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  • Picky Eaters

    I'm at my wits end, and am looking for some sage advice. I'm the scoutmaster of a troop of three patrols, 36 scouts in total. All attempts to move thescouts beyond hamburgers, hot dogs, tacos, and spaghetti, have failed due to several picky eaters.

    We're a true boy led troop, so mostly this is on the patrols. However, I do require all menus consist of appropriate portions, and correctly represent the food groups.The Patrol Grubmaster is required to get the SPL's approval for his patrol's menu, and and as I advise the SPL I'm aware of what the menus consist of. For some while the patrol leaders have been grumbling about this issue.

    Rarely do we cook and eat as a troop, but this weekend the scouts going on an afternoon/evening snow tubing event, with troop elections and a lockin afterwards. My intent had been to stay back and fix a big pot of chilli so they would not only have warm food ready, but not have to spend time on food prep. However, in discussing this surprize with my ASM of new scouts I was surprized to hear "none of the young scouts will eat that"; at which point I changed gears and suggested stew, or homemade veggie soup, and get the same frustrating response. The counter suggestion I got was "order pizza" after the steam quit rolling out of my ears, and a string of sounds more often associated with a grizzly, I pointed out the Cub Scouts meet on Tuesdays.

    This weekend's dinner isn't the actual issue, it just made the severity of this issue clear to me. Before further let me say this issue is worse with the young scouts, but not exclusive to the first year guys, the two venture patrols are nearly as bad.

    My knee jerk reaction was that we need to embrace true camp cooking, and expand our culinary skills, ptickiness be damned. However, I know I'm a bit old school, and a lot tougher than some of my fellow leaders and parents. Has anyone here faced this issue before, and if so how did you overcome it?


    Frustrated Scoutmaster

    I used to be a Bear

  • #2
    After a day of snow tubing, boys will be hungry enough to eat whatever is served.

    We had the occasional cooking contest, with award to the most inventive dish. Note: had to resist pressure from ASM's that wanted to declare it a 3 way tie so that no one would feel bad.


    • #3
      The cooking contest sounds like a great idea.


      • #4
        How do you handle Summer Camp? You get the food your given both in the dining hall and from the QM if you're cooking at your site?

        Next time, cook the big pot of chili - the alternative is grape jelly sandwiches on white bread (no peanut butter, just in case one of them has a peanut allergy you don't know about).

        As for Patrol Cooking - just flat out tell the SPL and PLs that in 2013, there will be no menus with hot dogs, hamburgers, tacos or spaghetti approved - end of story. You are a boy led troop, not boy run - tell them you are exercising your privilege as SM to veto those menu choices this year.(This message has been edited by calicopenn)


        • #5
          Yah, Old_OX_Eagle83, I reckon lots of scouters feel your pain.

          Is it just me, or does it seem like this is becomin' more common than it used to be?

          Da challenge I've seen on weekend trips is that when the picky lads don't get their way, they can tough it out and whine to mom. Then sometimes show up at da next campout with their own food stash. Longer term camps can help break down da picky food thing more readily.

          All that havin' been said, your ASM for da NSP needs a kick in the pants. I don't know if it's true, but I've heard said that it takes about 3 times experiencing a new flavor before you start to develop a taste for it. I vote with my colleagues. Trust your old school instincts, implement da cooking contests, don't approve hot dogs, burgers, ramen noodles, etc., and pickiness be darned! Just watch out for da increase of secret caches of processed insta-food in tents.



          • #6
            Your pot, your time, your chili.

            How is this complicated?

            If I make it clear that I'm making bulliobase and am willing to share with any interested scouts, a "thank you, but we'll make separate arrangements" is appropriate. Suggestions that I prepare shark fin soup instead will be ignored.


            • #7
              Troop rule is no Hot Dogs, No Pop-Tarts, and No Ramin Noodles unless as a side dish or component of meal option.

              Saturday evening meal always has a theme chosen during PLC. It has taken the form of ethnic: meal must be loosely based on the declared theme of Mexican, Italian, Asian, etc., or food group: ie: Seafood, or cooking style used during the prepration, ie: Box Oven, Open Fire, Dutch Oven, Utensiless, etc.

              First couple of campouts the scouts were not completely sold on the idea. SM and ASMs would wander by and taste a spoonful from each patrol. The boys quickly advanced to prepareing a presentation plate and delivering to the adult area for judging. Prizes of Unspeakable Value were awarded to the patrol with the best overall meal. Cooking skills and menus quickly elevated.

