Raise your hand if you plan vacations around food.
Keep it raised if you don’t think that’s a problem.
If your hand isn’t raised, don’t keep reading. It’ll just make the rest of us feel bad.
This is standard behavior for the Anderson family. We don’t always choose our trip locations for the food, but we do always spend our vacation days planning, shopping, and cooking our meals.
For the many years Maggy lived in England, we’d start MONTHS before her trips home, planning out all the meals we were going to eat, the restaurants we’d visit, all the things we were going to bake, and of course, the wines and cocktails we were going to drink.
Two years later, when I was studying abroad in Greece and completely broke, my roommate and I picked the islands we were going to visit based solely on the one restaurant worth spending our precious little money on. (When my Mom found out I was only eating one major meal every three days, she shook her head and thanked me for not telling her until I got back.)
Last summer, on the first day of our family vacation, we sat out on the beach meticulously planning each meal for the next seven days. And when we’d planned and shopped for everything—and ostensibly there was nothing left to plan—we’d talk half the day about who was going to make what, when cocktail hour was going to start, and what we were going to make for my birthday dinner (one month away).
This year, I am on vacation with Tony’s family. I was ecstatic to receive an email before we even left that assured me our first stop off the plane would be a local farmer’s market. These are folks who make a habit of traveling with their own cookware and who lugged a 3-liter bottle of awesome Cabernet from Ohio to South Carolina. Happily, the conversation during late morning beach hours runs to “What’s for dinner?!” (Yes, exactly my kind of people!)
The one downside of cooking on vacation—whether it’s Canada, Florida, France, or South Carolina—is the rental kitchen gamble. When you rent a house, you have to put some faith in humanity and hope that the people who own the place know that cooking requires knives other than the kind you spread butter or cut steak with, and that not all skillets should be nonstick, and that a food processor (no matter how small) is much appreciated.
Like many of the houses I’ve rented with my family over the years, the house we’re in this week is beautiful, but somewhat less well endowed in the kitchen department. But, there is something fun about culinary “camping.” There is a sense of adrenaline and McGyver-like creativity that comes with cooking without good knives, or mixing bowls, or a wide-range of cutting boards…and, of course, not knowing where anything is.
Last night, when Tony and I were making dinner for the family, the expensive hamburger buns were dangerously close to burning under the broiler while I was running around trying to find the one single potholder. Anthony was making gazpacho in a blender that smelled like coconut rum. I was cutting all the produce with a steak knife. And we made pasta salad in a plastic punch bowl.
All in all, though, the meal was great—or at least every one said so. The texture of the gazpacho, the presence of a giant punch bowl on the table, and the slightly over-toasted buns didn’t give anyone pause. Hey, we’re on vacation. Who cares if we have to wash the dishes with a balled up rag, since there is no sponge to be found?