Mike and I cooked for a treeplanting camp a few years ago and despite writing this post during that time, I had yet to post it until now. Here it is:
Due to low production in our camp, two crews of strapping young men arrived to help finish the contract. These boys were large, muscular, strong and hungry. We went from feeding 50 people to feeding seventy-five. What had seemed like a daunting task before now seemed calm and quiet compared to the overwhelming number of mouths that were suddenly present. In a kitchen trailer with only 2 ovens, somehow we were meant to satisfy the insatiable hunger of all the planters. The week began as a gong show. Mike had to visit an emergency dental clinic due to a nerve problem in his front tooth, so I spent the first day constantly second guessing myself and regularly forgetting what I was supposed to be doing. Whilst standing on a milk crate in order to reach a pot of spaghetti sauce I suddenly felt like a witch stirring my brew. With both hands on a long wooden spoon, the idea wasn’t too far from reality.
With Mike gone, and I being left to my own devices, fear that the spaghetti that we had made in the morning hadn’t cooled properly began to creep up. In a panic I put numerous pots of water on to boil and prepared to make another 20 lbs. of pasta. I felt pressure on my chest as the panic grew and despite knowing that I was probably just being obsessive and compulsive, I couldn’t shake the gnawing fear that I was going to give everyone food poisoning if I didn’t make a new batch of spaghetti. Although Mike had made enough pasta in the morning to feed all 75 people and had cooled it and put it in the fridge, I felt that something must have certainly gone wrong. Looking back on it, I laugh at the ridiculous thoughts that were running through my head, but at the time all I cared about was feeding the planters food that wouldn’t make their stomachs hurt. I was about to throw all of the spaghetti in the garbage and make a new batch when Mike returned. Despite looking like a character from a Dr. Seuss book because of all the swelling, he was ready to help.
“The spaghetti is completely fine. I made sure it was cooled properly before I left. Stop worrying,” he said patiently.
“But, what if…,” I began.
We dipped the old spaghetti in the water that was finally boiling, and began to serve supper to a group of people who had no idea about my inner meltdown. Of course, the spaghetti was completely fine, and all was well in the end which resulted in the first glimmer of my personal revelation: I’m nuts.
Similar scenarios happened throughout the season. “Are you SURE that the raw meat didn’t touch the salad? Are you POSITIVE that everything is the correct temperature? Are you absolutely CERTAIN that it hasn’t gone bad?” were phrases often uttered from my lips. Thankfully Mike is on the opposite side of obsessive behaviour. If he was ever worried, he didn’t show it. In a completely laid back manner he continually assured me that the meat was still good, it hadn’t touched the salad, and it was absolutely cooked properly. I had always thought of myself as a laid back individual, but the summer that we cooked for the planters was demonstration that I, very clearly, am not.