I returned to Kansas where I finished up my degree in American Indian History with flying colors and had every intention of taking some time off, before returning to get a law degree. As college came to a close, all I wanted to do was get outta Kansas and go to the woods. I landed my second cooking job at the Voyaguer Outward Bound school in Ely, MN where I was the assistant cook. This job changed the direction of my life, as I became an outdoor enthusiast. I loved living in nature and cooking. I assisted the lovely and talented Lori Nacius, a former Outward Bound instructor who had a torn ACL and couldn't hike. We got along like gangbusters, loving food, and the same music. We played the same Nanci Griffith album almost every day, till the upstairs office people complained.
Outward Bound sported a straight up industrial kitchen complete with walk-in freezer and fridge, Hobart stand mixer, 12 burner Viking and convection ovens. Lori was a hard working woman and had high expectations of food. Disappointed by the crappy bread available from Sysco, Lori determined that we would bake all the bread for the camp, no small undertaking, as we cooked from 30-100 people/day. We also did incredibly insane things like make bagels from scratch for everybody! Lori and I were both vegetarians and the camp was half vegetarian and half carnivore back in 1999. Unless of course bacon was on the menu, then we had to make enough bacon as if there were 100% carnivores. Where I had never eaten bacon, and thus did not swing on BLT day, my fellow bacovores succumbed to the seduction of crisp cured pork flesh every time.
We made awesome vegetarian food, but our meat dishes lacked love. We made hamburgers one night, that looked like overcooked meatballs. Some of the hard core carnivores, when back from being in the field, would offer to make things, ie what we made sucked. We would gladly turn over the cooking of beer boiled brats or burgers on the grill to the ones who loved meat!
Lori was an awesome boss, and she let me experiment with different recipes. This was my first introduction to Molly Katzen's Moosewood cookbook, and we made her hummus recipe every other day. There were several Jewish folks at OB, and one night I got a wild hair to make a traditional shabbat meal for 35, complete with 9 baked chickens, noodle kugel, hand rolled rugalach and challah bread. It was quite an undertaking, and I basically went nuts. It was the first time I really got over my head with some cooking endevor, but it wouldn't be the last. The part that killed me was carving the chickens. I had done it only once before, and one chicken took me an hour, granted it was raw and we were camping in Chaco Canyon with no running water. I just didn't know the anatomy of a chicken coming from a vegetarian household and that yes, in order to cut it up, I had to break their little joints apart. By the fifth chicken I was doing better, but it was a massacre.
By the end of the summer, Lori had to leave for ACL surgery and I was promoted to head cook. After Lori's tutelage, I did a great job and I finished off the season with a good recommendation. I moved back to Kansas and lived with my boyfriend. We were fixing up the upper floors of my flooded out house to live in rent free. We were both super broke and all our extra income went to buying stuff for the house. I made money by tutoring the athletes at KU, but wasn't very happy, in either my relationship, living situation or job. I wanted out of Kansas and I applied and was accepted for a position with AmeriCorps NCCC, which is like a modern version of the Civilian Conservation Corps from the depression era. It is the only residential AmeriCorps program and works to support American communities and I was going to be living in Cecil County (affectionately referred to as "Ceciltucky"), Maryland.