The Camps : THE COOKHOUSE
Nitinat camp cook at breakfast time
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The guthammer's clang called the loggers to their chow. The cookhouse or hashhouse was busy place. Food preparation in the steamy, noisy kitchen began at 3 in the morning and could continue until well into the evening. After each meal clean dishes were stacked on the long dinning room tables in front of each logger's place. Each logger laid claim to his spot at the table and woe to anyone else who sat in it.
Camp food was legendary - a day in the woods could fuel a mighty appetite! Some men became known for the speed with which they ate, and would consume a gigantic meal in ten minutes! Good food attracted the best workers, and the cook, known to some as the Mulligan Mixer, was one of the most important employees in the camp. Bad food was not tolerated - there was a commotion at one BC camp in 1978 when the loggers felt there was not enough shrimp in the shrimp salad!
Good cooks could demand the same salary as a faller, the best paid of the logging crew. They were expected to supervise the cookhouse workers: for a logging crew of 500 men, there would be a cookhouse crew of 17. Bull cooks peeled hundreds of kilograms of potatoes, washed dishes and did other odd jobs such as chopping wood for the stoves. Flunkies carried trays of food to the tables. Keeping a good cook was a difficult job as other camps would steal the cooks and their recipes with the lure of better pay and conditions.
Good table manners were always expected in the cookhouse. One logger tells a tale of a man who was preparing his lunch at the buffet. As he piled pieces of cold meat onto a large sandwich with his dirty hands, the logger next to him drove a fork into the back of his hand, and said "Here, use this."
Caycuse Kitchen Crew
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Like the bunkhouses, cookhouses were racially segregated. Chinese, Sikh and Japanese workers would prepare their own meals, but many loggers were enticed by the wonderful smells and would head over to sample a good curry or some hot Chinese tea from their co-workers.