Help me plan camp food for a big, tipsy, crowd.
June 6, 2014 5:10 AM   Subscribe

I’m organizing an event in early July and I need help figuring out the easiest way to provide five meals to 70 to 90 people at a campground. Our location is booked- it’s a great campground with showers and bathrooms and a pavilion and a fire pit. Our planning is moving along nicely, but but as with previous years, food is the challenge. Details follow:

We need to serve five meals: Friday dinner, all three meals Saturday, and Sunday breakfast. There are six of us manning an event that 70 to 90 people will attend. Lunch is easy, Sunday breakfast is probably easy, it’s dinners and Saturday breakfast are the troublesome ones.

Friday dinner is often grilling burgers and the like. People roll in to camp over the course of afternoon and evening, so there’s not just one time to serve a meal. We’re planning on doing the same again, since we can keep meat and vegetarian option cool that long easy enough. However, we have one fewer grill this year, and it's always a bummer to be chained to a grill on the first night. So, I’ll take whatever other suggestions you have.

Saturday is the hangoveryest meal of the weekend, and something hot and greasy would be best. We’ll definitely have sacks of bagels and cheese. I liked the idea of boil in a bag omelets but the other folks managing this with me are less sure and expressed worry about boiling plastic.

Saturday is the day when the most action happens. We’ll spend the afternoon on a long hike, and people will start pouring beer as soon as we’re back to camp, so dinner needs to be substantial and plentiful. I’m at a loss for this meal right now. Previous years with other organizers have had a half dozen borrowed crockpots of chili (I'm not sure we can borrow that many), pasta, a huge amount of pre-made falafel (organized by someone with access to a restaurant kitchen) kabobs (also restaurant kitchen) and just another night of grilling.

The campground is easily car accessible, there’s one small room with a tiny fridge and tiny stove, one grill, an electrical outlet in the pavilion and a fire pit. The tiny stove is certainly not a big enough kitchen to even heat up food enough for that many people and the tiny refrigerator isn’t big enough for more than our coffee cream.

We might be able to get another grill or two out to the location, and previous organizers of this event have done a pretty good job at borrowing things like slow cookers and electric griddles from the attendees in the past, so we could put out word again, if needed. We also have access to plenty of coolers.

We will have vegetarians and at least one gluten-free attendee.

Our budget is not huge- though I don’t have the exact number yet. We’ll have enough to buy whatever we need, but not enough to hire someone to cater the event. (We did last year thanks to an inferior, but much cheaper location)

So, Metafilter, what can you suggest for easy ways to feed this many people, given the restrictions of food storage, heating, and the fact that everyone- including those of us running the event- will be a little drunk the entire time? I’ll take recipes, suggestions, places to look, ideas, anecdotes or anything else you’ve got.
posted by The Man from Lardfork to Food & Drink (6 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
For Friday, I'd do a big pasta salad dressed with vinaigrette, along with the grilling.

The freezer is your friend for Saturday, as anything frozen will be thawed by Saturday and if kept in coolers should be fine, in fact, big hunks of frozen stuff should keep your other food cold. So you can do chili, stew, spaghetti, etc. Or a big tuna salad, made with giant cans of tuna and a fresh mayo, relish, celery, etc.

Eggs can be left at room temperature, for a day or two and they'll be fine, so if you want to do a big egg scramble on Saturday and Sunday, you can.

Weirdly, the precooked bacon is shelf stabile, so you can have bacon both days.

Cheeses will be fine if you can keep them at room temp

Fruit, chips, crackers, trail mix should round out your offerings.

Have fun!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:19 AM on June 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Hi! I cook for 75-150 drunk people at a big camp at Burning Man every year. Here's a sample menu from years past:

Spaghetti and Red Sauce, Sautéed Vegetables, Bread and Salad
Meat & Veggie Tacos with a Corn and Cucumber Salad
Baked Beans and Franks served with a cole slaw salad
Quinoa and Bean Stew, grilled Chicken Thighs, Corn Chips and a Salad
Mexican chicken and rice served with black beans and fixings
Chicken or Tofu w/ Black Bean Sauce, Veggie Fried Rice served with a Cabbage salad with an Almond/Soy Sauce dressing
Mac and Cheese, fried chicken and grilled tempeh with buffalo sauce on side, salad. (gluten/vegan pasta option)
Chili night: Vegetarian non-spicy, vegetarian spicy and a chicken spicy all served with a big tossed salad

The #1 rule is, preparation is your best friend. If you can make any of the stews/rice in advance and then just freezer-bag 'em up to the camp site, you can then just unload them into the re-heating receptacle of your choice and be on your way within the hour. Sauces are easy because you can buy them premade in glass jars or cans or bottles. Salad is always optional but, again, make in advance or purchase in bulk. You could even pre-grill the chicken if you're feeling super-anxious about time constraints. Have fun!
posted by mykescipark at 5:49 AM on June 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

At least one meal could be beans and rice. Add sausage, onions, peppers, etc. You can cook most of it in one pot, over a fire or in a dutch oven. A large steel pot in a hole lined with hot coals and stones. It is hard to over cook it.

You can bring dry beans and rice, smoked sausage, and bell peppers, onions, and garlic. None of it needs to be refrigerated.
posted by seanfkennedy at 6:41 AM on June 6, 2014

For Friday, I'd consider a massive pot of chili or stew in a 5-gal stockpot (borrow from a homebrewer); possibly bring it to camp already made. Set the pot over the fire, and just stir occasionally - it'll be hot and ready whenever anybody wants it, and you won't be spending your first great-to-see-you-again evening chained to the grill.
posted by aimedwander at 7:19 AM on June 6, 2014

Would people feel better about cooking omlets in zip lock bags if you said they where sous vide? I'm mostly joking, but wanted to highlight that water baths are a cooking techniques that has been popular in commercial kitchens for decades and is becoming an increasingly popular option at home.

If you do go this route the water does not need to be boiling. 167F should do it.
posted by phil at 8:26 AM on June 6, 2014

For Saturday, I would do tipsy beans and rice:

- Homemade vegetarian baked beans
- Rice
- Grilled sausages
- Cheap whiskey (for people to spike their beans)
- rolls

It is cheap, you can premake it, it can be either veggie or not, you can serve a mountain of it, and it is fun (drunky and campy).
posted by Spurious at 6:46 PM on June 6, 2014

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