by Karen Nochimowski, Chef-in-Residence
Return to Camp Ramah to teach cooking classes again? Yes, please! It was an absolute thrill to pack my bags, grab my favorite kid-friendly recipes, and set my GPS to Conover again for my third summer. As a repeat instructor, I experienced new thrills while enjoying familiar camp pleasures. In a 2019 newsletter after my first summer teaching at Ramah, I shared my favorite memory. This summer, I enjoyed a repeat on a 10 P.M. walk to the Mitbachon teaching kitchen…
“Of all the delights of spending a week at Camp Ramah, the memory that will be forever etched in my mind took place at 9:30 P.M. on a Saturday night. After my husband and I put our younger boys to sleep, I had left my dark bunk and headed down the stairs in anticipation of a quiet walk to teach a staff cooking class. I expected to encounter a few fireflies and a camper or two at most. Yet, as my eyes adjusted to the twilight, a wondrous sight materialized before me. Hundreds of kids were outside, playing and having the time of their lives. It was as if I had entered a time machine and gone back to a simpler time where kids played outside from morning until evening. Seeing the campers’ smiles and hearing their laughter as they shot baskets and packed the lawn filled my heart with pure joy. Knowing that my son was a part of that happy group overwhelmed me and filled me with gratitude that he was experiencing and embracing the simple joys of life.”
I once again felt the same gratitude and wonder as I did in 2019 (I can’t imagine that hearing those carefree shouts of joy will ever grow old for me!) and now all 3 of my boys are Ramah campers. With a smile on my face, I headed into the kitchen to share my love of cooking with an amazing group of Ramah campers and staff.
My love of cooking started when I was a young girl. Fast forward to now, and I am the creator and curator of recipes for my blog, MommaChef.com. With only six ingredients and six minutes of prep time, families can prepare delicious dishes. My first cookbook, 6-Minute Dinners & More, is coming out this November. If you’re part of a busy family, you will understand the beauty of this formula. In the fall of 2018, I extended my cooking world by opening a soup kitchen on the north side of Chicago – “Momma Chef Soup Kitchen at Congregation KINS.” [Check out my website Mommachef.com. I’d love to see Ramah families come and volunteer.] My work has been featured in numerous publications and online resources, but my favorite work is done face-to-face — cooking with (and for!) my family and friends. That’s why I was so excited to return to camp for another year.
Many people might imagine that “cooking at camp” would be a rustic adventure. This is definitely not the case at Camp Ramah’s state-of-the-art kitchen facility! It is a cooking teacher’s dream come true. Not only is the kitchen beautiful, it is also extremely user-friendly. One thoughtful component is that it is set up to accommodate the needs of gluten-free and dairy-free campers. Separate working stations can be set up to allow campers to prepare their recipes in a place safe from their personal allergen triggers. How cool is that?
I’m thrilled to report that my students – ranging from the ages of Kochavim through the adult staff members – were an absolute pleasure to teach. They are an eager bunch, filled with kindness and respect. Together, we made crepes with various toppings, egg souffles in wonton wrappers, regular and gluten-free banana bread, brioche French toast casserole, cookie pies, chocolate bark with lots of yummy toppings, “Tortizza” pizzas, and other fun creations. It was even a first for me trying and successfully making gluten-free crepes! Whether I was in the kitchen or out about the camp, the enthusiasm of the campers was ever-present.
What a blessing that all my boys have been captured by the simple joys and beauty of this magical camp. Soon, my boys will be looking at their calendar and counting the months until they can return to their home away from home. Thank you, Camp Ramah, for giving my boys – and me! – the rich experience of building friendships and for giving them, as my middle son recently wrote, “the best summer of his life.”