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The Frugal Camp Menu

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I once had a situation where I hand delivered the "special needs" request forms for the two Celiac Scouts in our Troop to the Council months in advance of summer camp. It included requests for fridge space for the kids to bring some of their own food and that sort of thing. I wasn't really asking for much - certainly not for the camp to provide special food. The kids were willing to bring their own camp stoves and the like; they just wanted a place to store perishable food and a sink to clean their own dishes in. 

I never heard back so a couple weeks before camp I called the Council office to verify that our kids would be accommodated. They told me it was too late to accommodate anything. I explained that I had brought the forms in months ago and dropped them off myself, including who I had given them to and approximately what date it had been. Eventually they found them mis-filed in the Council office. 

Their response was (without consulting us) to issue a refund to the two boys in question and tell us that they were not welcome at Camp. 

My son decided to take them up on the refund. The other one decided he'd rather live on nothing but salad and trail mix for a week and got his mom to call and yell at them until they agreed to let him come as long as they didn't have to actually do anything with his request. 

I'm gonna be honest here, that left a pretty sour taste in my mouth. 

In terms of patrol cooking, I don't think it has to mean a backing off of "boy led" at all. It just means the boys have to learn that peanut butter sandwiches may not be the solution for every campout depending on the needs of their members. Adults need to do the same thing they always do - keep an eye out for potential safety violations and say something to the SPL if something is looking unsafe - just like they would if a patrol was undercooking their hamburgers. Food safety is a thing with or without allergies. Learning how to think outside the box and plan a menu with constraints is a better skill than teaching them to live on cereal and sandwiches and donuts whenever they are camping. 

I've spent the last 10 years or so accommodating not only Celiac but dairy allergies, nut allergies, and shellfish allergies for our family Thanksgiving meal. It takes a little creativity but we do it and we do it RIGHT so everyone feels safe and can eat (almost) everything that is being served. For dessert we usually do have diary and non-dairy options to choose among, and they are clearly marked. Learning how to do food service including the "this isn't always easy" cases is a life skill that can turn into a career skill for some of our Scouts. My son (the one with Celiac) is now seriously considering a career in the culinary arts. He wants to open a food cart serving gluten free pizza. He's becoming quite an excellent chef, actually, and I love it when he comes over to visit and cook dinner for us. 

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7 hours ago, Liz said:

Menu for 9 scouts, $50.36, gluten, dairy, nut, and peanut free.

 

7 hours ago, Liz said:

Dinner: Dutch Oven Drumsticks (with seasoning),

That McCormick Bag n Season mix contains "natural flavors" and is not labelled as "gluten free".   It could be hiding a gluten-containing grain such as barley.  Doesn't look like a safe food to me for a kid who strictly needs to avoid all gluten-containing grains.  (Unless you got more info from the McCormick company than is listed on their package.)

Mainly I am being sympathetic.  It can be very difficult to plan menus for people with severe food intolerances.

It also illustrates why some kids with severe food allergies or intolerances prefer to bring their own food -- they simply cannot trust the competence of the average person in checking for allergens.

7 hours ago, Liz said:

It's important to understand how dietary restrictions affect kids socially and emotionally too. Having that one kid who always has to stay out of the kitchen area and eat his meal away from the rest of the patrol is not a good way to foster a sense of belonging.

Yet some kids prefer to eat separately and stay alive.

 

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@Liz

I realize I may have come across as critical.  I did not mean to do so.   I just wanted to illustrate for those not used to cooking for limited diets the difficulties that can be involved,  depending on the potential severity of the reaction to the offending food.

And I realize that some will risk "natural flavors" knowing that the quanitity of allergen (if contained in the product) is likely to be low, especially if the potential food reaction  is not life-threatening.   But some people do not want to take that risk for themselves, or impose that risk on some-one else's kid.

On the otherhand,  one can simply leave the seaoning off the chicken and have a cheaper meal.

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Dealing with kids and dietary restrictions, it is important to get adequate information out of families. 

"I avoid milk" might mean "Well, actually I drink lactose-free milk,  and I have no concerns about cross contamination"  or it can mean "I have a history of anphylactic reaction after being splashed by milk".

