Cooking for an Elephant

I just finished a series of posts on breaking pebbles into sand in order to fit them into your daily jar.  But, what do you do when you can’t break something up—like cooking for an elephant?

I’m glad you asked.

I went to Girl’s Camp last week and cooked for about 300 people.  There was no way to break that task up into bite size pieces.  All week I felt like I was feeding an elephant…and he was ravenous!

350 baked potatoes, please.  17 hams.  600 pancakes.  400 gallons of mashed potatoes.  (The elephant was super hungry)

NO PROBLEM!

There were 6 of us cooks—and we were, in my humble opinion, quite AWESOME!

P1030577Singe‘em was our fearless leader.  She gets the Superman award because of all she did—before and during camp.  She never lost her temper (even though we definitely had reason to at times), and kept us from boiling over (literally).

Smash ‘em wins the PomPom award. She was determined that we would be happy cooks, so she came up with funny cheers that we chanted whenever someone gave us a Thank You. She taught us dance moves for roll call (which me and Scorch ‘em were terrible at—but Scorch ‘em at least made up for it with awesome jumps)

Lick‘em gets the Double Duty award. She not only was assigned to be a cook, but also was in charge of 20-30 girls as well during the day. She ran herself ragged going between each of her duties. Each of my fellow cooks taught me so much during this brutal week, and I admire Lick‘em for her patience and good attitude; she never complained.

Burn‘em made me laugh.  She’s from Singapore and can look all serious, but then whips out a smart aleck remark like, “No speaka Englees!” when she didn’t want to do something (even though she speaks English fluently).  We would roll on the floor laughing (figuratively, because in our mountain kitchen, we dealt with mice and I wouldn’t have rolled around on that floor for all the money in the world)

P1030567Char ‘em was me! If this had been a reality show, I would have been the weakest link and been voted off (which would have been the greatest award ever, now that I think about it). I scorched a pot of chili and it took us all week to clean the pan! Only once during the week did a small fire start on the stove—during my watch. I freaked out and luckily, it burnt itself out. Whew!

Scorch‘em gets the “You’re my Hero” award! She brought up a huge trailer for us to sleep in (and when we took a rare nap during the day, it even had A/C—immense luxury!) She definitely is not EVER getting voted off the island! Her trailer helped us get all the dang food up there and take the leftovers back; and it had utensils to use when we couldn’t find forks to shred pork (what kitchen doesn’t have forks? ANSWER: Lame ones like ours).  Scorch’em saved our sanity!

So, if you ever have to cook for an elephant…or 300 girls, here are my suggestions:

  1. P1030595Have men around for the heavy lifting. Elephant food portions are quite large and scary. The whisk I stirred mashed potatoes with looked like Fred Flinstone’s club. I wanted to use Singe‘em’s excuse when someone asked me to stir them. “No speaka Engleese!”
  2. Pay attention to what you’re doing. It’s easy to go numb—your feet are already, and the mind goes soon after—when you’re cooking for 300 girls. Cooking that many sausages gets tedious, but don’t look away. If you do, a wasp might fly into your grill and get fried up with sausage crumbs. Look before you dish. Here in America, fried wasp doesn’t go over very well. Luckily, Scorch‘em was not only an awesome cook, but has X-ray vision and discovered our curious wasp and whipped him into the garbage.
  3. P1030586Make sure you have a warming oven. That way you can get things cooked ahead of time and throw them in to stay warm while you finish up other parts of the meal. So handy.
  4. Wear good shoes. You won’t get off your feet ALL day, and you’ll need something better than Sandals. Those are great at the beach, but unfortunately, if you are a cook for an elephant or 300 hungry girls, you will not EVER make it to the beach—even if there is one nearby.
  5. Think of negative, dark places…like concentration camps, gulags and death marches. If you do, you might think you’re not so bad off cooking for 300 people; but if you don’t and happen to remember normal life, you’ll think you’re stuck in the bowels of a very hot, fiery place and start to cry.
  6. Surround yourself with others that are more skilled than you! You won’t go wrong if everyone else knows what they’re doing. They’ll make you look good, even if you aren’t. That was my strategy.
  7. Cheer a lot! It’s better than crying.

