For many of us, summer is ending: school has started again, the weather is getting cooler, and our minds are turning to pumpkins, apples, and the Halloween decorations lining the stores. And although I am ready to leave behind some parts of summer, I’m not ready to leave behind a topic many think of as only belonging to summer: vacations.
For one thing, why do we normally think of vacations as belonging to summer? As adults, we can take them any time, and we need them to rest and recover throughout the year. So no, I will not leave behind vacations. Instead, I want to set forth a vacation manifesto. I mean it! I want to explore the “how” and “why” behind vacations…and what exactly that means for food.
But I don’t want to do this for the reasons you might imagine.
So, let’s start with what my reasons aren’t. I don’t want a manifesto in order to justify extravagance, or waste, or to avoid doing meaningful work. I also don’t want to keep with patterns of “work hard, play harder.” Although working hard and playing hard are important, too often we live in acceleration. I mean, so many times I’ve heard friends (and yes, even myself) say that they need a vacation from their vacation!
Instead, this manifesto is my goal for vacations–and living a life where vacations are natural and normal.
Too often, we flee from our workaday lives into our vacations instead of really contemplating what we want to be like during our vacations. Unwittingly, we end up vacationing much the way we live the rest of our lives: fast. There are those who do vacation admirably, and others whose social media makes it look like they are vacationing admirably, but in my experience, most of us just keep the same frenetic pace on vacation that we would elsewhere (sometimes including doing our work), but without going into the office, and in a different place.
How about we use vacations as a space for intentionally joining with the parts of ourselves we neglect during our typical lives?
In some parts of the world vacations are called holidays–a word that stems from the concept of holy days–and this is a helpful concept. If we view this time as holy, we would approach it with intention, and be more aware of our posture towards the time and space. This is how I feel vacationing should be.
I am a better person when all the parts of myself are fed and cared for. When I am sleep deprived or hungry, or when I haven’t had time to simply sit quietly and think my own thoughts I am a shadow of who I can be otherwise. I might still be joyful or funny or thoughtful, but it’ is like my battery is at 80-90%. There is something unique about dedicated time away without the obligations of the office that fills up that last bit of me, allows me to connect with that deeper sense of my being. I know that might not be the clearest, but there it is. And when I’m full, I am so much more me. I am going to guess that the same is true for others; no matter how amazing you are normally, you can be even more amazing. Many of us don’t think this is true–don’t even know what to do with a different pace of life. But, living in acceleration wears on us deeply in ways we don’t always see. Chronic stress (and not just the emotional kind, but physical and mental too) has lasting damaging effects on our brains, hormones, muscles, relationships, etc.
So, how do we do this? How do we become aware of our approach to vacations and find what might need adjustment? Unfortunately, this is one of those things that is simple to say/write, and much less simple to do. To become aware this way, we have to start with noticing ourselves. This includes the ways we engage (or don’t engage) with adventure, rest, the fulfillment of our senses, and the needs of our body. There is a rhythm that we all need, and while it is slightly different for everyone, it is still a balance. Too often I lean towards all adventure, or all laying around, neglecting that balance that keeps me/us from making habits of one part of life or another. It’s like the balance between contraction and release in all of our muscle groups; do only one, and the other becomes too weak to contribute.
And how does food play into all of this?
Food is part of both the how and the why. At its very core, food is sensory, and can include both elements of adventure and slow restfulness. Food experienced fully can bring us back into our bodies which navigate and experience the world with us.
One of my favorite vacation food memories is from my honeymoon. As we were exploring one day, we noticed a small farmer’s market and spent time wandering from stall to stall, sampling the produce. A few of the vegetables were so delicious that we bought them for dinner that night, adding some fresh bread from a local bakery and some other treats of cheese and cured meats. Later that night we spent our time experimenting in the kitchen of our rental beach house, ultimately eating a dinner we wouldn’t have had the time to discover in our daily lives. It was delicious and restful, an unexpected adventure and part of a meandering afternoon.
Also, food is part of who we are as humans. There are foods that we eat for celebration, for commemoration…for tradition…and yes, even on vacation. Maybe there are foods local to our vacation spot that we try for the first time. Or maybe there are foods that take a long time to prepare, but we love so much for the sense that they are natural, easy, and simple in ways that our daily lives aren’t–where the goodness is right in front of you for the taking, and you get lost in the moments of preparation and eating. The kind of food that adds to this “vacation intention” rather than outshining it, or breaking from the flow of it.
Tomatoes are one of the late summer fruits that fit into this category for me. Have you ever had a great tomato? I mean a really great one? Tomato season is winding down right now, so beyond eating them cut into wedges with a little sea salt, I often make this recipe for relaxing vacation evenings, adding it on top of fresh gnocchi and lightly sautéed vegetables.
What are your intentions for vacations? Perhaps this recipe will inspire you to craft a manifesto of your own. May you eat well, and find the rhythms that elude you in daily life.
- 2 pints yellow cherry tomatoes (or any kind will do if you do not have yellow).
- 10-12 large tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ red onion, chopped
- 2 tablespoons dried oregano
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Chop onion and mince garlic. Combine with olive oil in a large sauce pan (I used a 10 quart to be on the safe side). On medium-low heat, begin to cook until soft, making sure not to burn the garlic.
- Roughly chop the tomatoes in a food processor, or by hand. If you are using a food processor, you may have to chop in batches, depending on how much volume your machine can handle.
- Add the chopped tomatoes in the pot with the oregano, salt (I used 1 teaspoon), and pepper (I used another teaspoon), and bring to a simmer.
- Simmer uncovered for an 60-75 minutes, allowing some of the liquid to evaporate. I like to place the sauce on a back burner, and make other things, or clean up my kitchen. This will thicken the sauce. If you would like a thicker sauce, continue to simmer for 30 more minutes.
- … enjoy this time! Do something with your friends or loved ones, read a book, swim in the pool… this time is for you!
- Use within the week, or freeze for later use.
- Makes between 5 pints and a half gallon, depending on the size of the tomatoes.