Community Common Eating

Camp Food For A Reluctant Camper

It’s hard to believe that it’s five and a half years ago that I went out with the men’s group from St. Margaret’s to be guest speaker at their annual retreat at Manitoba Pioneer Camp I wrote a couple of posts after that trip, and I’m combining them into one here.
fish tale
In case you’re wondering the weekend didn’t convert me. I haven’t been back to Pioneer Camp, or any other camp, since. 
This past weekend I was invited to offer a couple of teaching sessions as part of the St. Margaret’s men’s retreat. The event was held at Manitoba Pioneer Camp (MPC), located on an island in the Lake of the Woods region. With camping comes camp food.
While I was looking forward to speaking, and hanging out with the rest of the guys at the retreat, the word camp was one that struck a measure of fear into my heart.  No one will ever confuse me with Bear Grylls.  Despite having often been encouraged to take a hike, I prefer to do my walking on city streets. When I hear camp I think Eddie Izzard or Dame Edna.
Camping was never a particularly important part of my early years.  I have gone to a few but none have left me with much desire to go back again. One big reason I don’t like to go to camp is that generally speaking I don’t like camp food.  I”ve heard people continually rave over camp food down through the years, but in my experience it’s generally been bland, overcooked and loaded with carbohydrates.
So I was more than pleasantly surprised to find the meals at MPC didn’t fall into this category.  Sharon Steward, the head cook at MPC, came to the position after several years running a restaurant, and has brought with her a concern for good, healthy food. Sharon has since published her first cookbook, entitled VolumeIt’s designed to help you cook fresh, healthy meals for large groups, but also includes versions of the recipes designed for smaller settings and fewer people.
MPC faces some challenges, being located on an island, which at time is hard to access. Yet as much as possible MPC uses fresh ingredients and carefully chooses the other ingredients that go into their meals.  As a result we had some terrific meals.

A Sampling of the Camp Food:

Broadway Beat - Will Ferrell, '...
Broadway Beat - Will Ferrell, 'SHAOLIN', The Fantasticks & TOMMY

With such good food, prepared with such great care, meal times were a definite highlight of the weekend, and added greatly to the community that was being built around the tables.  Many thanks are owed to Sharon and all the kitchen staff.  I think this place started to change my mind about camp food.
As for the speaking.  Given free rein by the events organizers, I was told I could talk about anything I wanted to.  My Saturday evening talk, which was more question and answer was entitled “Table Grace.”  In it I was discussing our times around the table as a great place to learn about extending and receiving grace.  On Sunday, I picked up this theme in relation to Holy Communion and the grace offered to us in the meal par excellence.
I hope to flesh these ideas out and post some of those ideas on the blog.  For now, I’m just going to leave you with a picture of the fried fish that we had as part of Sunday lunch. There’s a fish story connected to this, but you’ll have to wait until Tuesday to hear that one.

fish food for a reluctant camper.
The camp food was improved by the fresh food that we had caught.

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In my last post I wrote about my experience as a reluctant camper.  If I’m a reluctant camper, I’m an even more reluctant fisherman.  I think I’ve been fishing two or three times in my life.  There’s only one occasion I really remember though.  That was when I was about 10 or 11 and I went with my parents and a couple of my brothers.

All the fish we caught, with an illustration of how one big one caught us a second one.
All the fishes that made up our fish tale.

We choose a small river near our then home town of Prince Albert Saskatchewan.  At the end of the day our final total was 17.  That wasn’t the number of fish we caught, that was the number of leads and lures we lost.  Not surprisingly we didn’t do much fishing after that event.
So, like camping, fishing hasn’t been a regular activity in my life.  Saturday afternoon, however, I decided I would give it a try.  In all honesty, all I hoped for was to get through my time fishing without sticking a hook into the ear of one of the guys who were fishing with me.

Rev. Deacon Eric Parson's contribution to our fish tale.
Eric Parson’s catch.
Philip's fish tale fish.
Philip’s fish was the biggest of the fishes in our fish tale.

In the end there were three of us who were fishing.  Eric who’s a Deacon at St. Margaret’s, Philip, who recently returned to Manitoba after many years in New Zealand and who had been a camper at Manitoba Pioneer Camp over 50 years ago.  Lastly, there was me.
Eric brought his own rod, but Philip and I were using equipment provided by MPC.  Pete Dearborn, the camp’s executive director helped get me set up and before he left reminded me to allow the any fish I caught to play itself out on the line.  I thanked him, but I thought I was as likely to need the advice as I was to need advice on how to behave in front of royalty.
Sure enough about 10 minutes in, I felt a tug on my line.  At first I thought I had snagged my line on an old boot or something.  However, the tug kept persisting. Turned out I needed Pete’s advice.  I let the fish play itself out a bit and then reeled it in.  My first ever catch.  Philip and Eric were kind enough to deal with it once I got it to land.  As a group we off and running.

Next it was Eric’s turn.  We went back and forth in our positioning for a little while. This changing worked out well, and a few minutes after I caught mine, Eric reeled in one.

The Big Fish That Didn’t Get Away:

This left Philip as the only member of our group without a fish.  While we were fishing, he said he had seen a big one close to shore.  It had almost taken the lure, but in the end it hadn’t.  Still we were in a good spot, and in a couple of minutes Philip had his catch.
Then it got interesting.  The big fish returned and decided that it too, wanted the fish on Philip’s line.  So a battle ensued, and the big fish just wouldn’t let go.  That was a big mistake, for in a matter of moments, thanks to great teamwork between Philip and Eric, we had not one but two extra fish to add to our haul. You may not be able to see it well in the picture below of the two fish in the net, but the one with all the fish together shows how the big fish stayed clamped on to the little fish.

Fish that became part of our camp food.
The big fish wouldn’t let the little one go, and both got caught.

That’s where the cautionary tale comes in.  The big fish was so focused on grabbing the little fish that in the end it became the prize catch.  Sometimes you just need to let go.

My fishy contribution to our camp food..
I finally caught a fish.


By Donald McKenzie

Anglican priest, and food blogger. This blog is focused on Food. It will feature reviews of places to eat books, and the odd recipe. I also write about what it means to gather together around food.