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.

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Kim July 17, 2012 at 8:06 am


Don’t do it! I am a firm believer that kids eat when they are hungry, and a lot less than we would think! Keep giving her the good stuff, and someday she will thank you for not giving her all the junk! LOVE your blog, thanks!

indio July 17, 2012 at 8:23 am


Glad you are getting some fun in the sun time.
Seven children is akin to feeding a basketball team on the move. There’s no time to plan ahead, shop, cook, clean up because there are so many other things that need to be done, like laundry, pick ups and marathon training. Having one child is a totally different story. What works for one mother, doesn’t work for everyone.

Jessie K July 17, 2012 at 3:19 pm


Absolutely! I couldn’t agree more!

Rowan July 17, 2012 at 8:49 am


I’ve been thinking about this lately and contrasting my experience. We had a healthy, mostly sugar free household. I really appreciate that now. I also appreciate my good memories of the junk I got as a special treat. Jello and koolaid at daycare, cheez-whiz on ritz crackers at my best friend’s house, marshmallow cookies at my grandparent’s house. Those wouldn’t be good memories if that stuff was everyday fare for me. And as adult, I rarely eat junk (except for at my MIL’s holiday dinners, where Jello is the best thing served).

Niki July 17, 2012 at 1:32 pm


While my suburban upbringing certainly wouldn’t qualify for Little House on the Prairie status, we grew up on healthy, mostly non-processed foods (although I never ate deer neck as a child). I am not a mother, so take this as you will, but I agree that what works for one mom doesn’t work for all moms. As someone already mentioned, feeding seven is very different than feeding one child.

I will also echo that because I did not eat sugary, processed foods as a child, I am less likely to eat them as an adult. It’s just not something I go to. I think it is a good habit to start as early as possible. I agree that letting June have those treats on special occasions is part of what makes them special!

Jessie K July 17, 2012 at 3:22 pm


What? You haven’t had a deer neck taco? How do you endure? (Har har.) I am completely in agreement about vacation time being a time for “special treats”…junk food! ‘Cause June is not getting it at home, that is for sure.

Niki July 17, 2012 at 3:44 pm


I would eat it in a heartbeat! I have eaten other parts of deer and squirrel (thank you South Carolina)! Plus, I am not sure it’s possible to mess up tacos. And if it is, please don’t tell me how.

Kat July 17, 2012 at 3:12 pm


If you really need to keep single-serving drinks on hand (we keep a handful in the car in the summer) – Capri Sun and Minute Maid both make flavored water pouches that are low in sugar. Keep in mind that June was probably more active with all those kids to play with & increased her consumption accordingly. Keep offering the good stuff – in another year or two she won’t bat an eye at meals and will actually beg for things like Brussel sprouts at the store.

ThomG July 17, 2012 at 3:49 pm


Beg for Brussel Sprouts? Before reaching age 30? I don’t think so…

Jessie K July 17, 2012 at 3:53 pm


I’m with Thom. Would anyone besides a starving man BEG for brussel sprouts? 😉

Paula S. July 17, 2012 at 6:12 pm


I really love brussel sprouts. If they taste bitter to you, my SIL has a trick of draining them, then stirring in a little ordinary yellow mustard with the butter. It removes the bitterness and everyone likes them and asks what IS that sauce!

Kat July 18, 2012 at 7:51 am

I should have clarified – beg for FRESH brussel sprouts at the store. None of those frozen, canned, slimy things we were exposed to as kids. They have to be fresh in order to be good. Cut in half/quarters and saute in butter and a bit of freshly minced garlic. For extra deliciousness, add a handful of chopped uncooked bacon to them while cooking to infuse with a little bacon-y goodness. Both my daughter (5) and my nephew(2) can’t get enough.

Charlotte July 18, 2012 at 11:28 am

Cut in half and roasted in a very hot oven in a hot cast iron pan. You want some black on the outside. They get deliciously sweet (add bacon for even more fun).
On the other end of the spectrum — chiffonade them and saute with garlic and ginger until just bright green and tender.
I love brussells sprouts and my beloved won’t touch them (or most other veggies).

Janelle July 17, 2012 at 4:57 pm


Don’t do it! Stay true to yourself! That high fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated vegetable oil will do her no good. Only bad. But, your friend Colleen and Tom are very blessed and lucky that they have the means to be able to waste food.

Heidi Partin July 18, 2012 at 7:08 am


This piece made me sad on many different levels.

My 17 year old begs for brussel sprouts, specifically roasted brussel sprouts.

Jessie K July 18, 2012 at 9:26 am


You must roast some mean brussel sprouts, Heidi!

Jen September 14, 2012 at 6:27 pm


Oh, Heidi, lighten up

Liz July 18, 2012 at 11:41 am


I’m constantly stressing myself about not wasting food as well and feeding my littleone healthy, well rounded meals. But I just went on vacation and ate easy food and fed my 13 mo. old some special squeeze tube grub and other easy (read: less nutritious) snacks… It felt so good to not worry about those things that fill my everyday life, just for a few days. Enjoy it!! We mamas make life harder for ourselves sometimes.

Jessie K July 18, 2012 at 12:32 pm


I couldn’t agree more!

maria July 18, 2012 at 5:07 pm


You guys are making me dizzy………I ate both junk and really healthy foods as a kid–no one stressed over it. A complete non-issue.

Jen September 14, 2012 at 6:28 pm


Maria, I long to be you! What a good attitude and one I strive to have!! Seriously!

Jane June 10, 2013 at 6:01 pm


Hi Jessie,
My name is Jane and I’m with Dwellable.
I was looking for blogs about Sea Isle City to share on our site and I came across your post…If you’re open to it, shoot me an email at jane(at)dwellable(dot)com.
Hope to hear from you soon!

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