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Dinning Hall vs Patrol Cooking

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Dinning hall is my preferred ideal. Not all summer camps have the activities close together. After a lengthy walk to and fro each of the 4-6 merit badge classes under the hot sun, the boys (and the adults) are quite exhausted to cook. We cooked our dinner one day during this past summer camp. It took over 2.5 hours for the boys to finish preparing and cooking silver turtles (the easiest of all meals). We were short of ingredient because as pointed earlier, the camp mis-counted. We had boxed breakfast and that was not full-filling at all. A muffin, a cup of milk, and an apple or orange is not my cup of tea for a full-filling breakfast. Patrol cooking is great if the troop is small and the meals are sufficiently provided. One other thing, patrol cooking is great if you are doing in council summer camp where it is close and you can actually pull your trailer with the full compliment of chuck boxes and cooking gear (and you can get into the car/van to go to the store to get missing items). Our troop tends to go out-of-council in rental vans or chartered buses. There is no such luxury to pull our trailer. So ... to us ... eating in dinning hall is the way to go.


1Hour(This message has been edited by OneHour)

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I agree with Venividi, and am 100% in favor of patrol cooking. There is nothing better for a leader than seeing a rag tag group of scouts at the beginning of the week pull together and by the end of the week be a smooth running patrol, cranking out good meals in a timely fashion. If the camp's menus are done correctly and the patrol follows the rotation plan there is no excuse for bad meals and time consuming preparation.


I have visited dining hall camps with inspection teams and have had some of the worst camp food ever.

Most of the complaints about poor food on this board has come from dining hall campers. And where does it say that patrol cooking and advancement are mutuially exclusive? We just returned from camp with 23 scouts and they earned 57 merit badges and 15 rank advancements along with cooking 15 meals that were all well done.

No, they did not do 6 and 8 merit badges in a week, but that is an item for another discussion. And THEY HAD FUN!!



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I can see where those posting from Texas and other places south that summertime weather may not be condusive to cooking. Understandable when seeing the weather map with temps in the 100+ range.


Up here in the North, that isn't a factor. Still, there are more dining hall camps than patrol cooking camps. I had a discussion a few years ago with a leader of another troop in town that always went to a dining hall camp. Their reasoning was that summer camp was a vacation, the boys didn't want to work while on vacation, and cooking was work. And the adults also thought it was too much work to monitor and coach patrols that didn't want to cook. I countered with "sleeping in a tent in humid weather isn't as comfortable as sleeping in an air conditioned Holiday Inn, so why not do that?"

Plus they wanted their scouts to earn lots of merit badges. I am not dissing the other troop; they were fine leaders, who I respected. We simply had different goals.

I think that the scouts CAN enjoy cooking at summer camp - if it is approached correctly, and a positive attitude promoted. What is considered fun is very much dependent on the culture that develops within a troop.

I agree with eagle90 - as adult leaders, we get great enjoyment out of seeing growth in our charges. Patrol cooking gives the patrols a challenge to overcome as a group, and they grow closer and become a much more tight knit group. A similar thread in the past has been what good are knots in a duct tape world? There is so much that could be done easier than we do, but there is value. i.e., we could go to Philmont, stay in base camp, and take a bus to various locales for the day and eat a pre-prepared box lunch. But that does little to achieve the objectives that I wanted for the scouts.

To me, patrol cooking is not as much about learning to cook, or having better food as it is about having a common objective to achieve.

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I wanted to post an anecdotal story about patrol cooking camp. Our troop would use the sheepherder stoves provided by the camp, rather than using our propane stoves. (for those unfamiliar, sheepherder stoves are large metal boxes on legs. The box is filled with wood and ignited, and top of the box gets hot and is used as a cook top.)

This required the patrol leader to delegate the tasks of wood collecting, keeping the stove stoked, and cooking. Every one participated in clean up. The PL really did practice his leadership skills.

