An environmentalist to my core, I tend to notice the use of disposable plates that are piled into landfills, the bowl of Washington apples when New York produces its own, the summer fruit salad in January and the typical plate of pasta at events – the only vegetarian option available. Needless to say, I’ve learned to travel with granola bars.
But this past weekend I was one of an intimate crowd gathered at Eden Village Camp for the Green Zionist Alliance’s fourth annual Green Israel Summit. This was my third weekend program at Eden Village – the brand new Jewish summer camp and retreat center that has sustaining the Earth at its core. Each time I visit, I’m content to see an organization that carries its values into its actions.
Though our conversations were generally focused on responses to the mega-challenges such as food justice, global climate change, Zionism and a sustainable Israel, we saw the power and potential of individual actions within our weekend community. It was made clear by the parade of food from the kitchen. Each meal was good for the earth, the workers (farmers and chef) and us – the consumers. They were small, delicious actions that modeled the possibilities of a lived sustainable ideal.
The food we consumed was primarily vegan, organic and local whenever possible, reducing the “food miles” and the associated carbon emissions. Most of the produce came literally from the farms next door to Eden Village. Some participants/panelists (namely, Jonathan Dubinsky) who brought greens and hot peppers from Teva Learning Center’s farm on Long Island, came with their harvest to share with the community. And on Sunday, the GIS participants participated in 350.org’s 10/10/10 day of Global Climate Action by getting close to the ground to both plant and harvest the season’s crops.
Farmers weren’t the only ones involved with getting the food to our tables. In the dining hall, we got to know Michael, the tattooed Queens native chef for whom words like [cholent] (https://forward.com/articles/103368/) now casually roll off his tongue after working at Eden Village’s camp this summer. He said coming back to the to cook for the conference was like a “return home.”
Some of my favorites food items from the weekend:
Organic quinoa salad that was dotted with red peppers grown approximately 200 feet from the kitchen.
Organic, artisanal challah made by Bread Alone in the nearby Catskills mountain range with homemade techina, spiced with dill and other wonders from the farm.
No-waste vegan chocolate banana pudding with tofu. Hazon’s New York Jewish Environmental Bike Ride stopped through Eden Village and we donated our leftover bananas to the camp. Though Eden Village doesn’t purchase bananas – it’s better to use than to waste! - they froze the tropical treats, making for a delicious Shabbat dessert!
And no experience at a camp – be it with campers or activists – would be complete without a Saturday night campfire. But what are vegans to roast? Even the standard Kosher marshmallows have fish gelatin. Fortunately, the organizers of the GZA were able to find vegan marshmallows! I was seriously concerned that they would not puff and brown as marshmallows must – but they met the needs of the marshmallow purists and s’more devotees alike.
With the goals of engaging, challenging and action-provoking discourse, provided nourishment for the body, soul and intellect, accomplished the weekend was a valuable lived lesson on sustainable, nourishing eating.
Liore Milgrom-Elcott is Chief of Staff at Hazon and is devoted to the arts of backyard gardening and home-style cooking.