Betsy Krome, Shiloh Kitchen Manager
At Shiloh we have a motto: TNT, Try New Things. It applies to lots of situations: creating new trips, leading new activities, trying new foods, singing new songs, trying on new leadership roles. As kitchen manager it means I try to cook new things. It’s a great attitude to have in camp. And I tried it myself this summer.
There’s a time of day at camp called Chocolate Cake. Normally it involves no chocolate cake at all. It’s the second set of afternoon activities, following the first set called, get ready for it, Afternoon Activities. Between the two activity periods there’s mail call and a snack. I can’t explain why this time of day has this name, but there it is.
Every once in a while I surprise the campers by actually serving chocolate cake for snack. This summer I had an extra incentive–I had just made a new cake for the first time, as a wedding cake: chocolate beet cake. Despite my considerable skepticism about this recipe, the bride (former Shiloh director Dana Foster) had assured me it was delicious. This proved to be true, and the cake was a big hit with the wedding guests. (Lenna’s recipe for Mystery Chocolate Cake on allrecipes.com, if you are interested.) So I bought beets, chopped them fine, and made 96 servings of beet cake and frosted it with chocolate butter cream.
And then came the real TNT. Our brilliant director Hope was struggling with the appalling flow of candy that arrives in care packages despite her asking, begging, pleading, reminding, and hounding parents: “Please don’t send candy to camp; the campers can’t take it to their cabins and we have no place to store it.” The day the campers returned from their trips, the candy flood was worse than ever. So Hope gave everyone a few minutes to eat their candy and share it, and then asked everyone to donate the rest to the kitchen. The next day the cooks and I used some of the sweets to decorate the cake. Chocolate kisses, peanut butter cups, licorice, M&Ms, Skittles… It was not beautiful, but it was quite colorful.
After the campers had demolished the cake and its gaudy topping, they were asked if they could guess the secret ingredient. Zucchini was the popular first answer. Another popular answer: love. Can’t say that answer was exactly wrong. Nobody guessed the real mystery ingredient until significant hints were given—it’s a root vegetable and it’s red. Then they got it, and realized they had just Tried a New Thing.