In Repose

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?

Taking It On The Road…

So we’ve got a trip coming up and I’m excited. Really, I am. But I must admit that in the face of travel, I am not simply the gung-ho type. The overplanner in me gets a real workout and I usually take on some massive house or garden project that simply must be finished before we leave about 2 days before we go. I am FIGHTING the urge to do this with every fiber of my neurotic being. I am instead trying to stay very clear on what actually needs to be done, what should get done, and what would be nice to complete. For this trip, which will include a total of about 24 hours of driving (divided into four 6 hour jaunts or two 6’s and a twelve if we can keep everyone from jumping out of the windows) give or take the need to run around a bit, one of the things that needs to get done is a little thinking about food. Shocker, I know.

Road Trip Friends

We have found over the course of many car trips that while we are okay with letting our media restricted kids be digitally entertained at great length in the car, if we choose the same relaxed attitude on food, the trip becomes difficult, if not unbearable, for all of us. So… a little planning. When we take a road trip, I use two small insulated bags. I usually put lunch items in one and snack items in the other just to make moving them in or out of reach as we pack a little easier. For lunch items I’ll pack sandwiches, yogurt, some vegetables, and sometimes a travel container of milk for the little ones. It’s amazing, but if you slap a straw on the outside, they think it’s awesome. So still no juice, but pretty big joy. If we are unable to find a place to stop and picnic or if it’s WAY cold, we’ll stop at a fast food place that has a playground inside. Mom and Dad will get coffee, we’ll let the kids play while we drink our coffee and then lunch gets eaten in the car. The children are surprisingly amenable to this arrangement.  And they really are fine with eating food I prepare for them, especially if I try to choose their more favored options and include something we don’t have ALL the time, like put the sandwich on a bagel or in a wrap instead of on really grainy healthy bread that they endure but do not relish.  “WooHoo!  Mom didn’t use Ezekial bread today…”

For snacks I am definitely of the more is more philosophy when on a car trip. Fresh fruit, crackers, pretzels, cheese, nuts, olives, grape or cherry tomatoes, carrots, hummus, pitas. I always try include something they won’t expect. I think this time we’ll do popcorn with maybe some homemade granola mixed in to go with the copious movie watching that will be going on… Car joy! I usually smuggle away some very small piece of chocolate to spring on them when/if the time seems right. More car joy!

I usually throw all these bits together the morning we leave as I am snooty and don’t like soggy sandwiches. Sure, we could stop somewhere and save me that 20 minutes, but I know I will feel better the WHOLE day if I limit my road purchases to coffee and water when our command center supply runs out. I also know I won’t arrive at my destination, where I’m supposed to be having fun, already kind of bloated and greasy from road food. Now don’t get me wrong. We will stop and eat from time to time. There is a roadside barbecue stand between Richmond and Norfolk that gets us every time we’re over that way. But that is a CHOICE we are making, not food we are purchasing because this is the place that was on the exit that we had to take because she has to pee and he’s having a sugar crash, and Mommy’s cell phone keeps ringing from the back of the car. Calgon, take me away, or just remind me to pack the little coolers for the trip, even if I don’t feel like it.

So as you’re reading this, think of our van of insanity barreling down the highway, with the sounds of How To Train Your Dragon playing for the 8 millionth time, but with happy tummies and full wallets.  THAT is a good trip.


  • 5 c popcorn, lightly salted (I don’t recommend butter as it will soggify everything)
  • 4 c granola (such as this)
  • 2 c almonds
  • 2 c low sugar cereal
  • 2 c dried fruit

I recommend mixing the granola, almonds, and dried fruit in a large bowl first.  Then add the cereal and popcorn and gently mix with your hands.   You’ll notice that this makes an ENORMOUS amount of GORP, so best prepared for a group, or divided in half.  Delish.