Thursday, July 05, 2007

Camp Cheerio

In May, I went to Camp Cheerio, which is a breath-takingly beautiful place in the mountains of North Carolina not too far from Winston-Salem. However, it was remote enough that my cell phone couldn't get service and too far up a very winding road to rule out dashing into town. My friend Jennifer Phillips and I were there for a calligraphy workshop. The organizers tried something this session that I feel sure they won't repeat. They had engaged two instructors as usual. But instead of assigning half of us to one and half to the other for the whole week, or dividing the week in half with each teacher...they divided each day in half so we had to totally shift gears in our thinking because the subjects being taught couldn't have been more diametrically opposed. Worst of all, the students had to move instead of the teachers. So here's 40 mostly middle-aged to elderly women, and even a man in his 80s, packing up and moving our multitudinous art supplies up and down stairs every single day and sometimes twice a day!

They said they had to do it this way because the techniques that Brody Neuenschwander was using needed drying time, so dividing the week in half would have been a problem. But as it was, no one finished their projects anyway. His class needed full days all week long. The things he taught were extremely intriguing, and he has such a brilliant mind, along with being a wonderful human being. It was a joy to be exposed to his techniques.

As bad as not having a permanent situation in class was, the food almost made up for it. Camp Cheerio has lucked out by accidently hiring a fabulous young chef. Martyn, who is English, was between semesters in college and not looking forward to spending a summer at home, so he applied to be a camp counselor in the States. At that time, Cheerio had a cook, who by all accounts, made school cafeteria food seem downright tasty! Martyn insisted that he could do the job when the first cook left...and was everyone pleasantly surprised.

Since most of the time, he is cooking for teenagers, he goes all out when he gets the chance to cook for adults. The ingredients he used are what you would expect in a 4-star restaurant and each meal was more amazing than the one before. He served such things as a leg of lamb, baked salmon, grilled strip steaks, portobello mushrooms, fresh asparagus, and parsnips, in addition to a 30 foot long salad bar. Breakfast was French toast with fresh raspberries, blueberries and strawberries; bacon & sausage; Belgian waffles; real whipped cream, cheese grits (not sure what the Yanks thought about those, but we southerners ate them up.) And he always had a fabulous dessert at both lunch and dinner. There was a mixed fruit cobbler that was better than any I've ever had. The crust did literally melt in your mouth. The bread pudding was to die for (and I'm not even a bread pudding fan.) If all this wasn't enough, there was a coffee machine with about a dozen selections that could have competed with Starbucks.

No comments: