Food at Alpine is a big deal. When Mr. O started camp in 1959 his father gave him one piece of advice. His father, by the way, was Dr. Carter O’Ferrall (hence my wife’s name) a much loved physician in Jackson, MS who had delivered most of the boys who camped at Alpine those first few years. So his advice was that no matter what else you do don’t skimp on the food. Serve quality food that boys will eat. And so that is our goal every summer.
The dining hall is one of the greatest experiences at camp. We eat family style, large heaping bowlfuls of each item carefully placed on each table only minutes before the dinner bell rings, in hopes that we can still see steam rising when we arrive. Boys sit at the same table all term, with usually 10 boys their age and 2 or 3 counselors. Some will be from their cabin and a few others from the cabins right around them. We enter the dining hall in a shockingly orderly manner for over 300 hungry men and boys, each receiving a squirt of hand sanitizer on the way in the screen door. Standing behind our chairs, we resist grabbing that loose hanging piece of bacon as we await the Program Director’s call to sing the blessing.
There are 3 blessings, one for each meal, that we have been singing for as long as I’ve been at camp.Several have asked for the words recently so we’ll try to post those soon on the blog. The last note of “Amen” is usually mixed with the beginning sound of 300 plus chairs pulling back as we take our seats, eager to pass what’s in front of us and catch the next bowl headed our way.
We place an emphasis on manners and service at the table. It’s not perfect, mind you. But we are a community and we have to think about others even at the table. When we’re hungry, food can bring out the most selfish sides in all of us, and I include myself and all the other staff in that category. We spend a lot of time in Staff Training talking about it. We are very intentional in how we treat the table experience. It’s an intimate experience and boys take away a lot from their time in the Dining Hall.
We pass all the food around in one direction. We each take a reasonable portion to make sure everyone at the table gets a little bit (this does not come so naturally when you’re hungry! Sometimes our instinct is to pile as much on our plate as we can without regard to the others.) We wait until everyone at the table has been served until any of us takes the first bite. It all seems sort of obvious as I write it but when you get 12 or 13 hungry males at a table it takes a practice and self discipline.
And of course there’s plenty of food and the high school boys on Work Crew are happy to come and refill our serving bowls and platters.
This morning for breakfast, Mrs. Gail and her crew served scrambled eggs, buttered grits, plump, warm biscuits, sausage patties, along with OJ, milk, and water. Lunch brought a familiar sight - fried chicken tenders, butter beans, mashed potatoes, and banana pudding for dessert. Alpine famous sauce, Shazam, accompanied the chicken tenders. It’s a pink chicken sauce similar to what you might get in well known chicken chains but with a little Alpine twist.
Additionally, at breakfast each day the ladies put out a breakfast bar with yogurt, Greek and plain, granola, fruit, and cereal. Campers and counselors alike line up to get items off the breakfast bar. A full salad bar accompanies every lunch, with mixed lettuce, fresh spinach, and an assortment of toppings and dressings. Sliced carrots, craisins, and sunflower seeds on a bed of spinach leaves topped with balsamic vinaigrette is my usual.
Last night all of camp played Mission Impossible!!! Our videographer put together a short video telling the story of this beloved Alpine Night Program - so I won’t spoil the video and share my thoughts here. That video, along with one previous, and all future, are being posted on our Instagram page, @alpinecamp4boys. I believe it’s been posted this evening, or if not will be later tonight or tomorrow. We are also working on getting these videos on our Facebook page, @alpinecamp. Be sure and follow us on both outlets if you have not already.
Thanks for reading and good night for now,