Wednesday, July 18, 2012


I have just returned from a one-day camping trip to Unity, ME. I haven't done a lot of camping in my day -- prior to this, my last camping trip back in 2007 to the Berkshires only differed from normal life in that my friends and I drank beers in a tent as opposed to someone's living room. We didn't hike, swim, or fish. We ate a lot of marshmellows and listened to music from a wireless ipod dock. It wasn't really roughing it; we were at a camping site, so there were even public restrooms nearby. It's not really camping if you don't urinate outside, in my opinion. And by that standard, this recent trip definitely qualifies.

I journeyed to the northern reaches of the northern-most state in the union to take part in the annual staff trip at the restaurant where I work, Lineage. Every year we close the restaurant for a day in order to partake in some morale building/staff bonding (and binge drinking). In years past, we've gone to Duxbury, MA to visit Island Creek's oyster farm. This year we went to Sparrow Arc Farm (after a quick stop at the Smuttynose Brewery in Portsmouth, NH) to see where most of our produce comes from. We toured the farm, learned about their methods, and actually got to pick some vegetables (summer squash, cucumbers, carrots) for dinner. 

I ate a raw radish right out of the ground and swore never to go hungry again. Well, the first half of that is true.

 As is tradition, the kitchen staff prepared a truly epic feast. We brought with us, via refrigerated truck, an entire small pig to roast. We also brought about two dozen lobsters.

And two cases of wine (Elk Cove pinot gris and pinot noir) and 24 six-packs of beer. We always budget 1 six-pack and a bottle of wine per person, roughly. And we always manage to consume it all, this time plus a few vodka-infused watermelons. After the farm tour/labor portion of the trip, we spent the next eight hours playing lawn games (our chef has a real knack for the beanbag tossing game, Cornhole), throwing water balloons, getting sunburned, snacking, drinking, and relaxing. It was, even for a non-outdoorsy person such as myself, fantastic. I know I complain sometimes on this blog about the trials and thankless tribulations of waiting tables, but the staff I have gotten to work with for the past 2.5 years couldn't be better. We truly get along famously even outside of work. Only two people were not able to come this year (record attendance) and one person even invented a fictional uncle death in order to get out of her day job to come.

I don't know whose tent I eventually ended up in, but I did manage to get in a few hours of sleep -- it started raining around 11:30 pm and after it stopped, I was too tired to rally. In my defense, we met at the restaurant at 6 am in order to get on the road and be at camp by noon. When I woke up at 2:45 am to pee, many people were still around the campfire arguing about Disney movies and using pie-irons to make hotdog sandwiches. And at 7 am this morning, we cleaned and packed and hit the road again. I fortunately don't have to work tonight, but to my comrades-in-arms working on little to no sleep: finish strong.

"Finish strong" is one of our staff sayings, coined by our chef. Every year on the staff trip, we get some sort of memoriabilia. Last year, we got shirts bearing another great chef quote: "Less force, more finesse," which is his advice to newbie oyster shuckers. This year we got beer koozies that say "What happens in Maine stays in Maine." And in order to honor that sentiment, I will wrap things up by saying that a great time was had by all, and thankfully no one had to use the established safe word (waffles). And since a reporter from the Boston Globe witnessed part of the adventure, certain events will soon be made public. (Luckily he left right before one of the cooks decided to semi-streak across a field wearing nothing but this thong.)

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