Chow Time

A comfort dinner of spaghetti, garlic and cheese bread, salad bar and homemade apple crisp dessert is always served the first night to ease the transition for new campers. The last lunch is usually pizza, salad bar and fresh fruit. “I want them to leave thinking of a good meal,” she says.

To entice the kids into eating more fruit, Nelson will cut up pineapple, cantaloupe and kiwi and add them to pudding. A favorite is banana pudding and mixed fruit. She will also prepare apple churros or her signature homemade apple crisp.

There is no pop machine at the camp, and the canteen limits ice cream treats to one per camper per day.

To appreciate the hard work done in the kitchen, counselors-in-training are required to work there. “It’s hard work, and the director will often use kitchen duty to evaluate staff members who wish to return,” says Nelson.

She is excited about a program the camp hopes to start no later than next summer–a greenhouse and elective gardening program for campers. It will be fun for the children to grow and eat their own produce.

She shares the following tips:

1. Look for nutritional bang for your buck. Although the camp participates in the government’s Summer Food Program, she shies away from food that has a high percentage of the filler TVP.

2. Look for breads and cereals that are vitamin-fortified.

3. Learn about special needs from Web sites and vendors. She especially likes, Sysco Food Services and Reinhart Food Service.

4. Use variety, variety, variety!

5. Buy fresh, not processed food.

6. Look for foods with “all natural” ingredients–they are better quality.

Camp Young Judaea Midwest

Pam Pabelick will most certainly agree with Nelson’s #6–it describes kosher food to eat! She eats kosher, even when not at camp. The meat is a better quality and has no additives or preservatives. After nine years in a kosher kitchen, cooking with separate dishes and silverware for meats and dairy has become second nature. Not cooking on Saturday, yet having good meals is no longer a challenge. Meals are baked and not fried–a definite health advantage.

“Our kids (about 225 per session) eat like any other camp kids, she says … only the food is prepared and served separately.” For instance, she will serve casseroles, but they will be vegetable and meat casseroles. If she serves lasagna, it is meatless. But regardless of what she serves, it is never repeated in the same session.

As the oldest member of the staff, Pabelick is known as “Grandma” and says she makes a “pretty good Jew.” The Shabbat services have become the highlight of her week, and she loves to listen to the children sing and watch them dance. As with Camp Gray, the faith of the children is an integral part of the camp experience. “It’s a joy to watch the kids grow up,” she says. Most come every year. “I love them all,” says Camp Grandma, who chooses to spend 16-hour days at camp.

Pabelick’s charges eat a lot. Because of the expense of kosher foods, her budget is roughly $5 per child per meal. “I always stay under budget because I only make homemade foods,” she says. That may be why some kids say they eat better at camp than at home!

Breakfast may include scrambled eggs, cereal, oatmeal, potatoes, homemade muffins or cinnamon rolls and, once a week, bagels. A favorite lunch is grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup, but you can also find tacos, sloppy Joes and BBQ beef on the menu. Dinners are not served until 6:45 p.m. and are the heartiest meal of the day. Snacks are served around 5 p.m. to help the starving campers make it to dinner. Dessert is always served and always homemade. “The kids expect dessert, and they get it,” says Pabelick.

Like Nelson, Pabelick always has fruit available and a salad bar at the lunch and dinner meals. She adds to the “always” list cookies and juice. Milk is only served with breakfast because of kosher requirements. She provides for special dietary needs, and like Nelson, the first and last meals of the camp session are comfort foods and specialty dinners.

Pabelick offers the kids some interesting options. She will have a theme day once a week, such as Mexican Day or Chinese Day. Toward the end of each session, the counselors develop a theme for the closing banquet, and the dining hall is decorated accordingly, and food follows suit. For the International banquet, Pabelick prepared foods from eight different countries!

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