It’s astonishing what can happen on vacation. Two days ago I found myself asking what day it was – on Monday of a weeklong trip that started on Saturday. This is unprecedented. Typically, my uncertainty about the day is a sure sign that I have “vacated;” I have become untethered from my everyday life enough to truly rest in some way. It’s interesting that this trip is the one that has made me fell so rested so quickly. We are a large group. We are a noisy group. We are a diverse group in terms of our vacation wants and wishes. We accommodate one another, to be sure, but I don’t think that’s what is doing it.
I think part of my relaxation stems from being with a group of people who will NOT ask me why I won’t let my kids have cupcakes for lunch every day, or how I could possibly give up fast food, or why I would bother to cook from scratch when there’s so much good food already made in the stores. I am in my home food community. I am not subjected to TV ads, radio ads, bulletin boards for stuff I shouldn’t, and don’t particularly want, to eat. The beach that I’m visiting has no boardwalk, and therefore no french fries (for which I admit an overwhelming weakness), cotton candy (which I find repulsive), or any of hundreds of non-food items for sale just steps away from your towel. For our merry band, beach snacking is not about a tasty treat you can only get at the beach, but about grabbing a bite between dipping your feet in the ocean, playing a quick game of football, and digging for sand puppies and shells.
For us, snacking on the beach looks merely like a more portable version of snacking at home. It’s not a bag of chips (although I admit that I do love chips); it’s not a bunch of juice boxes and a package of cookies. It’s a handful of items (some a little salty, some a little sweet) that might actually stand a chance of nourishing the weary sandcastle builder. A box of Triscuits (Big Sis and I giggled to discover we had both brought MANY Triscuits with us for just this purpose), a mess of almonds, and a container of pecans and raisins. To drink? Cold water. Yes, we are on vacation. Yes, that means it should be special. To me, this has come to mean that I should not have to end the day feeling sick from eating everything I’ve ever craved or move toward bedtime resenting my children for having their 10th meltdown of the day when their sugar induced highs come to an abrupt end. Sitting with this group and watching our children snack on this pristine beach, I’ve been thinking a lot about snacking and how snacks, perhaps more than any other category of foods seem to have left the purpose of nourishment behind altogether.
Our snacks are supposed to be tasty, a treat, delicious, creamy, gooey, colorful, salty-fatty good; if they are for kids, they are also supposed to be fun, silly, packaged individually, strewn with characters from movies and television shows, and downright entertaining to eat. Good grief. What if a snack was just a snack? What if a snack was simply a small amount of food that kept you reasonably satisfied until the next meal? What if we began to think of our snacks as nourishment rather than seeing them as entertainment?
On our beach outing, my daughter expressed an objection to the snacks I had available (shocker); I pointed out to her that we were not at home and that my beach bag is not a restaurant. This is what I have; these are your options (only a slight variation from my usual snack time response to picky eater grief). “Choose one so you can finish up and we can look for shells.” And she did. A handful of almonds, two crackers and a couple of glugs of water later, we returned to our oceanside fun. Nourished, refreshed, and ready for plenty more family beach business, which really is the point, isn’t it?