Cuisine & Community: Coming Together for Meals at Camp
November 29, 2016, by Jake
Cuisine & Community: Coming Together for Meals at Camp
November 29, 2016, by Jake

One element that makes holidays like Thanksgiving so special is the simple fact that they provide an opportunity for families to come together. Over the course of the meal we are able to briefly step away from whatever stresses we may be dealing with in order to connect with one another, enjoy each other’s company, and share in the spirit of family. At camp, meals in the dining hall serve much the same purpose – they allow campers & counselors to come together as a community, providing a unique environment for campers & counselors to forge friendships among individuals and to build the sense of community that makes camp such a special place.

Different MCE camps have different ways they approach meals in the dining hall. At some camps, the entire camp will eat together, while other larger camps may have upper and lower camp eat at separate times. Some camps assign seating by bunk, others have table assignments that rotate, and others have entirely open seating where the campers choose who to sit with. These different approaches also may extend beyond the simple table assignments. For instances, some camps eat family style, where trays of food are brought to the table and shared, while others serve meals buffet-style where campers are responsible for getting up and getting their own meal. Some Maine camps have lunch outside every day, while others save the outdoors for special occasions like cookouts or socials. However, despite the different ways that Maine camps handle the logistics of mealtimes, one thing that they certainly all have in common is that these meals provide an opportunity for campers and counselors to connect outside of their activities, which is hugely valuable.

At the MCE Camp I work at, I am in the Landsports department, and as a result it can be challenging at times to connect with campers who may not be particularly sporty, as they may be more reserved during my activities. However, in the dining hall, I was consistently able to forge friendships with the campers who sat at my tables, which allowed me to connect with those campers whose interests extended beyond sports. I was able to learn more about the activities and aspects of camp that they did like, and to discover other shared interests.

Because I was at a camp where tables rotated, I had the opportunity to forge friendships with a number of different campers, and by the end of the summer I had developed relationships with the majority of campers in camp.

Perhaps the most special aspect of eating meals together is the sense of community that permeates the dining hall during every meal. At my MCE camp, everyone stands behind their chair for camp announcements, and then as a camp we sing a (non-denominational) grace before sitting down to our meal. Throughout the meal, campers and counselors will start and participate in various cheers & chants – and after particularly good meals we all sing to the chefs to give our appreciation. At each table, everyone remains seated until the rest of the table has finished eating, and the fact that we start and end the meal together also contributes to the sense of community we share.

The dining hall is one of the places in camp that is a constant presence in our day-to-day lives. While campers may travel from activity to activity, and their schedules may change on a daily basis, there is comfort in knowing that at the same three points of every day we will gather together to enjoy a meal with one another. Meals in the dining hall provide a true glimpse into camp spirit, and the community that makes camp special -and this is something I am truly grateful for, and incredibly excited to return to.

And it doesn’t hurt that the food is pretty delicious, too.


Maine Camp Experience Resources & Tools

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