By Darryl Alder
Feb 20, 2016

Why Scouts Need to Fry Pickles and Oreos

I was at the University of Scouting learning from John Gilbert the how and why of cooking these two items. But before I tell you how, let me tell you about the circumstance.

fried pickles 2There were two sessions of about 20 each, so John divided them into patrol sized groups. In minutes, they were working in teams rolling pickles in cornstarch, buttermilk and cornmeal, others were heating oil on a camp stove in a dutch oven, and the last group was making pancake batter.

It was teamwork at it best and showed just how well the patrol method works for Scouters too. Then they started to fry and the coordinated effort on the groups really showed. Someone was dipping, others frying or watching for just the perfect golden brown crispiness, cooling and serving their wares. I didn’t stick around for the Oreos, but I heard they are amazing. However, the pickles were something unbelievable: just barely warmed in the center, crunchy-hard on the outside and that delicious cornmeal and pickle flavor you get when you make a tortilla-chip-pickle-sandwich, but warm!

fried pickles 4As we enjoyed these unusual treats John talked about the patrol method and how trying new things helps boys grow. He touched on cooperative problem solving and strengthening self-confidence. I’ll elaborate below, but promise to give you these two amazing recipes from John’s “the Modern Dutch Oven Field Guide” near the end.

So Why Teach Scouts to Cook?

In  her article “Cooking for Families,” asserts that “cooking with kids is one of the most valuable family activities you can engage in together. Here’s why: Cooking brings families together. Cooking time is bonding time. When you cook together, kids feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves. They feel responsible, because you are trusting them…”

Webelos Den & Fire

Even a Webelos den can take away character through responsible cleanup

I believe that for Scouting too and it proves itself over and over again in outdoor cooking. First of all it challenges Scouts with problem solving situations, that when met, build individual confidence, but in a patrol that expands to include others, building cooperation, service to each other, teaching responsibility, and quorums unity and capacity to work together.

This goes on as the group eats together as a quorum. It gives time for free chatter and fellowship, you will not often stimulate in the Sunday classroom. In fact, try this teaching moment with your Scouts: after the blessing on the food, you start eating and things settle a little, ask your youth to reflect on mealtimes the Savior may have enjoyed. Ask:

  • After walking and teaching all day, was Jesus hungry and tired?
  • Did he enjoy the company he had a mealtimes?
  • Will it be like that on your mission?
  • Why will learning to cook help you be ready for your mission? for life?
  • When someone in the patrol (team or crew) doesn’t cook like your mom, can complaining be helpful? How does complaining affect others in the quorum?
  • What about a mission companion that wasn’t a Scout and who can’t cook, what will you do then?
  • Would you have liked to spend 40 days and nights with Jesus fasting and praying to get ready for your mission? How good would this food taste then?
  • What if Jesus was here and this was his last supper. What would the sacrament mean to you if Jesus was the one blessing the bread and wine?

You could just use one bullet or all, or make up your own, but mealtime, like the end of day can be a good time for spiritual thoughts (somehting like a Scouter’s minute), is a great time for reflection, especially if you are using the Come, Follow Me  curriculum. When you tie Sunday lessons to outdoor settings you can have profound effects on a boy’s own ability to reflect and ponder.

Scouts eatingIt’s really ashame that many Scout leaders don’t know the magic of meal preparation and that cooking around a fire builds quorum brotherhood and strengthens patrol spirit. Worse, at summer camp, some Scouters feel they need to cook for the boys so the Scouts have more “class time.”

Being outdoors, away from home, cooking and doing other chores, is Scouting’s class time. It is a place to build character, citizenship and fitness. Cooking can do all that. When away from home it is  an important quorum task. One that helps make them behave more responsibly, relieves you as the Scout leader of some of the burden of preparing and worrying about feeding the group. But most off all, cooking allows your Scouts to relax and share things about what’s going on in their lives—you’re even libel to learn a lot more about a thirteen year’s old problems as they prepare and cook food. It always allow snatural discussions to occur.

