We raced up the canyon at eight in the morning. My cooler was on the verge of being pitched out of the truck at any moment. Every curve in the road brought a new threat of losing the load.
We were expected to cook a Dutch oven dinner for the teachers and staff on the last day of school, and we were late.
Of course we arrived safe, and everything went well. The two pots of chili, two fourteen-inch pots of corn bread, dairy-case bread, three cobblers and mandarin orange dream cake were delicious. The shredded cheese, sour cream, and honey-butter condiments were a nice touch. The cooks had a great time.
When you learn to cook in Dutch ovens and people find out about it, you’ll start getting invitations to cook for others. You'll be invited to all the family events, not to mention church functions. Don’t despair, it’s a little more work, but the rewards are greater too. Let me give you an example.
We cooked for Girls camp several years ago. It was a lot of work, but before we left the girls sang to us and gave us a poster, thanking us for the good food. By comparison, we won $1500 at the World Championship Dutch Oven cook off in 2005, but the song and the poster mean more to me than the money we spent years ago.
That doesn’t mean you should do it all for free. If it costs you time and money, you should get reimbursement. If you ask for more than reimbursement however, you must have a license for catering. So, be careful what you agree to and don’t be afraid to say no, but keep your calendar open.
When many people are faced with the task of cooking for a large group they ask about quantities. I admit, I wonder the same thing sometimes. There are many formulas to figure it out, but it’s a bit overwhelming. I asked a friend for his opinion about how much beef stew to cook for 120 people. He crunched some numbers in his calculator and told me I need 9 gallons . . .
Try this: Think about how much you would take for your portion then multiply by the number of guests. You also need to consider the list of people. Men in camp tend to eat more than a room full of women who are trying to impress the men. Hungry boys don’t necessarily eat more than girls do, in fact it seems to be the opposite.
So my advice would be; 1 potato per person, 1 chicken breast each, and 1 cob of corn cut in half. Multiply it, and cook a little extra because too much is always better than running out. As for the stew, make a pot full in advance and see how many bowls it fills. Give the leftovers to someone special and enjoy the fun.
Return to the Neighborhood.