Camp Assistant (camp ass for short) and Sous Chef: Two job titles I never imagined acquiring with my degrees in Spanish and Teaching. While it’s a bit weird kicking off my first blog entry of 2011, by turning time back to August 2010, I figure I just couldn’t skip over this wild week of insanity that would sure make for a new reality tv show on the Food Network: Team Hanna Brewer and Liz Barry, housing and feeding an army of 25 for a week, all while dodging potential bear fights, fetching pails of water until your arms want to fall off, and peeling and chopping over 40 onions. Food Network channel, where ARE you?! Anthony Bourdain, Samantha Brown, and Andrew Zimmerman, look out! Bobby Flay, come throw down with me! How would you make the best grilled Salmon, fresh rosemary foccacia bread, coffee cake, thai night, huevos rancheros, ghetto coffee, with make shift grills, a stove and 5 dutch ovens?
Fast forward to 2011. Only New Years resolution: To make my blog entries more frequent, thus shorter, to appeal to more of my readers, a la all my best friends who always say the blog is realllllllly long, in the nicest way possible. Thanks for your honesty, my friends!
Sitting in a café in Buenos Aires with another 80 days of sunshine and summer south of the border, it’s going to be tough to sum up the last half of 2010, but I mostly want this entry to be dedicated to my week as a camp chef, which I am going to take the easy route out by supplying all the pictures–two sets, both mine, your host, “The Camp Chef”, and Liz’s—Camp Assistant extraordinaire. Chef Hunz in action and Liz Camp Crew photos.
Playing Chef for 2 meals a day, for the last week of the summer, combined with camping in Yellowstone and the Tetons was like a little blow to my pampered hands and feet that had oh-so-quickly adapted to leading inn trips and showering in nice hotel bathrooms every night. I thought the most pain I’ve ever felt was crossing the Boston Marathon finish line, which I describe as being hit by a Mack truck for about 15 minutes. In no way is this a dramatization to say that every morning when my alarm went off in the very brisk mornings in Wyoming to get up in the dark, get out of my warm sleeping bag, and go fetch water to make the slowest drip coffee possible on this planet, did I feel like the horns of a Mac Truck carrying a load bricks was headed straight our campground and right through my precious, “rustic” Kitchen. This was definitely the hardest working week of my summer with backroads, but it was also the best week I could’ve asked for to close out my season in Cowboy country.
Lucky for me, I had the best camp assistant possible by my side, and we would move camp almost every day, loading up 15 tents, drive to the next campground, unload the tents, pound 6 stakes for every tent, remove 6 stakes, load everyone’s heavy (and sometimes excessive) luggage into the corresponding tents, label the tents, draw a pic of the tent village labeled by last name. Now time to set up the kitchen, chop those onions, chop that cilantro and parsley that appear in every single recipe for the week, clean that pot you made lasagna in the night before, figure out which dish of 6 takes the longest to cook and start prepping! Oh, the appetizers! The guests will be back to the campground in no time! Find a fun play list on my I-pod and bust a move while it blares from my mini speakers sitting above my unkempt stove, next to my Corona.
I think the two things I was most grateful for apart from my talented Sous Chef /Camp Ass Liz, were 1) My I-pod because without songs for hours of prepping, cooking, and cleaning and setting up tents, I think I would’ve went mildly crazy and 2) For my prior knowledge gained from the food industry, that is the topic of food presentation and quantity—how much is too little, too much, or just right to feed a group of 25. By mid-week I was adding my own recipes to make the table more “well rounded” or a dish to appeal to vegetarians in addition to the many recipes that Backroads supplies. Needless to say, I had guests asking for my song playlists and my additional recipes at the end of the week. Success!
I am realizing how long this is already. So here goes. The Camping pictures speak for themselves. I returned to our leader house in Jackson hole and had the duty of closing down our house fit for at least 20 people, with two kitchens, and three floors, and putting everything in storage for next year. That was measured by the $120 of coin-op laundry I did for every sheet, comforter, towel, and pillow case, the 20 mattresses we hauled out of the house, and that’s not counting futons, an office, and boxes of random leader souvenirs left behind, everything piled high in one single garage. See ya later Jackson Hole with your stunning daily view of the Tetons mountain range….
