Dutch apple pie. (Yes, I typically start with desert first.)
Mashed potatoes and gravy.
Pumpkin and pecan pie.
Sounds like the traditional Thanksgiving dinner, and it is.
But on Saturday, at the Izaak Walton League, the Troop 47 Boy Scouts served it with a unique twist: All of their Thanksigiving meal was made outside.
“Anything you can cook in the kitchen, you can cook at camp,” explains Jay Lash, a long-time Scout leader and current Troop 47 committee chairman.
Dan Hill, the Troop 47 Scoutmaster agrees, but explains that the recipes do require some modification, and of course practice.
For more than a decade, Troop 47 Scouts have been having their Thanksgiving dinner this way, cooked outside in a variety of cast iron pots, as they camp out. The Scouts have traveled to several different campgrounds througout eastern Iowa for this event; this year, they held it at the closest facility, the Red Cedar Chapter grounds just a few miles north of Vinton.
Troop 47 invited the second-year Webelos from Pack 47, who will be eligible to join Boy Scouts for their cross-over ceremony in February, along with their parents. They also invited the Pack 43 Cub Scouts of Shellsburg, who join Troop 47 when they become Boy Scouts.
Lash, Hill and Colin Carolus, who will become the Troop 47 Scoutmaster next year, along with several parents of Boy Scouts, spent Saturday afternoon cooking the meal. Another of Hill’s favorite camping recipes is spiced apple cider, which he makes by breaking cinnamon sticks and cloves into a spice bag and adding it to the bot of cider. While connecting the stainless steel pot to the rope suspended from a wooden tripod over the fire, Lash asks the parents of the Boy Scouts how much they know about tying knots.
Lash said that his son, Matt, who was in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts for more than a decaded, arrived at college to find that he was the only guy in his frat house who knew how to cook. Scouting, Lash explains, includes teaching and learning a variety of life skills, from cooking to finances.
When the Scouts go camping, the older Scouts accompany the younger ones on a grocery shopping trip, where they buy everything they will need for their meals. They learn to comparison-shop, figuring out what each item costs per serving, and how many servings to plan for.
Scout leaders push the youngsters to learn new things, to find ways to prepare meals in the great outdoors as good and healthy as they would in their kitchen.
There’s a tendancy among the younger boys to look for the easy options: Hot dogs and Spagettios to warm up in the can. But Scout leaders must approve every menu before each camp-out, and soon the Scouts learn that a hot dog-only menu is going to get a veto before the shopping trip even begins.
“I don’t like Spagettios warmed in a can at home; why would I want to eat it outdoors?” asks Hill, who was an Eagle Scout and is now the father of one. Hill says that Troop 47 has a higher percentage of its members become Eagle Scouts than most other Scout troops.
While the parents sat around the campfire on Saturday, discussing the differences between Cubs Scouts and Boy Scouts, the Scouts were busy in team-building activities. Boy Scout Eli Powers created some challenges for the Boy Scouts to teach their Cub Scout guests. The younger scouts had to crawl through a web of rope without touching any rope, had to work together to figure out how to turn a tarp over while standing on it, and learned the most effective way to toss a rope.
Later, Eli took them on a walk to a sandy area of the Ikes ground, where he taught them basic fire-making skills.
“Leave no trace,” said Eli, as he directed the youngsters to find tinder, kindling and fuel for the fire. He explained that “Leave no trace” includes not using live foilage for fires, but only things that are dead and down. He also showed them the difference between tinder, kindling and fuel, and how to use them to start a fire. It was more challenging then usual, because it had rained overnight and the wind was strong. But eventually the Scouts had a fire going.
Lash said that interest in Scouting continues to slowly decline, although in recent years, the decline has been slower. The main reason for the decline, says Lash, is that there are many more activities and organizations available for youngsters.
Beginning next year, the Cub Scouts will welcome girls; the Boy Scouts will begin accepting females in a few years, as well. It’s too soon to tell says Lash, how adding girls will affect membership numbers.
See more about Troop 47 HERE.
See more photos of the campout daytime activities and the outdoor Thanksgiving meal HERE.