage too - and water from the canteen doesn't count.
They earn points for difficulty, healthfulness, and presentation, among other things. It's a big deal, lots of work and lots of fun. For example, James took a stick of butter for his bread, but also a container of cream so they could make their own. This was a last-minute addition. He had asked one of this friends, a senior Scout, if taking butter would cost points. No, he was told - but if you make your own, you'll gain points! Same question about taking homemade chicken broth. (James made it from a chicken he cooked a few weeks ago at a cooking workshop at his Scoutmaster's house.) It's fine, but it would be better if he hauled a chicken carcass up to camp and made the broth there. Yikes. That takes a lot of time and a lot of firewood. He won't worry about those extra points.
I am almost certain he forgot one semi-essential ingredient: sugar for his dessert. But the recipe also includes honey, and I'm pretty sure - no actually I'm just hopeful - that he will realize he can just add more of that to make up for the missing sugar. Maybe one of the other boys in his patrol will mention that, if he forgets.
He is a forgetful boy, and likely to be a bit stressed.
He forgot the gloves for chopping up the jalapenos. Those are not essential, but might gain him points for safe cooking..
His menu is chicken peanut stew, chapatis, couscous with honey, cinnamon, and nuts, and mango soda. I know all this because I helped him practice it, but also because he typed up a nice menu for the judges to see on his table. Too bad he left it behind.
The mango soda is just mango nectar mixed with seltzer. It's delicious.
Though he is the leader, the other boys were invited to contribute ideas to the dinner. However, they did not care to. I know that because they sat around my kitchen table one night talking about it, and other than approving the stew didn't express much interest. I suspect they won't like the dessert - it does seem a little odd - but he wanted something more in keeping with his North African-ish theme than the typical apple cobbler.
All day I've wanted to text him to ask how it's going. But Mommy needs to stay out of it, and he's not supposed to have his phone in his pocket during camp anyway. I did ask him, if he could do it without breaking camp rules and embarrassing himself, to let me know how it went after it's all done. I can wait till tomorrow afternoon when he gets home... but I don't want to.
Well, it's 5:10 and the judges should have moved on to the next patrol. I'm a little sad I can't be there to see all this, but... it's right that's I'm not there.
This post was inspired by my friend Maria who knows exactly what I'm talking about.