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

By: Rabbi Paul Kipnes

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 at 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?

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

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.”

“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?

 

Find more by Rabbi Paul Kipnes on his personal blog here.

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