In Gallagher’s article cited above she explains:

  • Cooking builds self esteem and confidence, “When kids can say, ‘I made it myself.’ They feel a sense of accomplishment. When people like what they cooked, they feel a sense of pride and achievement.”
  • Cooking makes kids more willing to try new foods. When Scouts cook a new food thier mom has not introduced before, they are more likely to eat it—or at least try it. The patrol may not eat all of it, but over time, they will get used to the idea of their own Scout cooking
  • Cooking is a Scout STEM activity
    • It teaches kids math skills. It seems pretty simple to reinforce classroom math with “everything from fractions (is a 1/2 cup bigger than a 1/4 cup?) to temperatures (what makes broiling hotter than baking) to geometry (what is a 13 x 9 pan).”
    • Cooking teaches kids chemistry skills. For example, Gallagher told this: “The first time I made s’mores brownies, my five-year-old asked what was on top of the brownies.”‘Marshmallows,’ I replied.
      “‘But where do you get the brown ones?’ she wanted to know.
      “Then we made a batch together. She put the soft, fluffy white marshmallows on top. Then we put them under the broiler for a minute-and-a-half. Voila! Brown marshmallows!
      “Chemistry at the kindergarten level. Bet you didn’t realize baking brownies could do that, did you?”
  • Cooking teaches kids reading skills.  “We read to learn, and cooking is one of the best ways to show kids that reading offers tangible results. Following step-by-step instructions to get to a finished result is an important reading skill, and using that skill to cook shows kids that reading has very practical benefits.”
  • When kids cook they learn about the origins of food. Part of cooking is shopping and menu planning. To be a First Class Scout you “Help plan a patrol menu for one campout that includes at least one breakfast, one lunch, and one dinner, and that requires cooking at least two of the meals. Tell how the menu includes the foods from the MyPlate food guide or the current USDA nutrition model and meets nutritional needs.

Skills of planning and problem Solving

To become a First Class Scout, a boy has to plan a menu and based on that menu make a list showing the cost and food amounts needed to feed three or more boys and secure the ingredients. He has to tell which pans, utensils, and other gear will be needed to cook and serve the meals. He has to explain the  safe food handling and  how to properly dispose of camp garbage, cans, plastic containers, and other trash. Finally on one campout, he has to serve as your patrol’s cook, supervising his assistant(s) in using a stove or building a cooking fire and preparing the breakfast, lunch, and dinner he planned. And not to forget the finally requirement is to “lead your patrol in saying grace at the meals and supervise cleanup.”

cooking merit badgeMore challenging, the new Cooking Merit Badge, which became Eagle-required in January 2014, Scouts will prepare meals using the MyPlate food guide, understand and explain food allergies, and learn about cooking food indoors. They learn a lot more about food safety and good food handling practices, how to read label, and different methods of cooking (baking, boiling, pan frying, simmering, steaming, microwaving, and grilling). Menu planning will expand to three full days of meals (three breakfasts, three lunches, and three dinners) plus one dessert, shopping for those foods and using several methods to cook them.

On top of that a Scout has plan a menu for trail hiking or backpacking that includes one breakfast, one lunch, one dinner, and one snack. These meals cannot require refrigeration and are for three to five people (including the Scout).

The requirements conclude with learning about three career opportunities in cooking. Scouts select one and find out the education, training, and experience required for this profession to discuss it with their counselor.

Deep-fried Oreos

Fried oreoThis is a great recipe for using leftover pancake batter.

Fill a Dutch oven with only a couple of inches of oil. Heat to 375°. Dip the Oreos in the pancake batter using a fork or tongs. Gently place them in the oil two or three at a time. When they float to the surface (this won’t take more than a moment), flip them and allow the other side to cook until done. These cook fast, so don’t walk away,

Place them on a paper towel lined plate, cool, sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve

Deep-fried Pickles

1 quart dill pickles sliced into quartered spears
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup cornstarch
2 cups plain corn meal
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon seasoning such as paprika, Italian seasoning seasoning. ranch dressing powder etc.

Place enough oil in a 12 inch Dutch oven to a  2 inch depth. Place over medium high heat and bring to 375–400° heat.

Remove the pickles from their brine and slice into quarter-like spears. Allow to drain on paper towels.

Put cornstarch in a shallow dish. Place the buttermilk in another dish along side the cornstarch> Mix the cornmeal and other seasonings in a separate dish.  Roll each pickle, one at a time, first into the cornstarch, then the buttermilk, then the cornmeal. Repeat the buttermilk and the cornmeal,

Gently place each spear into the hot oil and cook until golden brown, approximately 2 minutes. You can fry 3 to 4 pickles in at a time by adjusting the heat in order to maintain a constant temperature.

Transfer the pickles to a paper towel lined plate. Allow to cool for five minutes before eating. Season with additional salt if desired.

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