              I remember during the Asian weekend, one patrol looked as if they had looted an asian grocery store. They had a multidude of bottles which they continously added to their meal. The entire patrol was involved and quite proud of their meal. One patrol cooked salmon on cedar planks. The drawback is all they cooked was salmon on cedar planks. No side dishes but they had a whole lot of great salmon.

              The troop runs its own YLT weekends. The scouts are divided into patrols and given groceries and conventional recipies for the ingrediants provided. The scouts have access to spices as well as dutch ovens, box ovens, fryers, open fires, and all the cooking gear they could need. They can follow the recipes or strike out on their own.

              One time each patrol was given the same food but had to use differnet cooking options. One patrol was given box ovens, one dutch ovens, and one a fryer. Same food prepared different methods. They all exchanged samples and learned a lot.

              One time we placed a variety of groceries on a picnic table. Each patrol was told they would be given hamburger. All scouts were allowed 10 minutes to look over the picnic table of options. Then they were divided into patrols and told to decide what ingrediants they wanted. Then we allowed each patrol to select one and only one item from the bounty on the table. Then the next patrol selected an item, and so on. They was only one box of rice, one set of potatoes, one box of stuffing, etc. If the other patrol choose the rice, your menu might no longer work so would have to modify your choice on the fly. All scouts said that was the best time they had cooking ever. This was after they had been having the Sat evening meal competition for 2 years.

              Scoutmaster is often heard telling new parents he has never seen a scout starve to death over a weekend. They may go hungry for a meal or two due to personal choice but never die. Patrols choose their own menus before the campout. Every scout has an opporunity to voice his concerns and opinions about the menu. Many many scouts have starting eating a broader range of foods as a result of cooking and eating what is prepared during campouts.

              The adults cook and eat as a patrol. The adults use the same budget requirements the patrols use. The scouts quickly learned that oatmeal and eggs for breakfast leaves money for more extraveagent evening meals.


              • #8
                Yep, prepare chili and allow patrols that do not want to partake to prepare their own menus.

                Young palates have their preferences. If the meals are nutritious and are not simply heat and serve - why not let the patrols make what they want? The youngsters sometimes simply cook what they know.

                In our troop, the adults were not enamored with the youths choices for food so we (adults) ate as a patrol and had quite a varied menu. Well, the boys would always seem to saunter over and want what we were making. The SPL and ASPL ate with the adults (for two reasons - not to overshadow the PLs and so I could spend time with them as SM). We were adamant that the other patrols did not eat our food but we were also very amenable to teaching them how to plan and cook what we ate so that if they wished to make food that was fantastic but required a little more effort than boiling water - they could.


                • #9
                  Thanks for all the great ideas, and the support. Sometimes I think I'm just to tough, apparently not. I like the idea of providing ingredients on a table and letting the patrols figure out what can be made from them. I really love the competition and award ideas, like we did in Wood Badge.

                  BTW, typically the adult leaders, adult guests, plus SPL & ASPL (if not gusting with a patrol) cook and camp as a working patrol. We're an old troop, and this tradition goes back about 75 years, the concept is to function as a model patrol. We try to showcase various cooking methods, and dishes.


                  • #10
                    I think the "model patrol" is an excellent way to show the boys by doing - not by lecturing - and that is why I've incorporated it into our troop as well.

                    Besides, I've had SA who were fantastic cooks and the fine culinary experience of eating pancakes from the NSP that used Oreo cookie "shells" as the flour (icing was liked off) is an experience I can live with once and not feel cheated.


                    • #11
                      First, my observation has been that "leading by example" is deeply discounted by the Scouts when it's the adults doing the leading. The Scouts won't eat the chili and think, "gee, we could make that ourselves," they think, "oh, Mr. OX made dinner."

                      Stepping up the quality of cooking is a very long-term process. It's taken us a couple years, but our Scouts have finally taken to it. No, they're not necessarily great cooks, but they do try and are willing to take chances on new menu items and take pride in those things the cook well. I'll take that seven days a week and twice on Sunday.

                      A few things we did --

                      First, we banned PopTart, Ramin noodles, and similar garbage, as others mentioned. I'm okay with hot dogs for lunch (beats cold cuts) but I want to see chili sauce, cole slaw and a variety of condiments. If you do dogs, do dogs. Extra credit for grilled brats, onions or peppers.