…And welcome to Portland, Maine’s airport! I arrived at Midnight on September 8th, took a taxi to some address that was supposed to be my house in Westbrook for the next month and a half. Lucky for me, I lived about 5 minutes from Uncle John and Aunt Susan’s house and had sushi dinner and the assistance of John’s pick up truck for some Backroads errands over the next month and a half. It was wild to go from not knowing anyone in Jackson hole this summer, to be leading in a place surrounded by family and so close to home. I couldn’t have asked for better variety in my leading schedule. In Maine, I led three glorious biking trips from Acadia to Deer Isle (Penobscot Bay) to Camden and back down to Portland and had a week off to get back to Boston to catch up with everyone. Favorite day in the Maine trip? Sea Kayaking between the islands of Penobscot Bay and surprising our guests with a lobster bake complete with all the fixins on an island. I LOVED teaching guests how to eat an entire lobster for their first time.
Close up Maine house with another wonderful and ever dynamic leader, Jess. Drive the Backroads Vans and a trailer from Maine to Salt Lake City, in 5 days. Thank you Audio Books! That was my first drive through our country and it was something I’ll never forget, mostly the look of all those mid-western small town, farmer men who would stop mid conversation, watch our 40 bikes, a trailer, and 2 vans pull into rest stops and stare in the most obvious way possible at the two girls jumping out from the vans. Those looks were priceless!
Arrive to Salt Lake City, unload vans packed with all the stuff from Maine. Sleep in Salt Lake City leader house. Drive to airport at 6 in the morning and I’m Barcelona Bound. Train to Puigcerda, in the mountains in the north east corner of Spain and find my bike amongst 150 others so I can join in the fun of our company staff ride. Five glorious days of biking up mountains, through ancient villages, tuning out like guests and arriving to a gourmet lunch without thinking anything of it, ride to the next quaint town, party, and then party some more, and then add some foam blasting machines to the party and you have our last night to say good bye to the Costa Brava. Oh could I move on without mentioning the massage tables waiting for us on the beach on the last day of our cycling journey to help bring our legs back to life? Or should I say, the male masseuse staring down at my odd padded spandex bike shorts asking me if I want the massage “Suave or Fuerte?”
Adios 150 backroads leaders and sunny Barcelona. God dag cheap flight to snowy and cold Norway in October to visit family again, a year after meeting them in the summer of 2009. I had to borrow coats the entire week from Anita, Reidar’s wife! What a fabulous nine days I spent seeing the family in their work and school routines. I was also able to visit a few Norwegians I know through friends in the U.S, and also bake some American treats (pumpkin squares and banana bread) for the family. Pumpkin doesn’t come in a can over there and finding Crisco equivalents and baking powder versus baking soda is always one of the best foreign cultural games to play when visiting other countries with a desire to do some baking–and those silly gram to tablespoon conversions. I could definitely write a whole blog entry on that!
Home to NH, for the first time since summer breaks in college–bizarre and great at the same time. One Pilates class led to another, which led to a family friend hiring me as a helper in the office of Lamprey Brothers, the Oil company in North Hampton. Pilates class to office assistant at an oil company? Definitely one of my most recent random connections as of yet! I spent December and January (save for a New Year’s trip to Puerto Rico) working for the nicest crew of people and I do miss the routine I had there and the office crew who I became to know so quickly as friends in such short time. I am so thankful for having the opportunity to make some money while being home which is definitely the only way I could make 90 days in Buenos Aires financially feasible.
I’m writing this and I can’t help but mention that I do feel like the most fortunate and luckiest traveler/guide/teacher/friend/daughter there ever was.
On another note, Who really keeps their New Year’s resolutions anyway? If you forgot, mine was mentioned about 2,000 words ago!
Love and Peace from Buenos Aires. Plenty to report on that soon!