When it comes to summer activities, I generally try to engage my kids in the process and send them to camps that interest them. This year, for example, tech camp, lifeguard camp, and a family performing arts camp took up most of the summer. But every once in a while, I pick something for somewhat self-centered reasons, which is how my 11-year old daughter ended up at a week-long cooking camp at Paulding & Company.
That’s not to say that she wasn’t interested—she’s always liked puttering around in the kitchen. But how could any parent (except maybe one with a diabetic child) possibly pass up a camp that promised to “seek out the best desserts from around the world” and “indulge ourselves in the sugary wonders of the world”? To deprive my daughter of a week-long sugar rush—and myself of tasty treats–seemed almost cruel. (A momentary flash of guilt was relieved by the fact that the camp would also provide “a full and balanced lunch” every day.)
Fortunately (was there any doubt?), my daughter was completely on board. And, boy, did Paulding & Company deliver.
The young dessert makers were all between 9 and 16, and were divided, by age, into three groups. Each of those groups was further divided into smaller groups of two or three. Every day started pretty much the same—with hand washing (always a good idea), followed by getting a recipe (one for each small group), and gathering all the ingredients. Then the kids got their pastry chef on. At the end of the day, after sampling everything all of the groups had made, the kids washed up the dishes and utensils they’d used, and restored the enormous restaurant kitchen to its sparkling glory.
I have to say that my daughter and I were both surprised that they had to do KP, after all, if it’s a dessert camp, shouldn’t they be cooking all day? But I thought back to the horseback riding lessons I took at a camp when I was her age, and I remember being shocked that we had to brush the horses, use a special hook to pick the dirt out of their hooves, and shovel out a few stalls. I learned then exactly what my daughter learned—and I was reminded of—now: for those of us without servants, cleaning up is part of the deal.
Okay, back to camp….
On the first day, I sent my daughter with an empty plastic container so she could bring me some samples. Much to my disappointment, she returned empty handed. Apparently the kids had eaten that days wares: churros, jelly doughnuts, and chocolate cream cake. The next few days were better, and I had a chance to sample scones, éclairs, bon-bons, fruit- and berry pies, flan, coconut cake, and chocolate-covered bacon (despite being a vegetarian, I couldn’t resist a small bite). Everything was absolutely amazing. (I didn’t try the coconut cake, Turkish delight, or coffee ice cream, but I assume that to anyone who likes those things, they were no less amazing.)
However, as good as those tiny samples were, nothing could have prepared me for the final presentation/celebration on Friday afternoon. The desserts those kids (remember, all of them were 16 or younger) had created, were as beautiful to look at as anything I saw in any of the patisseries I visited during the year+ I lived in Paris.
I didn’t get a chance to sample any of the lunches the kids had, but when my daughter comes back raving about Italian spring rolls with walnut pesto; kale, zucchini, and cucumber patties, and sticky rice–words I’m pretty sure she’s never spoken before–I know they must have been great.
The rest of the summer has been completely crazy, so my daughter hasn’t had the time to whip me up a special batch of jelly donuts or a peach-and-strawberry pie. But I’ve been working out a little extra every day to allow for the calorie blast I’m going to get when she does.
Paulding & Company is located in Emeryville, California. You can find out about their many year-round programs, including baking, cooking, catering, and even corporate team-building at http://pauldingandco.com/cook