I stood there in front of the refrigerator, the cool air wafting past my body like a million tiny kisses from the grocery store angel. I stood there and just stared. For how long, I have no idea. My brain was too busy taking inventory to notice something as trivial as time. Somewhere, way in the back of said brain, I realized I was doing the exact same thing I yell at my kids for doing. But I didn’t care. Rules are made (by me) to be broken (by me).
Besides, I was downright giddy by this point. There are weird things that excite you once you become a mom. That brief 45 seconds where all the laundry is done. Educational toys that promise to make your kid a STEM superstar. Drinking wine based on your favorite TV shows while watching those TV shows.
All great things, truly. But for me, there is nothing that can top the weird excitement I feel in the days leading up to a vacation when I am confronted with the task of getting all the perishable food in my kitchen consumed before we leave. And as I stood there in front of the fridge, I couldn’t help but notice how full it was. Only four days left to go and there were ingredients and leftovers enough for at least a good week. I should have been embarrassed by how exhilarated I was about this. How electrified I was by the challenge.
But I wasn’t.
This was my culinary Olympics.
There are rules, of course. You can’t just throw the food away, for one. You’re a mom, after all. It must be consumed. Or, as in my case since I have small children, prepared and placed in front of my family where it is ignored and stubbornly not consumed. And THEN, after an acceptable amount of ignoring time, it can be thrown out. The goal is always to let as little food as possible go to waste.
As you can imagine, this leads to some rather creative meals in the days leading up to vacation.
“Mom, what is this?”
“Chicken nugget spaghetti”
“Scrambled eggs mixed with overripe avocado.”
“And for dessert?”
“Mashed potato pie.”
“It looks like it’s just leftover mashed potatoes.”
Another rule is that you will not be going to the store. For anything. You can’t subtract by adding. Which means that some things will have to be rationed.
“Momma, can I have some milk?”
“Everyone gets a thimbleful of milk every three hours.”
“I measured it perfectly! There will be no deviating from the plan. There’s water if you’re thirsty.”
“Well, can I at least have a snack?”
“Of course. Here, eat this about-to-be-expired sour cream.”
Some people, and by some people I mean my husband, think I take this all a bit far. But he’s wrong. Which is why we end up having conversations like this:
“Ryan, did you just heat something up from the freezer?”
“Yeah. I was really craving a…”
*knocking microwave burrito out of his hand* “Do you think this is a game? Was I not clear before? Do you need to see the PowerPoint slides again?”
“Oh God, please no.”
“NO CANNED OR FROZEN FOOD FROM HERE ON OUT.”
“Honey, don’t you think you’re taking this all a bit too serio…”
“THAT FRIDGE WILL BE EMPTY.”
And lastly, if anything is left, guess what everyone is eating in the car on the way to our destination? I don’t care that it’s a bag of wilted salad and slightly wrinkled grapes and questionably smelling hummus from the far, far back right corner. Eat it. Momma is on a mission and I will not let ANYONE’S fickle eating habits ruin it.
You can eat whatever you want on vacation. You can waste whatever food you want on vacation. There are no rules on vacation. Let complete chaos REIGN on vacation.
But before vacation, I am running this joint like a gastronomic gulag. And you will eat those stale marshmallows and leftover lasagna for breakfast. And you’ll like it.
And all because, and I say this in my most haughty evil dictator voice, it amuses me.