Thursday, June 6, 2013

CAMP JAKE: Gumbo galore!

Head chef, Tom, manning the gumbo
Maxing out St. Vincent's stove
Marie Carmel lending a hand in the steaming hot kitchen
A mountain of okra
HAITI :: MAY 15-20, 2013 :: During the most recent trip, Tom gave St. Vincent's residents a sneak peek at one of the activities that will be introduced at Camp Jake 2013 - cooking! After a long day of scouting potential sites for a farming initiative that The Red Thread Promise plans to launch (stay tuned for details), Tom and Doug—our aeroponics expert and Tom's traveling companion—brought the ingredients for a traditional New Orleans gumbo!

Campers and residents of all ages joined the pair in St. Vincent's kitchen prepping chicken, sausage and okra for a dish completely foreign to the kids—one they had never tasted or even heard of. (40 lbs of rice and 35 lbs of meat make for some serious gumbo!) As the gumbo's boil roared, campers looked on inquisitively wondering if the rice would be mixed in with the gumbo and, in true Haitian form, speculating if there were enough spices in it!  

Some of the evening's sous-chefs
Grinding spices
Following over 4 hours in the kitchen where temperatures soared to well over 100 degrees F, the gumbo was ready. Thinking their work was complete and they could escape to the cooler air outdoors, Tom and Doug realized they had to serve 70+ hungry residents, far more than originally anticipated.

The final product, seasoned to perfection
Plenty of rice
Again, the campers came to his aide and an assembly line quickly formed without Tom or Doug's direction. First, the bowls were filled with a heap of rice. Second, each was smothered in piping hot gumbo and sprinkled with filĂ©. Lastly, sliced baguette and butter dollops were added to complete the dish. The finishing touch: ice-cold Tang® and a bit of candy for everyone.

Outside the kitchen, a long line of hungry residents had already formed. Within minutes of being served, the bowls were emptied and the residents returned for more until every bit was devoured.

Campers and residents filing in for a bowl of gumbo
Tom and Doug resisted returning to their hotel until well after 10pm, long after our usual Haiti curfew. Doug even inquired about sharing space in the dorms as he had made numerous friends and learned more sign language then he ever thought possible.

The old saying, "too many cooks in the kitchen" was given a new meaning during the gumbo cookout. We welcomed each and every helper and were grateful for their assistance in preparing the meal. Every chef was instrumental in the meal's success! 

One of our many goals is to help St. Vincent's become self-sustainable so there is sufficient food for everyone all the time. Currently, staff and students receive beans and rice twice a day; on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays they receive a third portion. This reinforces our efforts to explore sustainable farming initiatives so no student is hungry again.

Yes, that is indeed ice-cold Tang® 
Dieumenne distributing candy to everyone

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