                      Two -- and this was the best thing we did -- we included cooking in JLT/TLT. We put the boys in pairs or trios and gave the boys (relatively) unlimited food budgets. The groups then had to prepare something they had never done before, something they had always wanted to try, or maybe a favorite food they wanted to adapt for campouts. We were doing the training at the Scout House, so we noted there was a grocery store a half-mile in one direction and a McDonald's in the other -- they could totally foul up and no one would starve. We then assigned an adult who worked hands-on with them. We had one pair who wanted to make gazacho! (It was delicious!) Another group wanted to learn to grill steaks on an open fire, so we bought them a couple t-bones. Another patrol wanted to roast a chicken on a spit. The surprising thing to me was rather than exotic stuff, the boys really just wanted to learn to make the basic stuff they like well -- like fried chicken. The real key to this was 1) we treated it as a training exercise which gave the boys "permission" to experiment and 2) we set them up for success mainly by having an adult to work with them. This gave them the confidence they could succeed and take these skills/menus back to their patrols.

                      Third, we do several cooking competitions a year. Our holiday banquet was a pot-luck dinner, but dessert was provided by each patrol making one dessert with the parents all voting on the best. The best competition we do is a version of the Iron Chef TV show. The main thing is to give the boys a box of odd ingredients and make them figure out what to do with it. Just by simply including onions, peppers and mushrooms in with the ingredients meant we got omlets rather than scrambled eggs, stir-fry instead of hobo dinners and cheese steaks instead of sandwiches. Once the boys figure out how easy it is to make something good, they carried it through on the non-competition campouts.

                      Fourth, we maintain standards for cooking advancement requirements. To complete First Class cooking requirements, the boys have to work with an ASM IN ADVANCE of doing the cooking. The ASM makes them go through the planning, develop the shopping lists, nutrition, etc. While doing that he makes sure the menu is appropriate and adequately challenging. He also strongly encourages the Scouts to cook their meals at home for their families prior to the campout -- if you can't cook it at home, it's not going to get any better in the field. The same ASM is also the Cooking MB counselor and makes sure the boys who earn Cooking are really doing the work. While our Scouts make take the Cooking MB class at summer camp, I tell them up front I will only accept a completed blue card from our troop counselor.


                      • #12
                        It's the way they are being raised. My nephew, who just turned 19, has never had a vegetable pass his lips. He grew up on frozen pizza, fast food burgers and fries and pop tarts.


                        • #13
                          How about also introducing things that may be a bit "icky" but emphasise the whole outdoor adventure side of things? We've trained ours on things like cleaning and gutting fish to cook on a fire and skinning and gutting rabbits again to cook outdoors. We've also got them making their own cheese (Paneer cheese is a doddle, you just need full fat milk and lemon juice) We're looking at maybe doing pheasent this year (although that may prove a bit on the expensive side.

                          Formalising it may be provide the stick (still necessary) but making it fun also provides the equally necessary carrot.


                          • #14
                            When we were working on a transition from adult-led, troop method (mostly an adult cooking for 6 to 8 Scouts) to actual patrol cooking (which didn't take right away), we came up with a couple of ideas -- one was to give each "cooking group" two chickens, and then they could do whatever they wanted with them. One group did chicken cesar salads, and the other made fried chicken. The SM roast two chickens on a spit. The other idea was a "mystery box" -- a box of various cans and other packages, to go along with whatever protein was available. Although we never got there, my next evolution was going to be the "mystery envelope" (which was going to contain about $40, and then Scouts would be given planning time and taken to a local market).

                            Not long ago, we used an idea from this forum -- we bought a couple of new dutch ovens, so that each patrol would have one. At a troop meeting, we laid out about 20 different recipes, some breakfast, some dinner, and some desserts. Patrols were allowed to choose from them, to be used on an upcoming outing. Turns out our guys respond to these theme-like ideas. One of our big transitions, a year ago, was when the PLC wanted to do a cooking-themed outing. Patrols, and adults, planned a bunch of different meal options, and then everyone floated from group to group, sampling the choices. I think that was when they fully realized that patrol cooking on weekend outings doesn't have to be the same old boring things.



                            • #15
                              I didn't have time to read all of the replies so far, but I did scan them.

                              Picky eaters are a self righting ship. When the scout gets hungry enough, that chili in the bowl looks pretty good. I don't worry a bit about the scouts that don't eat at summer camp. I don't reply to the mothers that email me with what their son doesn't eat. By dinner on Tuesday night, they are eating everything in sight.

                              I challenge all of my scouts to learn to be a proficient cook. We've provided the tools and knowledge for them to do this. At one thorns and roses, a new scout said he learned "that a dish made with more than one ingredient tastes good!".

                              Challenge each patrol to make unique menus. Do an "Iron Chef" competition, with secret ingredients. Don't coddle the one or two that won't eat, and don't worry if their patrol mates don't go out of their way to provide what they will eat.

                              Last year, a patrol chose an all ramen noodle menu. I let it go without comment. The next month, when ramen was brought up as a choice, it was roundly and loudly shouted down. They wanted real food! I've told them before, boiling water is not cooking.