Published August 7, 2019
By Ben Finley
The Saltash Mountain camp kitchen is a beautiful place where I spend most of the time. As a cook here at SAM camp, my view is often truncated to the windows and doors of this place. However, as I’ve chopped and baked these days of summer away, I’ve realized I might have the best view of all. This kitchen is situated at the heart of the camp, and as I walk across this kitchen I see every important point in camp. I see inside of the lodge, the food shelter, the singing hill, the bell, the Mac-o-bac. I can strain my neck and glimpse the meeting circle, the trail to the cabins or crafts barn. Most importantly, I can see Lake Nineveh whenever I stare past the couches in lodge. There’s very little of camp I can’t catch from here, and right now, there’s quite a lot going on. Fair is coming all too quickly, and our SAM camp is buzzing.
From the back of the kitchen looking north, I’m gazing over our long metal prep tables – a blur of ingredients and busy hands. The last week of this second session involves frequent visits by campers who help prepare the breads and spreads that we will serve to friends and family at Fair. The campers are chopping scallions and chives to add to butter and cream cheese, measuring dry ingredients and mixing breads. Soon enough, the bread will be baking in the ovens, and I’ll have a lovely aroma to enjoy as I work. As I look past the campers, I see the double doors of the kitchen, flying open-and-closed as campers run to gather more herbs from the garden. Past them, I can catch a glimpse of our pony kegs of SAM Dew. We filled them a week ago now, since they need time to sit in the shade of the food shelter and naturally carbonate (shout out to our good friend and microorganism, Saccharomyces cerevisiae!).
If I look out the windows to the south, I can see campers’ busy tie-dying our SAM-danas. SAM-danas are specially made bandanas, each a bespoke tie-dye design made by a SAM camper. The campers are hard at work now, applying color treatments to some, tying and applying dyes to others. This year, we’re doing a run of natural-dye only SAM-danas, dying with sumac, indigo, Black-eyed Susans, and herbs. At Fair, we’ll sell these to raise money for campership.
Looking out of our east windows, I see evidence of what the campers were up to last week: tents, drying in the hot sun. It was only on Sunday that campers woke up for their last morning on the trail. They spent six days trekking over mountains and streams, from Maine to New York. When they got back, their stories filled the lodge and were easy to overhear in the kitchen. They’re still telling stories about the things they saw: shooting stars, wild animals, thunderstorms, mountain peaks. As I look out from this east window, I can see a few campers lounging on the hillside, enjoying much-deserved rest, and no doubt swapping stories with friends they haven’t seen in a week’s time.
When I look west, I’m looking across the space of the lodge itself. It’s filled with campers on couches, with instruments and books. Some are learning chords on guitar for the first time, others, trying their hand at bass, drums, or ukulele. This last week provides several opportunities for musical expression. Each session we host a contra dance, including a house band made up of SAM campers and staff. Then we jump into rehearsing our skit we’ll perform at Fair, which always contains several musical numbers. As we draw closer and closer to the day of Fair, I know I’m going to grow ever more familiar with the songs, the pacing of the lines, and the flamboyant deliveries.
Most of all, what I enjoy about being here at the center of camp, is having campers around. I speak for everyone at SAM when I say how glad I am the campers are here, bringing joy and life to this place. It’s a very lucky place to get to prepare food all day long, surrounded by trees, songs, and the campers to whom this place owes its existence.
Posted in Saltash Mountain