Ahhhh what is this, another camp related post why YES obviously, because camp is the best! Just a little disclaimer that whilst this is about how I dealt with being vegan at camp, every camp is different so you might find that your camp does vegan better or worse.
Obviously, this is my diet and has been my lifestyle for years, so when I went to the recruitment fair, ‘how will you accommodate my diet?’ was my biggest and arguably most important question because like gals gotta eat. If you go to a fair and have a dietary requirement, make sure you find this out with whatever and every camp you speak to! You don’t want to get across the pond and sit down for some scran and be very limited in options, yknow. Plus, it’s worth asking because if a child goes to camp with dietary requirements, camp will obviously accommodate it because they’re paying to be there, so they might already have this covered. Plus it’s 2018, loads of people have a million dietary requirements so you should be golden!
So during my interview, Owen came across that I was vegan in my application, so I didn’t even need to ask about it! It was then sold to me just prior to me being offered the job was that there was a salad bar and a pasta bar, so I’d basically just have to sort myself/find what I could eat. Now, in retrospect, that’s kind of a scary thought like oh yes hey you will eat pasta and salad all summer and nothing else. But at the time, I was fresh out of uni where I lived on a diet of rice and beans for a good few months in order to fund travel lol so eating the same thing day in day out, wasn’t actually a problem for me, but I realise that if someone had said that to a normal person they might have freaked out a little. I only started thinking about food properly when it was a month or so later and I was like oh yeah shoot, what actually am I gonna do?! Then low and behold, the 21st century.
By that I mean, I was crazy stalking my camp on social media and the people who had been (we friends now, it’s fine) and I came across a girl on Instagram who worked at camp last summer and was also vegan. HELLO. I jumped straight in with a follow and a message that started along the lines of ‘hi, sorry if this is a bit weird but…’ but there was nowt to worry about because camp people are the nicest people in the world and she was totally sound about it and we got chatting! Fun fact, we’re actually real good pals who bond over vegan food and dogs, shoutout to you, Soph! Basically, Soph informed me that there was loads of stuff I’d be able to eat, I would be fine and at my interview, it was kind of a case of how people who aren’t vegan sometimes don’t really get that we do eat and we do survive! She also told me to bring snacks! So that settled my apprehension and I literally didn’t think another thing of it until I got to camp.
Actually, pre camp when we were being sent all of the emails about everything we needed to know before camp/important docs etc, there was an email about dietary requirements. This email basically gave a list and stated if you were vegetarian, dairy free, gluten free, etc, you had to reply to the email saying what you were. I replied, after asking Sophie what to do, with vegetarian and dairy free as there was no mention of vegan on the list. I figured they do this so the kitchen guys have a rough idea of how much of what they’re gonna be making!
So fun fact, when I got to camp, the first meal I had was salad lol. Remember those times in like every blog post where I mention how much of an idiot I am? Well, I didn’t realise that there was a special food bar near the doors. On this food bar was the vegetarian, dairy free and gluten free options aka my food for the summer.
Our camp meals were all ‘family style’ (except breakfast, that was staggered by division and a help yourself situation) but family style meant that the food was already on your table. Our LTs (leadership trainees- not quite campers, not quite staff) were our servers and they would bring you extra food or cuttlery or anything you needed. We sat with our CAIL bunks, however I had so many kids that I actually didn’t fit on the table so I sat on the AC overflow with a few other ACs in the same situation. When we walked into the dining hall, we’d stand up and wait until the bell rang before we’d all sit and dig in. However, being a person who required special food, when the bell rang, I would grab my plate and head over to the veggie/gluten free table. Also at my camp, you could only go up for soup/salad/pasta when your section was called- some people would ignore this but I guess it just filtered the crowd.
So, the actual food. Being vegan, I actually became pretty good friends with the special diets chef, Keith. Keith and another staff member, Dana would always stand by the special table to clarify ingredients to anyone who asked. Those kids who were gluten free and/or dairy free especially were well known to these pair! Thank our lucky stars, Keith was so so good! More often than not, he tried to ensure that the vegetarian dish was also dairy free (and egg free) meaning my little vegan heart could eat a variety of food whilst at camp. Occasionally though, there would be cheese/egg on the veggie dish and/or meat in the dairy free etc so sometimes there were days where I would have a plate of pasta with tomato sauce and tbh, it wasn’t that bad! Who doesn’t love pasta? And it’s not like I was eating it for two meals a day, everyday! Granted, there was like one or two days during the summer where this did happen, but it definitely wasn’t the end of the world! I’m so thankful to Keith though, because eating that pasta all summer wouldn’t have been the best thing for my tastebuds/body u know.
I actually have no pictures of the food because the only device I had at camp was my phone and I wasn’t allowed that. But, for a brief insight..
Breakfast: I literally had granola and raisins with soy milk (camp always had a dairy free milk in the fridge. According to Sophie, last year it was only rice milk, which is diabetes in a bottle to me and this year she convinced them to get soy YASSS, the best the best) and a bowl of fresh fruit- usually melon cos that’s my jam. I ate that more or less everyday, here and there I would have toast with soy nut butter but with all those lunch rides I took out, that ended soon enough. I kinda wish I could have had the porridge- admittedly I never looked to see if there was a dairy free version- I never even checked whether the porridge was made with dairy or water in the first place.
Lunch: Lunches I actually can’t really remember. The ones I do remember were Wednesday cook outs! OMG the veggie burgers, you don’t even know, they were one of my favourite meals! Also when we had pizza, Keith always threw together a dairy free cheese and tomato, they were excellent! Cook outs were the one, I tell ya!
Dinner: Keith did us good, I tell ya. He made a few tofu dishes that were exceptional. Stir frys, rice, tacos, the dairy free mash omg. Camp food was actually pretty good! Same again with lunch, like I can’t really remember what the food was minus a few dishes that I rated but on the whole, I remember it being pretty good and dead easy!
Pudding: Yep, vegan options here too! Not all the time, but there was often vegan versions of whatever dessert everyone else was having. The cherry crumble, strawberry shortcake and chocolate pudding all had dairy free versions that were simultaneously vegan! During celebration where there was sooo much ice cream and sugar, we found some tofutti and another brand of vegan ice cream sandwiches in the special freezer, so we didn’t miss out when everyone else was having chipwiches!
Overall though, being vegan at camp was surprisingly easy. Like I didn’t realise how easy it was gonna be at my camp and I’m so grateful that I got to work at the best summer camp in the world and my diet was fine!
PS, I flew over some B vitamins to camp just in case I would lack nutrients. I don’t actually take supplements at home and I only took a few of those over the course of the summer, but I had them just in case!
[Here I am on the zipline during orientation week]
Peace and love