Nine years ago, I decided to go to a sleepaway camp. Like many other ten-year-olds, the second I got there, I hated it. If you told me that I would still be at camp nine years later as a counselor, I would have laughed in your face. I had no idea what everyone was talking about that first Sunday as I heard murmurs of the "Three C's," but now I wait eagerly each week for “Chipwiches, Chapel, and Campfire” to roll around. As a lot of people like to explain it, I drank the Kool-Aid.

I arrived at camp on a Saturday and wrote home on Sunday to tell my parents I wanted to come home. That same night, I sat down at the dining hall table I was assigned to and tried my very first chipwich. If you have never tried one before, a chipwich is simply two chocolate chip cookies with ice cream in the middle and it is amazing.

chocolate, cookie, cake, sweet
Lila Dolan

As the chipwiches made their way around the table, I was not only introduced to the "chipwich silence" (the silence that occurs as many happy campers bite into their cookies), but I was also introduced to a camp culture that was intertwined within it. 

For some strange reason, these girls were convinced that chipwiches tasted genuinely better when you were eating them side-by-side a table of happy camp-loving people. And they were right.

Midway through the first week, I showed my dining hall table how to eat an orange single-handedly with a spoon. That same night, after all the orange peel covered plates were cleared, a tray of chocolate peanut bars appeared on the table. 

At camp, we call this simple but happy dessert a "Congo Bar." At any other place beside the camp dining table, I would bet these don’t taste nearly as good because after I bit into that first Congo Bar, I immediately began counting down the days till the next one. 

chocolate, candy, milk, sweet, fudge
Sarah T. Spalding

The days came and went, I sang a song about liverwurst, learned how to shoot an arrow, and my new close friend Emily and I picked our favorite spot to sit and look at the lake.

It was getting towards the end of the session when the last of great camp desserts appeared on the table. I have always been far too fond of chocolate, but whoever thought to melt it over dried udon noodles was clearly after my heart. They called them “spiders” at camp, and the second the counselor at my table spotted them, the biggest smile spread across her face.

chocolate, tea, coffee, sweet, candy
Sarah T. Spalding

There is something quite special about that first Sunday at camp, and I suppose all those nights of camp desserts, and I didn’t quite realize what it was till one of my campers named Juliette tried her first chipwich.

Juliette was ten years old, the same age I was my first year. She was also a camper in Cabin 7, my first cabin as a camper and the cabin I had now lived in as a staff for two and a half summers. Juliette was fairly teary those first few days, as I was, but lucky for me, she sat right beside me at the dining hall table and I would sit next to her as she bit into her first camp chipwich.

Those next few weeks, she would make a whole cabin of friends and try things she had never done. While my co-staff and I were there to catch her if she fell, she was really doing it all on her own. She was becoming her own and one day she might sit at a table with a first year camper and ask them if they’ve ever had a Congo Bar, and when they say no, she’ll probably smile real wide too.

cookie, hamburger, bread
Lila Dolan

I don't know exactly how to explain it, but dessert just tastes better when you are eating it with a whole bunch of people who share the same love, kindness, and experiences as you. Dessert tastes better at camp.