Last year, I applied to be the camp cook and ended up planting.
This year, I intended to go back to plant, but ended up signing on as the cook.
I am surprised about the amount of internal conflict I felt making the decision to cook instead of plant. Unlike planting, which is paid per tree you insert into the ground (with varying degrees of success and difficulty) cooking is a set wage for the contract. There are no rainy block days, walking 5km into a new block with a soaked partial weighing you down. No falling into swamps, no pushing buses out of muddy ditches, no sinking thigh-high into peat bogs, no sitting hopelessly at the side of a logging road while your crew-boss tries to find the piece of land you’re supposed to be planting. No frozen tree pods, no soggy PB&J sandwiches, no digging shitter holes.
Easy choice, right?
No. Because cooking also means no walk-ins while making up your own Hinterland Who’s Who (remember those?) about the Tree Planter.
“The Tree Planter appears here in his native habitat, the clear-cut block. He subsists mainly off of peanut butter and jam sandwiches. He is a fearsome creature who can move at great speeds. Nobody really understands how he is so fit and yet subsists mainly off of cigarettes and tall-boys of Pabst.”
No bitching about a day on the block, no comparing numbers, no sleeping on the side of the road after a rough day. Less socializing, a little less camaraderie. But, on the base level of playing to my strengths, it appeals to me. The teeny tiny voice of pragmatism that exists in me knows this is the right choice. A paragraph on the ol’ cooking resume, an opportunity to learn and expand my skill set, to commit a bit more of my life to one skill and one job instead of branching out, yet again. If I can bang out a several hundred cover service from a kitchen the size of a Buick, I can bang out 3 meals a day for camp from a schoolbus converted into a de-facto kitchen and vice versa. Also, all day access to electrical outlets! It was a constant battle last year to charge your devices, fighting over 4 outlets on the shower trailer between 80+ people.
And besides that, I’ve been struck with the idea of ‘The Tree Plant Cook Book’, a book of recipes from bush camp interspersed with stories and photos.