 

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21 minutes ago, Treflienne said:

 

 

That McCormick Bag n Season mix contains "natural flavors" and is not labelled as "gluten free".   It could be hiding a gluten-containing grain such as barley.  Doesn't look like a safe food to me for a kid who strictly needs to avoid all gluten-containing grains.  (Unless you got more info from the McCormick company than is listed on their package.)

 

I've had Celiac for more than 10 years and after extensive research I've pretty much memorized the major brands I can count on to list gluten in their ingredients if it's present. I would pass on a generic brand with the same thing in the ingredients list, but I'd buy McCormick. 

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12 minutes ago, Treflienne said:

Dealing with kids and dietary restrictions, it is important to get adequate information out of families. 

"I avoid milk" might mean "Well, actually I drink lactose-free milk,  and I have no concerns about cross contamination"  or it can mean "I have a history of anphylactic reaction after being splashed by milk".

 

Very true. My youngest child is sensitive to cow's milk, both the protein and the lactose. She gets tummy aches and eczema. She does fine with butter, as well as sheep and goat dairy products of all kinds, and I don't worry about trace amounts of milk in ingredients for her. But last time she convinced my oldest kid who was babysitting that it was OK for her to eat her sister's goldfish crackers, I had to listen to her moan about tummy aches for a week. 🙄😂

As for me, if I get a trace of gluten in my food I may very well miss a week or more of work over it. Other than a SMALL stash of snacks that my 9 year old is allowed to take to school to eat (hence the goldfish crackers), nothing in my kitchen is allowed to contain gluten. I bought my own brand new dutch oven to take camping that I won't share with the girls because you can't reliably clean gluten out of iron. 

The key to doing any group meal planning is to ensure you talk to the family and find out exactly what you're dealing with. If I had a Scout in my Troop with, let's say, a life threatening peanut allergy, I'd encourage all campouts to be peanut-free at least in terms of group cooking. 

Edited by Liz
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5 minutes ago, Liz said:

. I bought my own brand new dutch oven to take camping that I won't share with the girls because you can't reliably clean gluten out of iron.  

I've become fond of tri-ply cookware for campfire cooking -- stainless steel with an aluminum core that goes all the way up the sides of the pot.   Distributes heat well enough not to burn on the irregular heat of the campfire, but can be put in the dishwasher when you get home.   (Not reccomended by the manufacturer for campfire cooking, but seems to do well, and I bought a cheap off brand.)

 

Edited by Treflienne
typo
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I guess part of what I'm getting at is that simple awareness of dietary restrictions is a skill I think Scouts should learn. Sometimes that's going to mean "Don't forget to wash your hands after a peanut butter sandwich, but the allergic kid cooks his or her own food," and sometimes it will mean "Maybe we could make quesedillas on corn tortillas instead of grilled cheese sandwiches so the wheat-allergic kid can eat the same thing as the rest of us." 

It's shocking how few people have even a basic understanding of allergens and cross-contact. In a Facebook recipe group I'm in, someone asked for alternatives to corn bread to go with chili because her son is allergic to corn. Most people answered with "Fritos" or "Tortilla chips." Nobody I know is allergic to corn but I dang well know that Fritos and Tortilla chips are primarily made from corn. Once I went to a mandatory office party and one of the executives wandered by my table where I was sitting alone and asked why I was eating the table decorations (they were all made out of tropical fruit, still in the skins and stuck together with bamboo skewers in goofy shapes). I said I had Celiac and nothing they were serving was safe for me to eat. She said Oh, we made sure there were lots of gluten free options, did you see the table of fruit and cheese and meats? I asked her if anybody had given any thought to the fact that they'd used breadsticks as table decorations interspersed throughout the food table. She looked at me like a deer in the headlights, asked for my name, and asked if she could contact me before the next event for advice on how to better serve employees with Celiac and other food allergies (this was a big company with LOTS of employees). I said sure... and never heard from her again, not even after I emailed her to ask if I could help with food planning for another upcoming function. This was just one example - pretty much all our functions were like that. At another function everything they had on the buffet line was marked with a sign that said gluten free... except the buns which were at the front of the table and were the first thing every person put on their plate before going through the line risking cross contact with everything else on the table. They even had gluten free buns available, and an empty serving table they could have used with the gluten free buns in order to avoid cross contact, but nobody stopped to think about it. 