Typically, first year scouts at summer camp want to get 10 sticks and be done. They soon find that doesn't work, and that they have to pitch in to the common good if they want to eat. by the second year, they look forward to the challenge of cooking on the sheepherders. We even had one patrol that managed to cook all 3 meals using only one match. After cooking breakfast, they loaded the sheepherder wtih wood, and damped down the vents. At lunch time there were enough embers for them to use to start another fire. They repeated this after lunch so they would have embers for dinner. They took pride in this, and happens to be one of my son's favorite memories of summer camp.


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I cook at the local BSA Camp, we send out three meals to be cooked in their campsite. Dinner, breakfast and lunch, I will say that they are more than happy to be back in the dining hall that night. This year I did a beef stew in a bread bowl. If any of you have any good suggestions for me for next year, please let me know...

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Been to both, seen lots of troops at both.


I think a lot depends on da troop, eh?


Troops that do a lot of campin' and have solid patrol method goin' usually prefer the patrol cooking. They can eat better, have fun, and be just as fast (by the time you figure in walkin' to the dining hall and back, doin' the group sing, etc.). You can also chat with kids individually and even work on some stuff durin' dinner, which is pretty hard in the dining halls. I think it's best when the patrols also plan the meals, which is somethin' the patrol cooking camps tend to get in the way of with pre-done packages. If you're fire-cookin' a lot, though, it can get a bit long unless the guys are good at bankin' coals and there's dry wood.


Troops that have a lot of younger guys, or have segregated their younger guys so that it's less likely anyone in their patrol knows how to cook & clean, are often better served by dining halls. And, too, if the kids' aren't used to campin' in all kinds of weather and conditions, then adding in a cooking task can be too much, eh? Dining halls are a much better match for such units. Same with units that are more "troop method," because their adults tend to want summer camp to be "time off" from the load they have durin' the year.


I will say that cookin' lunches can sometimes be a pain. That can be hard to do, with kids all over camp at activities and the tighter time. No-cook lunches often work best.


For me, I'll take eatin' out in the breeze over crammin' in shoulder-to-shoulder in those hot stuffy dinin' halls to get my soggy waffle.:(

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To be quite honest, our troop selects the camp we want to go to, then "go with the flow". However, in most of the midwest (and many other parts of the country)we are in a total fire ban, so patrol cooking is out for many camps. Fire bans come in many degrees. Some just say "no 'open' fires", but we are often limited to no gas lanterns or cookstoves either. We have one council camp that doesn't have a dining hall...we had to develop an enclosed shelter area with a concrete pad. ALL troops have to go to that area to cook. It kinda' loses the "patrol cooking" flavor... Why this degree? The standing timber has a lower moisture content than most lumber at lumberyards.

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It makes little difference if the Patrol is all present at Summer Camp to learn about Patrol cooking and the Patrol Method. If one or eight members have learned to cook on a fire pit area where the water is on to boil for cleaning at the same time that the food is being cooked, then you are well you way to learning about cooking for a group or by yourself at Summer camp or anywhere else. This and several other short-cuts can be learned but usually only with practice. I learned while spending most of my life in Texas where the temperatures were hot enough to bake the morning biscuits just by taking them out of the can and putting them on a nearby rock, another short-cut.


What about the area attracting animals because of food being left out? What is wrong with this picture at any camp and especially a Scout Camp? Part of the process is to keep it clean and to check it afterwards. This is only one of the reasons that we do it and it is something that is learned but only with practice.


Is Summer Camp a vacation? I am not sure that this subject can be debated with a straight face. If we wanted a vacation, I am not sure that Summer Camp would be first on our list. Do people have fun? Sure lots of it. Is it better than looking at the world's Biggest Ball of String in the middle of nowhere? I would take Summer Camp.


Scouting is done 12 months a year and yes, even in the Summer and the heat or the Winter and the snow. The reason is not to show that we are somehow male chauvinist pigs but that we can learn and teach worthy skills that will last a lifetime. Young boys grow up too quickly and then they are men and then they have families, hopefully they will be well Prepared.


Webnote: Ducks have never been known to have eaten in one Boy Scout dining Hall to date.

