Traverse City Record-Eagle

Feature Columnists

October 10, 2013

Foodie with Family: Nothing warms cold day like vegan chili

There is an event that my older boys look forward to every year. This event is attended by more than 125 teens — boys and girls — who come clad in their least favorite clothing. Long sleeves and pants are recommended; closed toe shoes are required.Why do they do this curious thing?

Because they are about to spend an hour and a half split into two teams running around a muddy field playing the most massive and intense game of capture the flag I’ve ever seen complete with arm bands, inflatable toys, and an incomprehensible set of rules. We live in a very rural area, so getting that many kids in one place for one purpose is no mean feat. In fact, about half of the participants are international students at the local boarding school.

This year one of my boys aged up into the youth group that participates. Was he pumped about being in middle school? Nah. Was he excited to be in the big kids’ youth group? Mildly. What had him most thrilled and dominated his conversation was Storm the Heights. He strategized, he plotted, he and his friends laid out game plans that included immense amounts of caffeine and sugary treats loaded with food coloring to make themselves hyper.

It’s hard to describe just how much enthusiasm is attached to this event by local kids. I’ve tried to figure out the appeal. After all, these kids are getting pummeled by each other, they’re trampled, they’re elbowed, they’re covered in mud from head to toe. My eldest ended up with a black eye he didn’t even remember acquiring.

I figure a little parent-sanctioned risk is a good thing. Kids are natural thrill seekers anyway, so providing a structured setting for being a bunch of wildcats (complete with an EMT on site- HALLELUJAH!) is an outlet for the kids’ biological urge to be nutso.

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