Those the camp buses have rolled back into town. (Didn’t they just leave? Wasn’t it yesterday that all the trunks were being packed?) It’s been a while since I’ve packed and unpacked those trunks, but the memories are still vivid.
When my eldest went to camp, the first time, I taped a sheet of paper to the inside of the trunk listing all the items packed so he could remember to repack them once camp was over. What was I thinking? Would he actually look at that list? And more importantly, would I actually want most of that stuff to make it home?
My husband Jerry, on the other hand, never unpacked most of his clothing. His mom took him to the Lower East Side and bought at least two dozen identical shirts, half in green, half in blue, with a penguin emblem on them. No need to unpack them all, so at least 18 of them remained in the original plastic bags safely tucked away in his trunk, along with his Shabbos stockings (socks), his straps (belts), and the almost floor-length cushy bathrobe that Tante Ruchel bought for him especially for his first summer at camp. And let’s not forget the “walking” shorts that his mom thought was appropriate for a nice young Jewish boy to wear. There would be no “short” shorts for him! She didn’t quite understand how some boys (everyone in camp except for Jerry and his bother) wore those little shorts, even to play basketball in.
If he wanted to wear dungarees (tangerines as his mom would call them, or “jeans” as they are called today) he had to borrow them from friends who had American parents. Children who had European parents had a wardrobe that included wool dress pants, shorts with pleats that came past the knees, and socks that reached up to the knees.
The first year that my son came back from camp, I had him bring his trunk into my living room. I wasn’t prepared. I opened it and quickly closed it before the clothes would walk out on their own. After I took a deep breath, I began the chore of going through and throwing out much of the socks. (I couldn’t even bend them.) Much of the bedding was spotless as he never changed his sheets or pillowcases. I put four pillowcases on each pillow and four quilt covers on his quilt and told him to remove one each week and send them to the laundry. On the fourth Sunday, visiting day, I would put them back on again for the second half of the summer. I must have repeated this at least five times on the way to the bus the day he left. His dad turned to me and said, “I think he knows what to do at this point.” PS: On visiting day, there were four pillowcases on each pillow and four quilt covers on his quilt. He looked at me and said, “Oh, I didn’t know there were four of each and that I was supposed to take them off each week.” He did remember, however, exactly where all the snacks and spending money was.
Best part after hugging the kids, was having them shower, and then heading out to a restaurant for dinner as a family once again. For those of you who don’t feel like going out for dinner, here’s my healthy version of Fung Wong Gai that I loved at Shmulka Bernstein’s way back when.
Stuffed Chicken Breasts
6 boneless chicken cutlets sliced in half so that you have 12 pieces
3/4 cup Jason’s flavored bread crumbs mixed with 3/4 cup corn flake crumbs, in a shallow bowl
5 egg whites and one egg yolk in a shallow bowl mixed with one teaspoon of garlic powder, and salt and pepper to taste.
¼ cup of canola oil
12 lean slices of corned beef or pastrami
Put 2 slices of pastrami or corned beef, or one of each on 6 of the chicken halves, and place the remaining chicken halves on top. Dip each of the 6 breasts in the egg mixture then gently place in the bread crumbs to coat both sides, being careful not to lose any of the meat.
After all the cutlets are filled and coated, pour enough canola oil in a frying pan to coat the bottom. When oil is hot, place each piece in and fry for one minute on each side just to crisp the outside. Transfer to a baking pan and place in 350 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes.
2 onions cut into thin pieces
2 red peppers cut into chunks
10 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced into quarters
3 zucchinis sliced in half and cut into 1 inch pieces
Pam cooking spray
LaChoy Teryiaki Marinade Suace
You can choose any vegetables that you like. I tend to use different veggies each time.
Heat another frying pan and coat generously with Pam. When pan is hot, add the onions and sauté for a few minutes, then add some hot water and cook till the water evaporates. Add more Pam and add the other vegetables. When they are almost ready add 1 tablespoon of teriyaki sauce, and sauté another minute longer.
Set vegetables on individual plates. Cut each cutlet in two pieces and place them on top of each plate.
This column first appeared in 2012.