One of Pemi’s weekly highlights occurs each Monday evening, which is when the most delicious meal is served: Bean Soup. Campers arrive with carved wooden spoons in hand, ready to taste the delicious soup.
If you’ve been to Pemi, you know that Bean Soup is not really food in a traditional sense, although it certainly does provide nourishment. (And campers don’t really arrive with carved wooden spoons, although making the spoons used to be a camp tradition.) For those unfamiliar: Bean Soup is, loosely speaking, the camp’s newspaper, and is read aloud in the Lodge to the entire camp by editors, who sit perched on chairs atop a wooden table, above and in front of the gathered crowd. The editors write a lot of the articles, but also read ones submitted by campers, counselors, and staff. For the record, the whole experience is supposed to be humorous, and frequently, it is. (I’ve heard that the name Bean Soup came about because, in camp’s early years, there was a great deal of real bean soup served in the Mess Hall.)
Bean Soup, like any newspaper, is topical, timely, and provocative. It thrives off of whatever funny thing has happened at camp that week, and proudly shines a spotlight on the person responsible for the funniness. Awards are given each week for the director, camper, staff member and counselor who deserves to be recognized for, usually, something silly that he or she has done. And, in the final serving of Bean Soup, these awards are given out in a serious way to those who have had the greatest contributions over the entire summer.
Each holiday season, a bound edition is mailed out to the camp family. In this sense, Bean Soup serves (no pun intended) as the camp’s history book. It chronicles the funny things at camp that have happened, but also tells of trips, sporting events, and the everyday minutia of a season (the jokes, the weather, the food) that wouldn’t be preserved otherwise. It captures, and helps define, each season’s zeitgeist.
To me, Bean Soup has always been one of my favorite things about Pemi. It’s funny, and on its best days, maintains a balance between the kind of humor that might make a Junior camper laugh and the stuff that might make the back of the room, where the counselors and staff sit, laugh too. Bean Soup is light-hearted, sure, but it’s also a place where important things happen: people are recognized for the good they have done. And all of the best things about Pemi—the great humor, the sense of community, the unselfish spirit—are written down and captured, to be read again, when the camp season has long since ended.