Tag: food

Why I Gained Weight at Camp Newman (a camp food confession)

Salad Bar Smiles

I wish I could say my days at URJ Camp Newman were consumed with bouts of hunger.

I wish I could say that at Camp Newman
there was nothing to eat,
that the food sucked,
that the camp could not accommodate my picky palate,
or that I refused to eat the usual carb-heavy muck that passes for institutional food service.

I wish I could say all that because then I might have lost the extra weight I was supposed to lose to camp.

But None of that Happened
Because the food at Camp Newman is so delicious, nutritious, green, balanced, and plentiful, that I ate too much. And I gained weight.

I tried to be a “good boy.” On the days they served chicken nuggets or grilled cheese, I hit the salad bar instead. I stayed away from the pasta bar that is available at all lunches and dinners. I didn’t make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as many campers do when seeking extra protein.

So Why did I Gain Weight at Camp?

Salad Bar Heaven

Perhaps I piled my plate too high at the salad bar on those days that I decided to forego the main course. Which I did often, because the plentiful salad bar is available twice daily, every day.

Between the fresh lettuce,
cucumbers,
tomatoes,
broccoli,
peas,
corn,
chickpeas,
pinto beans,
tuna fish,
beets,
mushrooms,
hard boiled eggs,
carrots,
3 kinds of fruit,
and a bunch of healthy things that I don’t eat –
oh, and at least 3 kinds of salad dressing plus oil and balsamic vinegar –
this place competes with Fresh Choice restaurants for healthfulness and variety.

Maybe I snacked too much on the fresh fruit, available 24/7. Can one eat too many bananas, apples (delicious and fuji), and oranges?

Chef Tammy Kempner: A Wonder-Worker

Tammy also bakes delicious cookies

According to the campers – and my own experience confirms this – the food is just too darn good! Honestly, I’m not sure how our director of catering, Tammy Kempner, does it. Her background is as a chef and a caterer, with a specialty in mid-eastern and kosher food.

She works in a kitchen designed 25 years ago to churn out 200 plates per meal. Today, without kitchen expansion or upgrades, Tammy prepares 6 sittings totaling 2,800 delicious meals a day. Plus snacks twice daily for 1,400.

In addition to the regular meal, Tammy daily provides meals for people with special dietary needs, including
gluten-free,
kosher,
vegetarian,
vegan,
carb-free,
no soy,
peanut allergic,
dairy-free
(and of course, pasta-tarians).

The Kids Say Great Things About the Food
“There are always options,” said Sydney, an 11th grade Avodahnik from Calabasas, “The peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are always great snacks when I want something extra.”

Fresh Fruit Every Morning

“Camp Newman is the best food in the world. Yesterday, I had chicken, fries and a big plate of salad. Oh, and fruit too. It’s as good as Grandma’s cooking. And you should taste Tammy’s homemade cookies!” said 11 year old Danny.

Jake, a 19 year old counselor from Southern California, kvelled, “Coming from college to Camp Newman is kind of a relief. I don’t need to be innovative with my food anymore. Everything is laid out for us. My campers are excited for the food no matter what meal it is.

The Battle of (my belly) Bulge Continues
Soon enough, I’ll be home to hit the treadmill. I’ll dream about Camp Newman, wearing sandals and shorts all the time, and the Camp Newman Chadar Ochel experience. Good food, lovingly prepared, easily accessible. Yum!

Thank you Tammy (and the whole kitchen crew) for keeping me well fed with the tasty variety of meals you serve daily.

So what’s your favorite camp meal?

Eating without Scarfing

So often we eat so quickly, scarfing down our meal, without taking even a moment to enjoy or contemplate what we are doing. At the Institute for Jewish Spirituality retreats, we enjoy 2 silent meals a day, during which we sit in silence with just our thoughts and our food for company.

Each meal, we set an intention for the dining experience. Sometimes it is just to put the fork down between each bite. Sometimes it is to offer a “thank you” or a “recognition of a blessing” before each bite. Sometimes it is to “taste” the food.

One of my favorite pre-eating meditations is:

As we make ready to eat this food
We remember with gratitude
The people, animals, plants, insects,
Creatures of the sky and sea
Air and water, fire and earth
All turning in the wheel of living and dying
Whose joyful exertion
Not separate from ours
Provides our sustenance this day.

May we with the blessing of this food
Join our hearts
To the one heart of the world
In awareness and love
And may we together with everyone
Realize the path of awakening
And never stop making effort
For the benefit of others. (Norman Fisher)

Triffles are not Trivial


Written by Michelle November and Paul Kipnes on a New Year’s road trip up north.

Five years ago, at the request of our children’s paternal grandparents Papa and Lala, we took our 20%-off coupons to Bed, Bath and Beyond and purchased seven triffle bowls. At the time, we didn’t even know what a truffle was. But Papa and Lala were insistent that this dessert would be the biggest hit of all at our daughter’s Bat Mitzvah oneg (sweets) table.

And they were right who could resist the eye-catching dessert, comprised of layers of cake, pudding, brickle (heath bar crunch), and whipped cream or the same with fruit.

The clear glass bowls which showcased the delectible desserts survived two moves and months being lost in the far corners of the garage. Still, they made their appearance at the Bar/Bat mitzvah celebrations of each of our three children over five years. More significantly, the lasting power of these treats were that they were homemade for these special occasions by grandparents who reside on the other side of the country.

Along with the triffles, came 850 pieces of home baked pastries. Enough pieces to satisfy the sweet tooths of each of the 245 people who attended the service, and still leaving plenty of leftovers. Each child selected his or her favorites from amongst Lala and Papa’s creations: brownies, seven layer cookies, apple strudle, chocolate or cherry rugelach, chocolate-covers chinese noodle “spiders,” and more.

The crown jewel of the evening was the homemade challah, schlepped (lugged) through security on board the plane, all the way from Massachusetts.

Cooking and baking are two of Papa and Lala’s most authentic expressions of love. This baking is all the more appreciated by our children because the baking gene seems to skip our generation on both sides. So our kids get love and sweets regularly from their Cape Cod grandparents.

A sweater hand knitted by grandma might still look funny to the grandchild and they might not wear it But who can resist a sweet bowl of chocolate triffle and a piece of homemade fudge? And besides, the leftovers are delightful and no one complains when they are “forced” to eat a bowl of ice cream covered with crumpled brownies and pastries?

Our cantor sings that at each moment we “are standing on the shoulders of the ones who come before me.” For us, we are grateful that the pastries and triffles will remain sweet memories of the intense involvement of this set of grandparents has in the lives of our children. We are grateful too that our children appreciate it. So that even with a mouthful of fudge, they feel the love and warmth of their Lala and Papa.