Chow Hall

My very first impression of camp was not a sight or a sound–it was an unidentified flying smell. That first day I entered through the side door and walked by the Chow Hall where the smell is mysteriously created. I seem to be the only person here concerned about it too, which is weird as it is NOT A GOOD SMELL. I’ve been here almost a month and I still notice it, too. I take that as an encouraging indication that at least one part of my brain is still functioning within a normal range.

As long as I breathe through my mouth, the food is pretty good here. It may be a little heavy on carbs, but who cares. We’re inmates. Breakfast is served at 6:00 am M-F and at 7:00 am on weekends and holidays. Lunch is served at 11:00 daily and dinner is served at 3:00 pm, prior to the 4:00 pm “count” when the inmates are counted to make sure nobody has wandered off. Then there is a short dinner line at about 4:15 pm on most days which most inmates ignore for a reason that has not been explained to me. Obviously either dinner serving is a little early unless you’re in your 80s, which at least three inmates here are.

A typical breakfast might be oatmeal, a Danish or a flake-like cereal that can’t possibly be made from grain. The Danish is wrapped in unmarked, sealed plastic so I’m not sure what’s in it, nor do I want to know. One morning we had shredded beef which was delicious and would be normal in most countries for lunch or dinner. The scrambled eggs and pancakes are also good, but we’ve never had them for breakfast. We are served milk usually at least once each day. The milk also comes in sealed unmarked plastic bags. I understand cows pretty well, and there is something very NOT RIGHT about milk served in sealed unmarked plastic bags. I may try the milk at some point, but more investigation will be required.

We are served fresh fruit usually once each day; apples, oranges or bananas. These aren’t popular for some reason, so I can usually eat all I want as other inmates leave them on the table for scavengers. Once we had grapefruit. Vegetables are served often and are good. I did try spinach for the first time in my life and my instincts were confirmed. With almost every lunch and dinner there is one item which is intentionally unidentified. Experience tells me that when that occurs, either the chef doesn’t want me to know what it is, or he doesn’t know. Neither of these scenarios is particularly comforting.

Having appropriately low expectations is the key to a happy life. It’s certainly true at camp and when evaluating any institutional cuisine. A positive attitude is also important. With that in mind, I heartily recommend the water and the mashed potatoes here. Both are excellent.

Bon Appétit,