There's a certain type of terror that moves in when one is responsible for feeding 200+ people, and you realize that the food you were going to serve is not available.
That's just what I was feeling early one morning this summer as a fellow staffer and I started breakfast preparations in the camp kitchen where I worked several days each week. During this particular week, the head cook was on vacation and had left the two of us in charge of breakfast each day.
Of course, the menus had all been worked out before he left, and we were assured all the food we needed was in the storeroom, the freezer, and the walk-in cooler. This breakfast menu was biscuits and gravy, a favorite. Two cases of biscuits were to be in the freezer, and all we had to do was lay them out on big baking sheets, and bake them. No problem.
Except that when we got the biscuits out of the freezer, we could find only one case, and it was just half full. There was nowhere near enough biscuits to feed the hungry masses that would be crowding into the dining hall in less than an hour.
Panic was setting in as we searched the storeroom for something to make biscuits. We had no recipe to make them from scratch, and no time to do that even if we had. Twice I combed the shelves but found nothing. The third time I finally located two boxes of baking mix. Quickly scanning the instructions on the box, I knew we could make biscuits.
So that's just what I did, mixing five pounds of baking mix and water at a time in the institutional mixer, then throwing the dough on the counter to knead and roll out. With no biscuit cutter in the kitchen, I cut the biscuits with a drinking glass and laid them out as fast as I could on the baking sheets that went in the oven. By now, campers were setting tables in the dining hall.
Meanwhile the clock was ticking as my co-worker made gravy. We were both tense, yet it seemed like we were going to pull this off.
And, unbelievably, we did. The last sheet of biscuits went in just as the campers and staff came into the dining hall for breakfast. As always, the meal was consumed quickly. And thoroughly. Not a crumb of biscuit was left, but no one went hungry. As I think of it now, it was a bit like the story of fishes and loaves in scripture.
As the crew cleaned the kitchen after breakfast, my young co-worker and I sat down, looked at each other, and smiled tiredly. "You're awesome," she told me. I returned the compliment.
No one except us had any idea how close they came to biscuits and gravy without biscuits.