Activities With a Twist


When I was Scoutmaster, our troop instituted a Golden Spoon competition that still remains a favorite annual activity. In the early years, this was basically a chili cook-off with a twist: presentation counted as much as taste.

One year, for example, the winning patrol went with an all-white theme: white chili, sparkling grape juice, and cheesecake (without fruit topping, sadly). White server’s outfits, chef’s hats, and tablecloths added to the fun. For all their trouble, that patrol gained possession of the Golden Spoon (a soup ladle that we’d spray-painted gold). Of course, they also learned something about teamwork and were encouraged in a gentle way to cook something more challenging than hot dogs for dinner.

I tell you all this not because I think you should hold a Golden Spoon competition (although that’s not a bad idea). My point is to demonstrate how adding a simple twist or two to an ordinary activity can make it a highlight of your Scouting year.

For example, just think about camp cookery. Here are just a few twists that you could add to menu planning:

  • Give each patrol a set of random ingredients and challenge them to turn them into a meal. (This, of course, is the idea behind reality cooking shows on TV.)
  • Do nothing but utensil-less cooking (e.g., foil packs) for a weekend.
  • Use nothing but homemade equipment (e.g., tin-can stoves) for a weekend.
  • Have an international weekend, featuring a different country at each meal—and venture beyond Mexico, Italy, and China!
  • Have a progressive dinner during an outing: appetizer at the Wolf Patrol, salad at the Bear Patrol, entrée at the Owl Patrol, and dessert at the Bobcat Patrol.
  • Flip your menu. Make dinner in the morning and breakfast at night.
  • Even though you’re doing “plop” camping at the local state park, using backpacking food all weekend.
  • Hike out to a scenic overlook and cook your dinner there as you watch the sun set.
  • Follow my Scouts’ example and color-code your meals. See which patrol can come up with the whitest, greenest, or reddest menu.

So those are my ideas. I’d love to hear how your troop adds a twist to cooking–or any other activity. The comments section is open.

Need more great troop program ideas? Check out the new edition of The Scoutmaster’s Other Handbook, which is now available in both print and e-book formats at


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