Vacation food for thought

by Jessie K on July 16, 2012

June and I took a few days off to refresh and recharge. We headed up to Sea Isle City, New Jersey to spend some quality time with my old friends Colleen and Tom and their brood of seven at their beach house. Yes, seven.  Not seven dogs.  Not seven parakeets.  Seven children.  Seven amazing, hilarious, smart (and stylish!) children who range in age from 16 to 2.  I’ve blogged about Colleen before but every time I spend time with her and her family I come away with new insight into life and into parenting.

One of the biggest things I came away with this time is that Colleen really does think Jake and I live like Little House on the Prairie. Ha!  I guess we kinda do.  I eat a wedge of cheese and two hard boiled eggs every day for lunch.  It’ll be like 104 degrees outside and I still won’t turn on the AC.  June had never eaten a donut or a bag of Fritos or Teddy Grahams or Kraft macaroni and cheese before this weekend. And you know that she has never eaten more or better than in these last two days.

I mean, look at this child.  Rocking out with her Capri Sun and Teddy Grahams. She looks like a little old man who retired to Boca seventeen years ago and eats what he damn well pleases, thank you.

The realization that my friend may think I come from a more wholesome, dorky era came to me this morning as I rifled through a bag of stale bagels on the counter. You see, Colleen’s family has a daily ritual of strolling over to the neighborhood bakery and stocking up on fresh bagels, donughts and crumb cake in the mornings while on vacation, whether yesterday’s baked goods have been consumed or not. That, like, blows my mind. I’ve been known to eat deer neck tacos because the thought of throwing out perfectly good deer neck is like sacrilege to me.  (And yes, “perfectly good deer neck” is an oxymoron.)

As I peered into the bag of day old bagels naturally I couldn’t help but wonder what sort of gruel I might be able to make with the leftovers — bagel casserole? Bagel soup? Maybe a bagel sculpture of some sort? Food for Solha? Food for the chickens!

“What do you do with all this leftover bread?” I asked Colleen as she wiped mouths and cleaned crumbs from the counter.

“I don’t know, somebody always ends up eating them,” she said, then looked at me as if reading my thoughts. “We waste a lot of food in this family, Jessie.”

Busted. I stepped away from the day old bagels.

See, food in a family this size is a moving target — it always has to be there, it always has to be plentiful and a parent doesn’t have time (or truly, the inclination) to obsess over whether the leftovers are being adequately repurposed. Something to bear in mind the next time I find myself agonizing over a sandwich made from three day old pot roast we both know June is  not going to touch anyway.   Sometimes it’s just easier to give her the Go-Gurt…especially on vacation.

This week I’m stocking up on juice boxes and squeezable apple sauce.

Colleen responds to some of the comments below:  “Please understand I am 1,000 miles from home entertaining our children, family and friends (18 people) on some days.  We don’t go out for donuts at home. I still serve the kids mac and cheese but we do have a bit more sensible and fresh diet at home. Secondly, the point of vacation is to spend quality time with my kids. I am choosing to not be in the kitchen or laundry room like I am at home all the time.  So while we are wasteful on vacation, I do recycle, I do serve left overs. I do shop and cook in bulk.”

So I guess the point is, if you’re going to ease up on stringent food rules, vacation is the time to do it and not feel guilty about it.

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