(This message has been edited by Fuzzy Bear)

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Beavah said "Troops that have a lot of younger guys, or have segregated their younger guys so that it's less likely anyone in their patrol knows how to cook & clean, are often better served by dining halls"


I don't know about that one. This year at camp we had four "Noobs" (as they were referred to). The duty rotation that they all worked out had the Noobs cooking one of the dinners together. It was actually an excellent teaching moment. With just a little bit of discussion and instruction to get them thinking about things like making sure different meal courses were done at near the same time, how to divvy up workload, and simple things like that, the Noobs ended up preparing and serving what was unanimously agreed to by the adults, older scouts, and the Noobs themselves as the best dinner that they had all week.


Don't sell younger scouts short!

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I'm torn on the issue. Our troop exclusively goes patrol cooking method. The first few days of camp are frantic and stressful. We never seem to get cleaned up or get to flags ontime. No matter how much you rely on the SPL, adults still need to follow up with the patrols to get things finished up. By the end of the week, it clicks and things go much smoother. Adults can spend more time in their camp chairs. I guess it depends on what your goals are. If you want the scouts to focus on badges and advancement, do the dinning hall. If you want to build your patrols, do the patrol cooking. We leave it up to the scouts to decide, and every year they choose the patrol cooking.


BTW, I've had both dining hall food and patrol food, hands down the patrol food is better.

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Cooking is fundamental and a lifelong skill. Dining Halls are compatible with lifestyles that focus on TV dinners. Learning to add a little onion to soup can make life so much more flavorful. The price is learning to cook

Fuzzy, you may have missed much of the dynamic that is going on in the Dining Hall. Like many other camps, our camp serves family style. For many of the boys this is a rare experience for them to sit around a table and be required to exhibit some manners, be a waiter, and clean up after the meal. For too many families today it's McDonalds, and meals on the run. The boys don't really get to expierance the family table.

Many of the boys come to camp with absolutely no ability to conduct themselves at a group table. At the end of the week they have certainly learned about sharing a table with others. From manners to table talk, these boys gain much from the experience.

I can see where Patrol Cooking would bind the patrols together....but I would prefer to see that happen during the year. Camp should be about having a good time, not washing pots and pans. foto

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Oh Boy! We did patrol cooking this year at Camp Liberty (Heritage Reservation in Greater Pittsburg Coucil) and I was SO happy! We skip around and attend different camps, so I've seen a few dining halls. Eating in camp meant no more marching up to the dining hall, waiting around in the sun to get going, waiting in line to eat, sweeping up other boy's messes (grated cheese!!), etc. etc. etc.

Instead, we ate like kings, sprawled out on the lake shore in our camp chairs. Better food, the accomplishment of cooking, patrol development. All positives, no negatives, from my point of view.

The system at Liberty is that each patrol's food is loaded into stacker boxes, along with a list of contents (including how many people if feeds) and cooking instructions. The designated food runner takes a custom backpack (a plastic trash pail on a backpack frame - genius!) up to the commissary and transfers the goodies from the stacker box to his backpack. This process provides the opportunity to spot ommissions and errors immediately (solves Ranchlady's problem). He returns and we feast! Nice stove rigs and a patrol box are issued for each patrol.

I got a kick out of one of our adults who was irritated that the boys seldom glanced at the cooking instructions :-) I thought it was awesome that they would just dig in and go for it. The patrols cooked for the adults, too, so we just ate what they fed us -- and we ate GOOD! (This also gives the adults an excuse to step up and help a bit on cleanup if time constraints arise or the workload gets too onerous.)

Our adults are really very good about staying out of the patrols' business, so they were free to proceed as they saw fit. But a couple of them couldn't help supervising more closely on STEAK NIGHT :-). So how many of you dining hall folks look forward to steak night??

Patrol cooking at summer camp rocks!

edited part: regarding the weather issue... we also got lots of rain through the week and had a strong storm warning right at dinner time one evening. One patrol decided to cook fast, and was able to serve up their fajita wraps in a canvas tent while the torrential rain and hail did their worst. The other patrol just hunkered down and cooked after the storm blew over. Of course, each thought their strategy was the better one!!(This message has been edited by fling1)

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