I’m back. Some of you no doubt noticed my absence over the past few days — J. and I were taking a little “mini-break,” to paraphrase Bridget Jones. In other words, we decided that after over four years without a vacation for just the two of us, it was time to figure out a way to get more than a couple of hours alone together so we could remember what adult time is actually like.
We managed to score a ridiculously great deal at a swanky resort on Cape Cod; it was the kind of place the two of us would NEVER be able to visit under normal circumstances, but the rate was reduced by 75% on a last-minute off-season promotion, and we snagged it. We had two days of blissful quiet and serenity, most of which we truthfully spent doing… absolutely nothing. We slept. A lot. And wandered the streets of the picturesque little seaside village, which was full of great shopping with majorly marked-down prices thanks to the fact that we were probably the only non-townies there. And got massages. And slept some more. And got sort of, mildly, not really, ill — or at least slightly uncomfortable — from eating things we don’t usually eat.
No, really. It was a fantastic weekend, and we tried very hard not to a) overeat; or b) overindulge in sweets and heavy foods and things like that — but we still somehow both ended up feeling just slightly off, to the point where we felt as though we were barely eating and yet were so full that we couldn’t think about meals. On Saturday morning, we woke up and had breakfast in the resort dining room; J. ordered a bowl of steel-cut oatmeal, and I had smoked salmon on half a bagel (no cream cheese) and a few bites of a yogurt and berry parfait. Not a huge breakfast for either of us, and yet by the time we were ready to think about lunch — which wasn’t until almost six hours later, and was well past our usual lunchtime — we just didn’t want much at all. A small side salad and a few bites of an appetizer was all I could manage. J. didn’t fare much better.
Surely, I figured, we’d be set to rights before dinner. But dinnertime came and went, and we didn’t go anywhere; we weren’t hungry. At 7:45 we finally ventured out to a local restaurant and were actually delighted to find that there was a long wait for a table. Maybe, we thought, we’d develop an appetite while we were waiting. But by the time we ordered our meals, at just about 9:00 p.m., we still didn’t much care about food. Everything was tasty, but I got just about ten or twelve bites into the meal before I stopped short and said, “I just can’t do it.”
I meant it. J. managed, either heroically or foolishly, to eat most of his pasta dish, but my grilled pizza went almost untouched. We didn’t even much want breakfast when we woke up the next morning. And I’m still feeling the aftereffects — sluggishness, general feeling of fullness/lack of appetite, and a serious craving for something that grew in the ground, on a tree, or in any other way might resemble a hard-core unadulterated fruit or vegetable.
It makes me wonder just how far removed restaurant food — even food served in the restaurants of an extremely fine resort, and in the nicer restaurants of the resort town — is from the food we tend to eat. I’d like to think that they’re sourcing their ingredients from the best places, but I’m not naive enough to really believe it; it appears to me that most of the restaurants that do actually commit to serving local/sustainable/organic/highfalootin’ food take advantage of all the marketing possibilities that are inherent in that strategy, and those that don’t advertise their ingredient sourcing are probably not doing so for a reason. I’d also like to think that everyone messes with the food as little as possible in constructing their dishes, but again, I know it’s not true. Restaurant food obviously comes with a heavier load of butter, salt, oil, cheese, etc. than most home cooks would use. Even in the sneakiest places — like, say, the yogurt in my parfait — there’s probably more fat, sugar, and general STUFF than in the food we eat at home.
Which brings me to my next point. Knowing that there’s more stuff in the restaurant food than there is in our home-cooked meals, and realizing — halfway through the weekend — that I was feeling pretty off my game, I seized a few free moments to review the Resort Dining Options for kids. Their adult options were stellar, really, at least from a gourmet perspective if not from a health perspective. So I got curious. What would a child at this very, very classy, very elite, very customer-oriented resort get to eat? What kind of “stuff” would end up in their bellies?
I wish I hadn’t looked. Truly. It depresses me to think of it. In a place where there were all manner of fresh-caught seafood dishes, lobster done about a thousand different ways, beautiful salads and vegetarian dishes on the menus of each of the resort’s five dining venues, I expected better than:
Hot dog or hamburger
Pasta with marinara sauce or butter and Parmesan
Macaroni and Cheese
Chicken teriyaki with rice and pineapple (surprisingly creative, given the rest of the menu, but probably not their most popular item)
Served with choice of: French fries, iceberg salad with ranch dressing, or vegetables with dip.
My already disgruntled stomach went into near revolt just reading it and imagining how I’d feel after a couple of days of eating like that. Why is it that we can’t seem to translate our own experiences as adults into an understanding of how our kids’ bodies might react to similar circumstances? If I was feeling sluggish and distended after a day and a half of seafood, salads, fruit and yogurt, and only one major indulgence (a pumpkin donut dessert on Friday night, of which I ate less than half), how subtly rotten might a five-year-old child feel after the same amount of time spent noshing on deep-fried, ranch-coated, processed-meat meals?
I’m not trying to be a buzzkill here — I love to eat out, actually, and I always appreciate the opportunity to do so, especially since J. and I try very hard to restrict our away-from-home dining. And honestly, if you’re just going to ask about taste and presentation and all of that, the food we ate was largely exceptional. It’s just a minor wake-up call to me to realize that while I hated to leave our little secluded paradise and the rest and relaxation we enjoyed there, my stomach, at least, is far better off here at home in my own familiar chaotic world. Tonight will be the first night I’ve cooked dinner in about four days. I’m looking forward to something mundane, simple, and made with my own two little hands.