Loving the solitude of feeding small groups

We’re being joined at camp this weekend by a Wesleyan church’s high school youth group. Unlike last week, it’s the only group here, and it’s pretty small. Only 24 people, leaders included. It’s the smallest of the season.

It’s not a big revenue-generator, and we usually pare back our hours to keep expenses down. But truth be told, I love these occasional small groups, for so many reasons.

There’s a one-on-one feel: I’ll be cooking, cleaning and waiting tables (with 24 people, why bother with a buffet) while my wife takes the weekend off. I literally will see every face and probably shake a few hands. That doesn’t happen with large groups.

Small-batch cooking comes back into play. There’s no reason to fire up the griddle; we’ll make sausage and potato frittatas instead of scrambled eggs for breakfast. Cupcakes after lunch? Sure. And then I’ll crack open a few cans of Italian tomatoes for a homemade sauce to serve with pasta and our own meatballs. We can do this for groups of 150, too, but it’s effortless for groups this size.

It helps to empty the freezer. Let’s not kid ourselves — you have a couple dozen leftover banana-nut muffins in yours, too. Maybe 2 gallons of ice cream. And probably a half-case of those chicken nuggets you won’t admit you have. Look in your freezer to see how you could add value and diversity to your menu.

It’s a chance to try something new. I’m playing it safe this weekend, but a small audience is ideal for experimenting. Perhaps a new bar dessert, or meat from a different purveyor. Small groups give you the chance to dabble in something that could benefit you in the long run without forcing you all-in.

What’s cooking this weekend?

Saturday breakfast: Pancakes, sausage, cheesy hash browns, apple-cinnamon oatmeal, fresh fruit, cold cereal assortment.

Saturday lunch: Chicken nuggets, fries, chili-smoked corn, ranch carrots,

Saturday dinner: Ziti with meatballs, garlicky green beans, broccoli in butter sauce, challah-style dinner rolls, ice cream sundaes.

Sunday brunch: Frittatas, bacon, hash browns, pastry tray (buttermilk biscuits, chocolate-iced doughnuts, English muffins), yogurt, grapefruit sections, fresh fruit, cold cereal assortment.


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