Chewonki, the legendarily sustainable Wiscasset camp, goes way beyond “The Parent Trap” style of summer camp: During the school year, it offers a semester-long academic program for high school students. You’ll never guess how many meals chef de (camp) cuisine Bill Edgerton puts out for Chewonki staff and students. OK, we’ll tell you: 80,000 meals a year, a quarter of which are served just in July. Source talked brown bread, pigs and picky eaters with Edgerton, who, like the rest of the Chewonki staff, is starting the yearlong celebration of the camp’s 100th year in the outdoor fun and education business.

GETTING THE JOB: Edgerton grew up in Portland and spent summers in Boothbay, but until he applied for a job at Chewonki he’d never been there. “I had driven by and seen the sign I don’t know how many times, but I really knew nothing about it.” He’d worked at restaurants in Vermont and in Maine (the former Lawnmere Inn in Boothbay), but he’d never cooked for campers before. The job description, whipping up home-cooked meals for 50 to 100 people a day, appealed to him. He took the job around Halloween 2005 and hasn’t looked back.

DOWN ON (AND WITH) THE FARM: Chewonki has its own farm, and campers – including the Semester School students – often help out. And we’re not talking picking a few carrots; Chewonki kids are serious participants in raising the food they eat, whether they are tapping maples in the spring or raising chickens. It falls to Edgerton to turn that produce, meat and dairy into breakfast, lunch and dinner. Thus harvest season is particularly intense in the kitchen. “We get what the farm has,” Edgerton said. “And we need to use it up or preserve it, one way or other.” Right now he’s busy processing tomatoes and stocking the root cellar.

HOW WAS THE TOMATO CROP? No blight on Chewonki’s tomatoes, thanks in part to a new high tunnel in the garden. Edgerton said the crop was bigger than he expected. “We got well over a thousand pounds,” he said. So is he making sauce by the gallon? “At this point we just cook it down by about half and puree it in the blender and freeze it as is,” he said. “That way it doesn’t have any more flavoring and that makes it flexible to use.”

THE LARDER: Chewonki has a root cellar under the kitchen, which stays at about 38 degrees year-round. “We are just starting to fill that up with the vegetables from our own farm,” Edgerton said. Once he gets all those tucked away, he’ll figure out what to buy to get through the winter and into mid-May. “We may need to get a few hundred pounds of carrots or beets. And maybe a few thousand pounds of potatoes.”

HOW DO YOU HANDLE PICKY EATERS? Chewonki serves family style – bowls of roasted vegetables, meats, breads, salads and always a vegetarian option. “With family style they don’t usually come up and say, ‘Oh my gosh. I can’t eat any of this. I hate it all,'” Edgerton said. The staff encourages the children to at least try everything. “Meals are so important here just from a cultural and community sort of standpoint, I think that most of the kids sort of embrace the food,” he said.

NO, SERIOUSLY. Peanut butter and jelly isn’t the default (blame allergies), but there is one: “There is always toast and sunflower seed butter available,” Edgerton said. And there are comfort foods in the weekly rotation. “They are always happy to see pizza on the menu, of course.” And macaroni and cheese. Not Annie’s brand, either. “We make a big enough deal about the food here that they come to not expect a boxed mac and cheese.” And made with ingredients the campers have already interacted with twice, first on the farm and then in a kitchen class: “I get kids in here that will have milked the cow and maybe we’ll be making cheese out of the milk.” Chewonki pasteurizes its own milk (“We’re essentially a micro-dairy,” Edgerton said).

TRY THIS: “We did a dinner the other night that was sort of Acadian,” Edgerton said. Baked beans, pickled beets, ployes, creton (the pork spread). The whole thing was introduced by a teacher who is Québécois. Edgerton wasn’t sure the spread would be popular, but it was. “We really enjoy doing things like that,” he said. “It’s more than a meal, really.”

FREE-FORM BAKING: Edgerton makes a killer brown bread, soft and sweet but seriously healthy. But don’t ask for the recipe. “I have made a ton of bread in my life,” he said. “I can take a bowl of water and yeast and start putting things in there and usually come up with a pretty decent bread.”

CHALLENGES: Edgerton serves on the Food Action Committee, which is drawing up a food philosophy for Chewonki. A real challenge is figuring out how to send the kids doing wilderness experience programs away with more fresh or homemade/grown foods. Another is buying less, even though Edgerton’s shopping list isn’t all that extensive (sugar, flour, honey, baking powder, lemon juice, frozen peas and fresh fruit are regularly on the list). “We’d like to produce as much as we can here,” Edgerton said. To wit, they’ve just planted apple trees, and this year are raising winter pigs for the first time. But his kitchen is unlikely to ever be 100 percent self-sustaining. “I just don’t think we could do it, especially with the cleared land that we have now. We are maxed out as far as gardens and raising land.”

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