Feral Food: Fantastically Fabulous Fare
My partner Kit and I are food snobs. True, the culinary world tries to put a positive spin on the act of Food Snobbery by calling those that practice the art “Foodies”, but when it comes down to it we’re just really picky about what we put into our muzzles. Living in the San Francisco Bay Area we’re fortunate enough to live within walking distance of dozens of excellent restaurants, offering a staggering array of ethnic and culinary choices. It’s a rare night that Kit and I aren’t left nearly incapacitated in a happy food coma, licking our muzzles and paws clean of any lingering food particle goodness. Preparing for Feral had us nervous, though. We realized that one of the things we hadn’t heard anything about was the food. Well, we thought, we can tough out four days of typical camp food. We expected burgers and dogs, potato salad and chips, cold sandwiches and undoubtedly the ubiquitous S’MORES. And, besides, it sort of goes along with the whole camp experience. How bad could it be, right? Worst case scenario, we’d just pop into town and grab pizza. Nobody (except Germany) can screw up pizza. It’s not like we were going to be in the middle of the Canadian wilderness, hours away from the nearest civilization…
The night we arrived by bus was rainy and chilly, and while a snack of Tim Hortons cookies during the journey helped to stave off the hunger, we were certainly ready for a nice hot meal after helping to unload the camping truck and getting situated into our bunks. We had just finished unpacking when the dinner bell summed us to the main lodge, and imagine our surprise when we were presented with the tantalizing smells of a hot meal, and a restaurant-quality salad bar. (Yes, even though we’re true blue canids, we do enjoy rending leafy greens via fang and claw. Any place that manages to put together a solid salad bar gets major paws up in our book). The fact that the lettuce and various garnishes were in plastic tubs didn’t detract from the freshness, and the variety was astounding. Mushrooms, olives, onions, carrots, different kinds of cheeses…not only that, but pasta salad and bean salad, both freshly made and not too heavy. The great salad bar was a running theme through every lunch and dinner, which made us California canids wag with pleasure. The only thing really missing was the avocado, but we figured it was okay to rough it once in awhile.
The main course itself was also very good, and Kit and I gave each other hopeful looks as we went down the buffet line, noting the tasty, savory potatoes, and freshly-cooked vegetables, enough to make a whole meal in case any camper was a rabbit, mouse, fruit bat (i.e., vegetarian) who didn’t want the roast chicken. And they had bread! Not just white, but also whole wheat, and pitas on some days.
Having achieved a nearly Bay Area worthy Happy Food Daze we walked back to our cabin, giving each other quizzical looks. So, we thought, this is just a welcome dinner, right? Of course they’re going to role out the really tasty stuff the first night, to lull us into a false sense of yummieness. It couldn’t be this good every day, could it? But breakfast the next morning featured hot omelettes and French toast. Good omelettes, too, not the cheap “scrambled eggs that had cheese waved over them” variety you often find in cafeterias. And for lunch, burgers, but not the flat, cardboardy camp burgers you might be thinking of. Fresh ground beef. And a veggie burger. And good buns—you know we’re fans of good buns.
In fact, there was always good bread and a tasty vegetarian option, if you needed it, apart from the salad bar. Not only that, the staff keeps a bowl of fruit out at all times, in case you get peckish during a non-mealtime. And around ten at night, a snack magically appears. One night we had poutine! Though it was cold by the time we got there—that was our fault, though, being so wrapped up in the poetry circle that we waited forty-five minutes before heading back to the dining hall. Still, we were excited to sample this unique Canadian delicacy. Kit was also very pleased to have access to quality coffee pretty much anytime he wanted.
Lastly, of course, there are the desserts. There was a birthday while we were at Feral, which was occasion for delicious chocolate cake and ice cream. That was the highlight, but every night there was a similar sweet treat. One night, the leftover French toast from the morning became a delicious bread pudding, just the sort of creativity you’d expect from a remote camp where you don’t want to waste any food. Kit was particularly fond of that Bread Pudding dessert, going back multiple times (I counted four, even though he swore he only had two servings).
The final Foodie surprise of our Camp Feral experience was that during the ride back to Toronto (via the Camp Feral Bus) we stopped at Weber’s Burgers, the roadside burger which had a line 50 yards … er … meters … long when we stopped for lunch. The line may be imposing, but they move it along fast and it’s totally worth it. The self-drivers also rendez-vous there and there’s one last unofficial Camp Feral meal of big juicy burgers, crispy fries and milk shakes done by the family-owned restaurant. The grill is so successful that the owners have received multiple offers to franchise—but they prefer to remain in their location, spending their money on building up the grill and things like renovating the bathrooms. It’s a fitting capstone to a weekend of great eating.
You’ll burn a lot of calories having fun out at Feral, but you’ll also have a great time replacing them. Even a pair of discriminating California canid food snob … er … Foodies say so!
Kyell Gold, author of gay furry romantica