Sometimes it really is just one small change you can make, which will make a HUGE difference when you want to be inclusive. This applies to food and other disabilities as well. 

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13 minutes ago, Liz said:

It's shocking how few people have even a basic understanding of allergens and cross-contact.

I agree.

Sometimes it seems what it takes for a person to "get it" concerning allergens and cross-contact is to either acquire a relative with food allergies (or intolerances), or to develop food allergies of their own.

15 minutes ago, Liz said:

I guess part of what I'm getting at is that simple awareness of dietary restrictions is a skill I think Scouts should learn.

If all they learn is that some people need to be really careful about food, and that you should talk with the person to find out in what ways they need to be careful -- then they will have learned something really valuable.

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I have Grandkids age 4 and 8.  They wouldn't touch ANY of the foods listed above.  They are being raised on a steady diet of Lunchables, juice boxes and high-sugar cereal.  I even popped up a bag of Boy Scout kettle corn the other day...wouldn't touch it..."I only eat the yellow popcorn".  Whatever happened to the days of "you have 2 choices for dinner...TAKE it or LEAVE it!"

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This is fine as an exercise and training for life in college.  😄

Many, but not all of our scouts, if left unchallenged, would lean toward cheap and easy meals.  We tell our patrol leaders to go beyond hot dogs and spaghetti.  It doesn't have to be gourmet every time, but last campout, they made sauteed pierogies, kielbasa and onions and green beans.  They did a nice job.

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8 hours ago, Liz said:

I asked her if anybody had given any thought to the fact that they'd used breadsticks as table decorations interspersed throughout the food table. She looked at me like a deer in the headlights, asked for my name, and asked if she could contact me before the next event for advice on how to better serve employees with Celiac and other food allergies (this was a big company with LOTS of employees). I said sure... and never heard from her again, not even after I emailed her to ask if I could help with food planning for another upcoming function. This was just one example - pretty much all our functions were like that. At another function everything they had on the buffet line was marked with a sign that said gluten free... except the buns which were at the front of the table and were the first thing every person put on their plate before going through the line risking cross contact with everything else on the table. They even had gluten free buns available, and an empty serving table they could have used with the gluten free buns in order to avoid cross contact, but nobody stopped to think about it. 


Sometimes it really is just one small change you can make, which will make a HUGE difference when you want to be inclusive. This applies to food and other disabilities as well. 

If having bread-sticks on the tables as decorations is enough potential gluten to require avoiding the table, wouldn't just eating things that came out of the same kitchen pose the same risk?  I mean, I've worked around kitchens before, and even when the staff are making an effort to avoid cross contamination, the best you are going to get is a quick brushing off of the surface before they start pulling the next food item out of its container and the likelihood of the staff washing their hands between handling the gluten rich and gluten free items isn't going to be anywhere near 100%.  Even if the kitchen staff has been told to do so.

 

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46 minutes ago, elitts said:

If having bread-sticks on the tables as decorations is enough potential gluten to require avoiding the table, wouldn't just eating things that came out of the same kitchen pose the same risk?  I mean, I've worked around kitchens before, and even when the staff are making an effort to avoid cross contamination, the best you are going to get is a quick brushing off of the surface before they start pulling the next food item out of its container and the likelihood of the staff washing their hands between handling the gluten rich and gluten free items isn't going to be anywhere near 100%.  Even if the kitchen staff has been told to do so.

You have just  described what I have observed:   Many people in the general population don't "get it" concerning severe food allergies/intolerances.  

This is why some people with severe food allergies bring their own food.   Or only eat items than they can peel (like a banana or orange).  Or only eat food someone else has brought if it arrives in its original sealed food-manufacturer packaging, if they themselves can read the label, and if they can serve their portion before other people cross-contaminate it.

