It’s anniversary season around here. Friday was the anniversary of my first date with Julie. Thursday was our actual wedding anniversary — 15 years. Which means today marks five years since the first meal I served at Sacandaga Bible Conference.
As my friends know, camp food service has long been an interest and hobby, but I had no intention of doing this here for a living. I had no history, allegiance or particular passion for this place; I was, for lack of a better expression, helping a friend, who had, himself, just finished helping the camp through a rough patch. At the start of this reorganization, the only employee was the part-time housekeeper.
The first day I ran my own kitchen was that day, Sept. 19, 2009. And as I look over my journal entry from that day, I see some things have changed. But I don’t think the core of my belief system has:
• That first day, I served a hash brown casserole from dried potatoes, rice pudding from a can, shoestring French fries — things I generally don’t keep around anymore. The fact that we don’t do much of those anymore shows more of a commitment to fresh food, but also a commitment to resourcefulness. I was using those because they were leftover from summer, and it was a way to keep costs down. Much of that fall season was about burning up inventory. Fact is, my priority every fall is to get the freezer empty.
• I kept fairly detailed notes about what worked and what didn’t. I’m not as detailed anymore; each dish is a one-line entry (like “100 chicken breasts, grilled; 30 left) instead of part of a longer paragraph, and I list everything served; not just the highlights. This help ensures few repeats, unless a certain dish was in demand. The group next week, which I’ll be serving for the sixth time, asked if we could do a “best-of” my previous menus for them, and it took two minutes to find all of the last five entries.
• Sometimes, simple food is best: Meatloaf “went well,” I reported to myself that first weekend. I’m always surprised how many guests — even our youngest ones — appreciate a lunch of grilled chicken breasts, Caesar salad and homemade bread. Homemade macaroni and cheese was served that first weekend — and probably 100 weekends since then. Local corn on the cob was served then. The group here tonight had that, too.
• God supplies our needs. The resources were here five years ago to, as I recall, feed 32 men with a $80 trip to BJ’s. In five years and some 100,000 servings, we’ve fed everyone who’s walked in the door, we’ve paid every vendor and credit card bill and we’ve never had a struggle that couldn’t be fixed. It has become harder as the number of guests has grown 5-10 percent a year, the staff has swelled from four to 10 (28 teens total since summer 2010!), vendors have come and gone, food costs soar — you’re seeing this at home — and our equipment has sometimes struggled to keep up. But God has been good and faithful, all the time.
• My handwriting remains awful. But it has not gotten any worse.
I could write a series of posts on what I’ve learned in five years here. But maybe I’ll save that for my 10th anniversary.
And besides, I’ve got men here right now. Pizza and wings at 9 p.m., served in their meeting room. It’s time to get back to work.