10.  I know I skipped 8 and 9, but I just fed 300 girls for the week, and I can do what I want now. This last advice will save your life…or at least your feet and back. When asked to feed an elephant…or 300 peopleJUST SAY NO! It works for drugs, and cooking for 300 people is almost as scary and dangerous.

P1030603You can thank me later for all this valuable advice. Just don’t ask me to cook for you (I’ve learned #10 very well…plus, I burn chili).

Char ‘em

32 thoughts on “Cooking for an Elephant

    • Yes, the girls were the greatest! If they’d been sour pusses or unthankful, I might have become super grouchy…but they were very grateful and loved our cheers (even though I have no rhythm)

  1. Wow. I can’t even begin to imagine. Glad there were six of you. What age were the girls? You have my respect and sympathy!

    • Girls were about 12-18 in ages. They were super great, really. If I had to cook for 300 anybodies…they were the 300 best anybodies to cook for.

    • Yeah, you just summed me right up. I never invite people over because it stresses me out to cook for people. That’s why #6 was so important…surrounding myself with more skilled people than myself.

  2. Sounds like you lived up to your name, Char. I don’t understand how the girls learn anything about cooking in the wilderness, when they have professionals come and do all the cooking. Must just be me, but I thought camp was about actually camping not being catered to.

    • Well, we WERE NOT professionals…just your humble volunteers that burn chili and tear a hernea stirring 400 pounds of potatoes. But yeah, I had to do cooking when I went to girl’s camp as a youth. If I had to do it again, I’d simplify breakfasts (maybe things that didn’t need to be cooked), or just get the supplies and hand them out to each group of girls to cook their own breakfast and lunches. Then they’d actually learn to camp and cook.

  3. You must not have had time to do anything else! I’d imagine that when one meal was done, it would be time for the next. And yet you still found time to visit blogs and answer comments. You are truly amazing. I hope all of those girls realized what a wonderful thing you gave them, both in terms of your time and your heart. 🙂

    • Oh, and I meant to add, make sure to tell your family that they will be doing all of the cooking for the next week. You deserve a break!

    • Yes, it pretty much was nonstop cooking or prepping all day long. An eye opening experience for me, as I’ve never done anything like it before. Glad it’s over; glad I’m home where I can get off my feet if I want to.

  4. Whew, cooking for family get-togethers exhausts me! I can’t imagine cooking for 300 people, even with a bunch of other helpers! You deserve a break! 🙂

    • It was crazy! 300 people eat a LOT of food. Planning it was even worse, trying to figure out how much people would eat and how much to buy. Icky.

  5. You made it sound like almost like a party. If I hadn’t heard from Singe’em and Scorch’em I’da thought it was kind of fun. Even though I know better since I actually did that for pay for a summer at Bear Lake in an A/C’d kitchen for only 50 people. It is hellacious work that I would not do again. And especially not without pay. Oh and thanks for feeding my 1/300th of the elephant. She says says your hard labors were delicious.

    • You’re welcome for feeding your 1/300th of the elephant. She was fun to see each day in getting her meds; I love her smile.

  6. Does someone who really hates your guts sign you up for this? 😉

    I like cooking when I have the time and I’ve thought of having my own restaurant one day, but the thought of cooking the whole day and evening for so many people would suck all the joy out of me. I’m glad to hear you survived the ordeal. Looks like you’ve earned your char’em nickname!

    • Ha ha ha! Erm! Maybe someone is out to get me. I never thought of that. Scorch’em just wrote me that she is having post-traumatic stress and having nightmares of sleeping in and waking to 300 girls knocking on our door for their breakfast…or flipping sausages and discovering they’re all dead mice. Eeeek!

  7. Holy Cow! And to think I was complaining about my own girls’ camp duties! Char, you are a brave soul, and I’m glad you had so many tough women to back you up.

    • Those tough women saved me! I’ve never done anything like this before, so it was a fun, exhausting, learning experience. I’m hoping I learned what I needed and don’t need to do it again in 3 years.

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