Avram Pachter, Head Chef

Avram watching over the staff Iron Chef competition

Avram watching over the staff Iron Chef competition

Here at Ramah in the Rockies we take our food very seriously. Whether the various ingredients come to us via farm to table or farm to store to table, we strive to “lift the veil” on everything we do in the kitchen so our chalutzim and tzevet (staff) can be more informed in making their future food decisions.

For us this means starting with as much local and organic fare as possible while also staying within budget. Often there are questions about why some things we serve are organic, but others that could be are not. The simple answer is that the prices of organic foods sometimes mean that we are unable to serve as much as we would like. But our chalutzim do not stop there and want to know more. We teach about the differences between organic and semi-organic, how these choices help our planet, and why they may impact our final decision on what to have available on our camp menus.

We serve a predominately vegetarian diet instead of one filled with large quantities of animal protein which lets us introduce alternative protein sources such as quinoa and tofu (complete proteins), or lentils and seitan (incomplete proteins). When meat or fish is on the menu, our choices include sustainable tilapia direct from Quixotic Farming in Southern Colorado. In addition to providing a low cost option for increased variety in our meals, sourcing our fish from Quixotic supports their program teaching job skills to assist the rehabilitation of prison inmates. In this way our kitchen enables our camp community to perform the highest level of tzedakah as outlined by Maimonides – strengthening another’s hand until that person is no longer dependent upon others.

Challah Baking“Lifting the veil” does not stop here. It continues with understanding how the kitchen runs. Every Friday afternoon we have some of our chalutzim helping with the Shabbat dinner preparations – rolling and braiding challah, setting the tables, cleaning the ohel ochel (dining tent). Our oldest edah is invited to volunteer for shtifat kaylim (dish pit), and learn first-hand how much work goes into cleaning all the dishes, utensils, and cooking equipment for a camp meal. Everyone learns how to work together quickly and efficiently. Then, our campers are guided on a tour of the kitchen, to see where things are stored and why it’s important that everything is put away in its proper place. Sometimes there are special surprises from the Head Chef!

And what would camp be without peulot (activities) involving food? One of the favorites is Iron Chef. The chalutzim are divided into groups to compete in creating the best-tasting and best-looking dish from a selection of random ingredients. Teamwork, complementing flavors, and time management are the take-away lessons. A big bonus was our kitchen staff including one of the winning creations as a new addition to the lunch menu offerings for everyone to enjoy.

Through all these and other activities, our camp community appreciates the difficult choices and hard work necessary to provide an interesting and nutritious menu each day.

This past summer our camp grew in a number of ways not just the size of our staff and the number of chalutzim [campers].  We also improv
ed and expanded several of our basecamp activities, particularly our farm program.

One of the first things our chalutzim both noticed was that our dilapidated “Red Shed” in the middle of camp had been given new life as our goat barn. We have spent a lot of time and effort making the farm program a central part of camp, both in activities and location.
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Our goal is simple and significant: for our chalutzim to experience the garden and animals every day in their walks between their activities and the chadar ochel. Two years ago, we created a new garden in the center of camp. This summer, we moved our goats into a newly refurbished loafing shed. Our ducks and chickens also relocated to their new homes alongside the garden and migrash. We hope to continue this expansion in the years ahead.

Two of our goats this summer were newborn, so in their honor we held a naming ceremony.
Chalutzim in Metaylim (5th/6th grade) named the kids “Chalav” [Milk] and “Dvash” [Honey]. If you missed the video from the naming, here it is:

Campers participating in our farm program do more than caring for our many animals; they also plant and harvest our garden and greenhouse produce. This year we began harvesting items from our garden nearly four weeks earlier than last year, giving our chalutzim a chance to experience “farm to table” in the most literal sense of the expression.

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One of the ways our campers gained firsthand knowledge of this connection was  Ilanot’s (3rd/4th grade) farm masa. In a single day they learned how to milk the goats, make goat cheese, and cook their lunches all with produce from the farm.  That night, our chalutzim camped under the stars, surrounded by the comforting sounds from our farm.

We are proud of our tzevet chava [farm staff] who worked tirelessly to bring our food values to the forefront this summer. Our chalutzim and tzevet all benefitted from the integration of our friendly goats, ducks, alpacas, and chickens to the heart of our camp!

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