Having recently gone on one beach trip (Minnesota lakes totally count! There was so a beach!) and looking forward to another very soon with the other side of the family, I got to thinking about how I feel about cooking and cleaning when on vacation and when at home. It’s true that after a week’s stay in a beach house, somebody else comes in and does the typical maid-service cleaning to take care of entropy buildup – I’m not very good at scheduling that sort of chore around all the more interesting things I’d rather be doing! But another part of vacationing like that is meal planning, cooking, and cleanup – somehow doing that part of keeping body and soul together is not nearly so onerous when done at the beach than at home.
For instance, at home I’m likely to consider planning meals and cooking to be a nigh-insurmountable task filled with impossible decisions and a great deal of uncertainty. (Yes, there’s definitely something wrong with me. I think I know what caused it, but blaming family for something that was the best option we had at the time isn’t classy.) I can cook, and I do cook, but very rarely do I find myself enjoying cooking, which is a problem. My emotional state is not properly aligned with reality on the matter of food preparation. Having a surplus of food to eat, as nearly everyone in America does, is something to count as a blessing! My great-grandmothers would be ashamed of me, I’m quite sure.
However, this changes quite a bit on these family vacations, and I’m not entirely sure why or how to capture the effect for daily life. The upcoming beach trip is an in-law tradition in which we plan meals ahead of time and trade dinner- and lunch-making responsibilities between parts of the clan; cleanup tends to be a bit communal, but there’s not much collaboration between elements on the planning stage. During the previous trip, we were only out with one other couple, instead of two more and two adult singles, so we actually did do meals as more of a communally-planned-and-executed endeavor on the fly, rather than planning well in advance in isolation. (The in-law trip would no doubt turn into dinner by committee if we tried it this way, and even in a gigantic NC beach house there’s a limit to how many people you can stuff into one kitchen!)
So I’m riding fairly high on the emotional association of a wonderful vacation with plan-and-execute-dinner, which is helpful since I need to be invested in making good food choices instead of eating whatever is most convenient! I’m tackling the odds and ends that have built up in the freezer, first, which is probably going to last us very well through the first part of September. But after that, I’m seriously going to need to plan things properly! Unfortunately I don’t have family culture/training to fall back on, so I’m going to have to work something up from scratch without a particular tradition to guide me. Google, ho – ugh, choice paralysis. I’m looking for something to guide me, not give me more endless options!
But I think the key will be remembering that meal planning isn’t some drudge chore that you do because you have to (like cleaning toilets!) but something that is a wonderful part of life. It’s a bit harder to remember when it’s just me and J eating together for one meal a day – due to our personalities and schedules, right now we get most of our talking done at other times, so dinner isn’t a big “together” deal the way it is when more people are involved!
And I especially want to get better at this before any hypothetical kids come along. I’m sure logistics get 1000% harder with little ones in tow!