Over the last two days, Rick and his friends in the Rockbrook kitchen, have been preparing a special treat for us, and today we all enjoyed it. You may be able to tell from this photo, but the treat was authentic homemade, completely from scratch, tamales. A tamale is an ancient, traditional Mesoamerican dish made from finely ground corn, lime, oil and stock combined into a paste, spread into a corn husk with meats or peppers as fillings, and then cooked by steaming.
Each one requires the masa (corn dough) and filling be combined and rolled in the corn husk by hand. But it doesn’t stop there. In addition, the chicken used for the filling is first roasted an shredded off the bone, but then combined with a homemade Guajillo chili sauce, which gives it a bright red color. They also made a green variety using tomatillos, serrano peppers, onion and garlic. For the vegetarians, they steamed a cheese and Ancho chili pepper variety. Can you see why this took two days, especially when almost 700 tamales needed to be made? And the results… Unbelievably delicious. Certainly many of the girls and a few of the counselors had never before tasted a treat like this, but like many of the “firsts” experienced around here— first ride on a zip line, first time shooting a gun, first time cantering a horse —camp is a great place to give it a try. There’s just the right amount of encouragement and “positive peer pressure” to give hesitant girls a little nudge outside of their routine, to challenge their assumptions.
Naturally, at a camp like Rockbrook, with almost 30 different activities and a special event or surprise planned almost everyday, the opportunities for first experiences are diverse and abundant. The girls here can do some amazing stuff, and even if they’ve already felt the chill of Sliding Rock in Pisgah, climbed a real rock using those amazing “sticky” shoes, or enjoyed a long-range mountain view after hiking a steep trail to a rock cliff, for example, it will be a first for them to do it with these people, with this all-girl group of comfortable friends. The same is true for throwing their first pot on the wheel, seeing beautiful cloth take shape off their loom, learning the “trick” to a one-handed cartwheel. There are so many examples! A girl’s experience at camp is a treasury of firsts that she’ll hold dear for many years to come.
It’s significant, too, that this special place for first experiences, this close-knit camp community defined by respect and cooperation, makes it easy to feel successful, and thereby fosters girls’ self-esteem. We’ve written before about the link between success and self-esteem at camp, so please take a look. There’s the good feeling of discovering a hidden talent when you first try something, a sense of personal achievement, but there’s also success to be found in general “social competence,” and in being included in group endeavors. Since so many of the firsts at camp happen in this positive social setting, they tend to be far less frightening. Knowing that you’ll be supported no matter what individual outcome occurs, seeing other girls laugh and enjoy unfamiliar activities, really helps make any first experience a success and thereby a real boost to a girl’s growing self-esteem.
Our twilight activity tonight was everyone’s favorite, a shaving cream fight down on the grassy sports field. It began with everyone interested (like all twilight activities, it was optional), dressed in their swimsuits, lining up along one side of the field. On the other side, we scattered about 120 cans of plain shaving cream. At the signal, everyone ran to grab a can and then to let their foam fly. Complete mayhem ensued, and in about 30 seconds, everyone had shaving cream on their backs, stomachs and in their hair. That’s basically the point of it, like this photo shows so well; it’s to sneak up on your friends and mischievously “get them” with the white foam. And oh what big fun this is! It almost feels a little naughty to spray people, but it’s also pretty hilarious to do. We also pulled out the slip-n-slide for a now extra slippery ride. With everyone basically covered, in some cases completely covered, and all the shaving cream cans emptied, we rinsed off a bit under the hoses and headed up to camp for a warm shower. Another first at camp? Perhaps, but certainly a good one too.