For this reason, some colleges now have major-allergen-free kitchens/serving areas. The major college food-service company Aramark has "True Balance", and Sodexo has "Simple Servings".    Even this does not always prevent all accidental food reactions - if the servers mess up.

For the pre-college-age kids, some families choose to keep their own kitchen at home completely free of the offending allergens, and always send their kid's food with them (to school, to camp, to whereever).

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2 hours ago, 69RoadRunner said:

This is fine as an exercise and training for life in college.  😄

Many, but not all of our scouts, if left unchallenged, would lean toward cheap and easy meals.  We tell our patrol leaders to go beyond hot dogs and spaghetti.  It doesn't have to be gourmet every time, but last campout, they made sauteed pierogies, kielbasa and onions and green beans.  They did a nice job.

Our Webelos Den of 13 scouts took over a dying troop of 7 scouts. The SM took us on his last camp out as a scoutmaster to kind of give us an easy start. Sunday morning at 8:00am, the SM opens the flaps on the tent and tells us to start breaking camp so we can get back to the church parking before church service ended, thus preventing chaos in the church parking lot. I ask, "Breakfast?". He throws, THROWS I tell you, a box of Pop Tarts at us and said, snack on them as we pack.

That was the first thing we were going to change.

I'm shocked at how many troops don't ask their scouts to cook and how many troops do hurry-up breakfast on Sundays for expediency. It's like saying Saturday is Patrol Method, Sunday is adult method day. Ture, it's a boy run program, but the adults are also responsible for developing fitness.

We adults started insisting the scouts cook all meals except lunch. We encourage cooking lunch also, but it wasn't required. Meal preparation is the most challenging activity of the average Patrol Method program. The more complex, the more challenging. How can scouts make bad decisions if they don't have choices?

And, the troop has to make time for Patrol Method. An expert once told me that a group needs a minimum of 36 hours to even start to bond,  so shutting down Sunday for Patrol Method risk loosing everything that we are trying to do in the first place. Our PLC had to plan around a 1:30 pm pickup time for parents after a campout. That gave the Patrols enough time to for breakfast, Scouts Own, Troop activities (usually some advancement time and capture the flag, lunch,  break camp, drive home. 

One thing I really miss about the old days is cooking on a fire. A fire requires skills to start, maintain a temperature, and careful consideration to making it safe. Cooking on a fire is more complex, not only in cooking, but cleaning as well. Just as soon as the cooked food is taken off the fire, the scouts in charge of kp are putting the hot wash bucket on the fire. The process of preparing a meal from a fire efficiently truly requires a discipline team working together. Todays easy method of lighting processed fuel from a canister and switching it off when finishes makes our job of building men of character much harder. 

Barry

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2 hours ago, Eagledad said:

Our Webelos Den of 13 scouts took over a dying troop of 7 scouts. The SM took us on his last camp out as a scoutmaster to kind of give us an easy start. Sunday morning at 8:00am, the SM opens the flaps on the tent and tells us to start breaking camp so we can get back to the church parking before church service ended, thus preventing chaos in the church parking lot. I ask, "Breakfast?". He throws, THROWS I tell you, a box of Pop Tarts at us and said, snack on them as we pack.

That was the first thing we were going to change.

Our patrols cook Saturday breakfast and dinner.  Lunch is usually something no-cook like sandwiches.  If they cooked lunch, too, that would be about all we did all day.  But they plan it and their grubmaster gets it.

Sunday morning is usually a no-cook breakfast.  But again, the patrols decide what that is and their grubmaster gets it.

This past trip, there were 2 makeshift patrols and a shared grubmaster.  He got unfrosted Pop Tarts and will probably never hear the end of that as long as he's in scouts.  🤣

We have our Iron Chef competition coming up in November and cooking is 90% of that weekend.  They enjoy it.  The adults cook lunch and we try to go all out to show them things that they could do, plus WE enjoy it.  I did a s'mores cheesecake in a dutch oven.  I've done chicken thighs with a pomegranate sauce, too.  I'm working on ideas for this year.

On our regular activities, the adults are a separate patrol and we eat well.

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