I can hardly believe that as I write this we've been here for exactly one week. It seems like we been here for eons, as so much has happened in such a short time. Lately we've been talking a lot about food and it's effects as we helped set up the employee kitchen with Ben and Lorraine. The idea is to feed nourishing, tasty food to the staff while keeping in mind seasonality and frugality. What this means is that many of the people we are feeding work outside, tending to people, animals and the earth itself. In many cases this involves hard physical labor and so we want to nourish them and set them up for the afternoon's work. There are no siesta's here on the ranch. So, producing tasty belly bombs that will have people feeling leaden and sleepy half an hour after lunch is not in the plan. As the temperature increases we know that appetites will plummet, although calories and nutrients will be even more important to keep people going through their day. So we're talking about cold salads (both vegetable and grain based), lots of fruits and vegetables, leaner proteins and many variations on Gatorade style drinks and iced tea. Part of the trick is layering the menus so that people don't feel as though their always eating leftovers and still avoiding waste. We are in a remote location so there are minimums to be met and deliveries are only once a week. We want the meals to be fresh and diverse so that people are excited about coming in to eat. It will need a bit of ingenuity and flexibility, two talents that will serve the kids well anywhere else they may go in the future.
In spite of the fact that we will all be working hard, the cabin style accommodations and the rec hall dining make it feel like summer camp for adults. The lower kitchen is lucky in that they will be serving the same core group of people all season. This will allow them to get to know their audience and really cook to their tastes. In a place that can be far from home, mealtimes are often so much more than food. Over the past week as people have arrived and the group has grown, dining periods have grown louder and smiles have bloomed more often. People are slowly starting to relax and build relationships. Meals are their time to re-charge their batteries in the midst of a busy day. It's important to remember that while you're cooking. The staff may never know how much care and thought has gone into the preparation of their meals, and that's perfectly okay. They just have to enjoy their food. In this situation the dining hall is the home base, the chefs are nurturers and a good time should be had by all. We're very lucky in that we have a great team so far. I'm feeling very confident that Ben and Lorraine will be able to shoulder their responsibilities well. I think it will be a real growth period for both of them and that their cooking skills and confidence will blossom in these green Montana hills.
Our kitchen? We actually haven't spent much time up there these last few days. We've been taking the opportunity to help streamline things down below and we'll move our focus to the lodge as the time for guests grows near. We're not really serving anyone until next week and even then the numbers are low in the beginning. For now the action is in the employee kitchen because that's where the people are. Because it's just fun to cook regardless of what we're cooking or who the audience is. When it comes down to it, we just like to play in the kitchen.