On Vacation: Let it Be

Our little family is enjoying our annual sojourn at Lake Tahoe, a blissful summer week of sun and water and outdoor grilling.  My husband and I have been making this pilgrimage for about five years – since well before Babyman came along – and our ritual is to plan a special dinner for every night we are here, resulting in the copious consumption of grilled fare, salad, and wine for nine straight days.  This year, for the first time, Babyman is what my dad refers to as a “fully-formed humanoid” and therefore an unwitting participant in the food fest.

If you have been to Tahoe, then you know that this “Lake in the Sky” really does feel apart from the rest of the world.  There is a slow pace here, despite there being so much to do.  Call it the active pursuit of leisure.  Lounging after a full day of swimming, hiking, biking, cooking, and chasing geese (okay, that’s Babyman, not me), it’s impossible not to reflect on how nice it is to be relaxed.  In other words, this trip is my annual reminder that I could stand to loosen up a bit.

It is in this spirit that we take Babyman for ice cream in the afternoon, bring bags of Goldfish crackers to the beach, fry up eggs and sausage in the mornings, and fill his sippy cup with juice at all hours of the day in order to keep him hydrated in the altitude.  Realizing that I am NEVER this relaxed about his sugar and salt consumption, and seeing the physical excitement he derives from tiny cheddar-flavored crackers shaped like sea life, has gotten me thinking.

So here is a confession (please don’t judge me): I’ve never, ever given him Kraft Mac ‘n’ Cheese.  On the one hand, the purist in me thinks that’s a good thing…but on the other hand, depriving him of something that is at the core of childhood in America seems a bit cruel.  Right?

Of course there is the adage about old dogs and new tricks (did I just call myself old?), and just to be clear I did not run out this morning and purchase that blue box of orange powder.  What I did was find the closest thing that still contains some measure of fiber and natural ingredients (in all fairness, with Babyman’s minimal fruit and veg intake, I spend a lot of time calculating how much fiber he gets out of other foods…any parent will tell you that a regular child is a happy one).  I whipped it up as a treat for dinner, and it was tasty and so very easy to make, which is also really nice when on vacation.

The macaroni, needless to say, was a huge hit.  I even managed to sneak some broccoli puree into the leftovers without a hint of protest from Babyman.  The cheesy mashed potatoes I made out of leftovers were initially met with some suspicion but embraced once permission was granted to eat them with his fingers (“Potatoes…Yummy!”).  And even Babyman seems a bit more relaxed about his own mysterious rules: on a lark I put some leftover creamed kale on his dinner plate the other night and he tucked right into it…only to realize with horror that he had inadvertently eaten something green of his own volition.  But at least he tried it.  (By the way, the creamed kale was AMAZING and if you or someone you love likes supergreens, you must make it.)

Balance is everything: we did the farmer’s market midweek and Babyman won’t escape cauliflower and sweet potatoes entirely.  But we’re all having fun with the exceptions.  My parents join us up here for the final couple of days, and my dad came home from the store bearing chicken nuggets shaped like animals, and would you believe I microwaved those bad boys up and served them to Babyman with some applesauce without a second thought.  Smiles all around.

How liberating.

Let’s hope we can keep the spirit alive until next year.

Cheesy Mashed Potatoes
1 large yukon gold potato, peeled and diced
1/4 cup low-fat milk
1 tbsp butter
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Roast, pan-fry or boil potato chunks according to taste until quite soft (ordinarily I would boil them, but I had leftover roasted ones in the house so I used those).  While still hot, transfer to a mixing bowl and add milk, butter, and cheese.  Mash with a fork or potato masher until creamy.  Serve.

NB: I tried making these again with a food processor (you know I love me a puree), but it activated the starch in the potatoes and developed this weird, glue-like consistency.  So now I stick with hand-mashing.  I don’t know if that’s typical or just a strange batch, but I include the warning nonetheless.



  1. OK – so I myself prefer Annie's mac and cheese to Kraft but I have to say if you're seeking something "purely" American then Kraft it is – how's that for an alternate definition.

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