One of the things I both love and sometimes lament about living out in the Vermont countryside is the significantly lowered opportunity for take-out and dining out. Certainly there are some lovely places around here for good eats (and we've visited many of them and will again), but the hours and choices are more limited than what we became accustomed to in the heavily populated areas we lived over the past ten or so years. Most of those towns and cities offered a pretty wide variety of ethnic and specialty foods within easy reach, which allowed my husband and me to appease our more opportunistic taste buds. This new lack of variety, unsurprisingly, pleases my kids endlessly. No more attempts to get our youngest to try Ethiopian or Indian food and no more well-intended abuse of our spectrum kid's extremely delicate olfactory nerves.
I became engaged in a slight debate the other day with some Facebook friends regarding whether eating out is better or worse for busy families. For us, it became a virtual necessity over the past several years to appease our kids' highly particularized dietary requirements and our own more adventurous ones. However, we are increasingly unable to use that crutch here in Vermont. While some would argue that is a good thing and that it is healthier (and less expensive) to eat at home, I wonder if that is always true. At a restaurant, my oldest daughter can usually cajole the waiter into having the cook prepare a grilled chicken breast without seasoning and broccoli without seasoning and my youngest can specify that her meal come without bread or pasta, both of which she can't stomach, and fruit as her side dish. Likewise, restaurants allow my husband and me to eat something more interesting than plain chicken and one of three plain vegetables, which is what we are often stuck with when trying to cook one meal to suit the entire family.
The other alternative, of course, is that the head chef (yours truly) ends up cooking several different meals each evening, which is not inexpensive and creates extra headaches for the chief bottlewasher (my husband). With a full-time work schedule and kids with extracurricular activities, as well as special health issues that require time and attention, I have to admit that the idea of cooking multiple meals each evening is pretty daunting (not to mention exhausting and often impossible). There are evenings now that I end up "cheating" and going for processed foods that normally I would prefer not to serve. (Canned soup anyone?) I try to appease my inner critical monologue by pointing out that I usually pack rather healthy lunches for both of my girls and that they have fresh fruit readily available in the refrigerator, but I still end many days feeling rather guilty and defeated.
I'm sure there is a middle ground and perhaps one day I'll reach it, I just hope that I come up with it before my kids graduate! In the meantime, if you see us out having dinner somewhere, please just say "Bon appetite!" and know that we are enjoying some quality family time. Until next time, y'all have a good one!