Offers to help the camp cook


Author, Writer, Photographer
I often have people offer to help me cook in camp. Much of the time I try to nicely tell them thanks for the offer, but no thanks. I might hand them a bag of spuds to peel, but that's about it. I'd gladly accept an offer to do the dishes, but I almost never get people who offer to do that.

I am a picky SOB and I've had people ruin my gear trying to help. One guy didn't understand that a Coleman lantern will burn a while after you shut it off. He kept cranking it down harder and harder because it didn't go out right away. He stripped the handle.

People want to help with the meal prep. They use the sharp edge of my Shun chef knives to scrape the cutting board and then rake the cutting edge on the cast iron pans. It makes me more than a bit crazy. I finally solved that problem by going to Goodwill and buying 2 crap knives that I let them use. Then, if they use that 89 cent knife tip to open their beer can I don't have to grab my chest and hit the deck with a coronary.

Cooking in a wall tent kitchen is usually a pretty cramped affair. Turning around to have someone standing right in your way often means someone is going to get burned.

I time all the elements of a meal to come out at the same time. I do things at a certain speed and pace, so when someone offers to do something simple like dice an onion, I get impatient as they stop every few strokes to tell me a story using the Goodwill knife to illustrate. I end up shutting off the heat in a pan while I wait for them to finish a task that takes me less than a minute while I time them with a friggin' calendar.

Especially in the morning during hunting season when I may be up and starting breakfast at 0200 or so, I do things in my routine - start the coffee water I put on the night before while I'm lighting the woodstove. Then grab a pan and get what I need out of the coolers. Turn coffee water off, add coffee, turn back on very, very, low so it doesn't volcano on me. Let it roll while I adjust the damper on the woodstove, shut off the coffee, dump some cold water on it, pour myself a cup and start mixing biscuits or sourdough pancakes or whatever. When I'm working in my sleep depravation mode because I didn't hit the rack the night before until after 2200, anything out of my routine is very bad. I don't even really want anyone talking to me, much less trying to instruct them on how to do something simple like make coffee.

Am I just an old codger set in his ways? Do other people, what's the new term? "Multi-task" better than me? I've seen others do it, and I don't have any idea how they keep it all straight.


zen leecher aka bill w

born to work, forced to fish
Doing dishes for the cook is a very nice thing to do. I had a deer trip about 20 years ago where one of the guys volunteered to cook. It seemed he used every pot, pan and dish to make dinner.


the sultan of swing
I learned many years ago,don't piss off the cook.The camp cook is the person that makes a outing pleasurable. If the food is good it will often make up for the poor hunting or fishing ,as you can't always count on the critters to cooperate. Good grub helps smooth thing over.


Author, Writer, Photographer
I consider myself a pretty even tempered fellow. My friends and kin will attest to that too.

But, like everyone, I have my threshold even if it is pretty high.

I don't get miffed if someone offers to help and I tell them thanks, I got it covered and they accept that and go sit down.

But, this planet is filled with all sorts of folks and some of them ignore what I'm telling them and just start elbowing their way into my space. They are a rarity but I have had a few. Mostly, I just escort them away from my kitchen and firmly tell them "If you want to help, sit here." I may be old but I'm still 6'3" and over 200 lbs. When I get into what my wife calls my "Incredible Hulk" mode, you really don't want to make me angry (wife quotes the TV show -- "You won't like him when he's angry"). My size and demeanor always get my point across and I've never had anyone push it at that point.

Everyone seems to know not to piss off the cook. You could easily end up with a sandwich filled with "cake" (what we call the compressed grain and alfalfa pellets laced with molasses we feed the stock in the backcountry).

My question and reason for this post is to try to get some insight as to why anyone would push it when I tell them "Thanks, I got it covered."

At the end of the day, *ALL* of the people you're guiding/outfitting think you work for them, 'some' of that 'ALL' are going to be arrogant about that, and do whatever they want to.


Well-Known Member

If you're old and have met a lot of people, you already know why some folks try to push it and don't get it when you tell them to "help by watching" as I used to tell my kids when they were little. The reason is simple. Some people are assholes. Figured you knew.



Author, Writer, Photographer
About 12 - 14 weeks a year I cook in the backcountry for guests of an outfitter. I have met all kinds 20 some miles deep in the wilderness.

Many times if someone starts giving me crap, the other guys will step in.

Example: One guy was complaining about my macadamia/chocolate chip cookies. He said they weren't bad but he counted the number of chocolate chips in each of those in his lunch and they had a different number of chips in each. When the other guys figured out he wasn't kidding, they gave him endless grief and started calling him Ginger. I had to suppress a laugh.

I've seen the trophy wife scenario. One wore these skin tight designer jeans. After 22 miles in the saddle on a 100 degree day her lady parts were raw as a gutted salmon. (No, not my personal observation or wordds, but that of a very sweet 60 something lady who stepped in to help.) After a few days of applying Bagbalm and wearing an extra pair of my Wranglers she looked and walked like a 90 year old bag lady. It pretty much took the Princess out of her.



Ignored Member
Trapper, I can offer no advice but, please keep telling the stories of your wilderness trips. They are priceless. The trophy wife story had me laughing out loud.


Active Member
You have a routine. It messes with our game plan when others are involved. The reason some people persist to help you, is due to the fact that your job of cooking is alot of work and they understand the time it takes to make things right. They just want to help and dont know they are actually hindering your performance. IMO.


Author, Writer, Photographer
You have a routine. It messes with our game plan when others are involved.
I think you're right. The difference is in wilderness camp everything takes a lot longer. If you want light, you have to fill a lantern with fuel, pump it up, and light it. If you want water, you grab a couple of buckets and hike down to the creek and back. If you want hot water you have to make it. Etc. People who cook in their own kitchen don't understand this. Something simple like softening butter to them means putting it in the microwave. Many people wonder why we don't have a generator. The rules for wilderness areas prohibit it and besides I'd rather not listen to that noise.

Over the years I've figured out what works and what doesn't when cooking for 15 people in a wall tent. I do things a certain way for a reason. For the most part, people who haven't done it don't understand why I don't do it the way they do at home so they ask why they can't have pureed fava bean with the trout they caught and killed.