Post-Vacation Guilt Eraser

June 24th, 2013 · 20 Comments · Rituals

In our family, few things say vacation like a box of Pop-Tarts. We like the frosted kind with the vaguely cinnamony filling, the ones that make that whispery sound when you break them in half. Within an hour of dumping our luggage, we’re at the supermarket, stocking up on all the staples that sustain a family–milk, pasta, fruit–as well as a few that definitely don’t: ice cream bars, Frosted Flakes, those Pop-Tarts.

Why? Because it feels good to take a break from saying no all the time, because we believe that vacation is a time to indulge every vice, to let our food ids run wild. We wash down our post-beach white-bread grilled cheeses with Coke; we finish the Key lime pie; we top off the Gin and Tonic with another Gin and Tonic. Each day begins with a bowl of Apple Jacks and ends with a “smush-in,” which is what the kids call those marble slab ice cream places where we let them smush gummy bears into their cotton candy-flavored ice cream. If the mark of a successful trip is forgetting your everyday life, then we’ve gotten pretty good at vacation.

When we return, though, the earth assumes its normal rotation, and our old selves reemerge. We make food amends. Our first dinner is usually Redemption Salad: chicken tossed into a mound of Asian-style, nutrient-dense, guilt-erasing shredded red cabbage and spinach. It’s our way of saying, Okay, that was fun, but now it’s time to get back to business. If it’s possible for a meal to make you feel healthy–to actually undo seven days of poor habits–this is the one. It also happens to taste good, which softens the landing a bit. But only a bit.

This is our Providers column for the June issue of Bon Appetit. Head over to their site for this recipe and for the entire Providers archivePhoto by Danny Kim for Bon Appetit.

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20 responses so far ↓

  • 1 A Life From Scratch // Jun 24, 2013 at 8:37 am

    Oh my goodness, I hear ya! We are on day 2 and so far I have consumed a southern fried chicken dinner (complete with cole slaw, rice, and apple pie of course) and a lunch out of two (rather large) slices of pizza.

    I have to say though, I balanced it out with a pretty long (too early) morning walk with the bebe by the ocean. Does sleeping in ever truly return to families?

    Cheers to vacation, and to that extra gin and tonic!

  • 2 Mel // Jun 24, 2013 at 11:59 am

    I love this post! I’m a pediatrician, and we tend to have pretty healthy meals at home. But vacation time — that means vacation cereals (Fruit Loops and Lucky Charms for the most recent trip), Trader Joe’s chocolate Joe-Joes, and fruit snacks.

  • 3 Jesse // Jun 24, 2013 at 12:36 pm

    we do the same thing. vacation is usually a lot of “no restrictions” talk which translates to cheetos for breakfast and a beer with lunch. as much as i look forward to it, i look forward to coming back to my avocado and salad too.

  • 4 Melissa@Julia's Bookbag // Jun 24, 2013 at 12:52 pm

    Did you hear? Twinkies are coming back soon! I am getting AN ENTIRE BOX. And won’t feel a twinge of guilt! :)

  • 5 ARCPoint Labs of Chattanooga // Jun 24, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    I think everyone struggles with this!

  • 6 Stearns 205 // Jun 24, 2013 at 1:17 pm

    Are you guys restarting good habits? “Mak[ing] food amends” makes it sound like what you did was wrong when in reality what you did was vacation well.

  • 7 Cay // Jun 24, 2013 at 1:32 pm

    I already have this salad on the menu for tonight! Because we are about to GO on vacation, where I will definitely be enjoying whatever I am in the mood for.

  • 8 Jess // Jun 24, 2013 at 1:58 pm

    The “whispery sound when you break them in half.” Ooooo, Jenny, you just took me way back. Thanks for that!

  • 9 Emma Sadiwskyj-Frewer // Jun 24, 2013 at 3:31 pm

    OMG, this is just the salad I have been looking for. I got back from two weeks of GOOD eating in Totonto and was looking for a nice light Asian Salad. Perfect!

    Thank you for sharing.

  • 10 PARIS BEE kids blog // Jun 24, 2013 at 5:15 pm

    I’ve found Pop Tarts in Paris. Evil.

    xoxo PARIS BEE kids blog

  • 11 erinn johnson // Jun 24, 2013 at 7:59 pm

    Already mentioned how much my family LOVED this salad. It got a two thumbs up from all four kids and is on what we call the make again list.

  • 12 Valerie // Jun 24, 2013 at 9:00 pm

    What kind of dressing do you use on this salad?

  • 13 Sasha // Jun 24, 2013 at 10:34 pm

    I adore your column in BA!
    You are so lucky to get to write for them. I read that magazine religiously – it’s flawless! It’s my fantasy workplace…

  • 14 Amy Winkeljohn // Jun 24, 2013 at 11:23 pm

    I hear ya! Except I am a teacher, so our vacation is about 8 weeks, even if we just stay at home. Lots of ice cream, chips, and irregular meal hours. I try to balance out all this with lots of produce from our garden and farmers market. This will all end come fall, so we take advantage of it now!

  • 15 Jos // Jun 25, 2013 at 3:10 am

    Redemption salad? Love it!!!!!

  • 16 Title Boxing Club Belton // Jun 25, 2013 at 10:04 am

    I like the idea of this!

  • 17 jenny // Jun 25, 2013 at 10:54 am

    Valerie: The dressing is a soy-lime-brown-sugar-chili number. Head over to for the recipe!

  • 18 macacagravaporcima // Jun 25, 2013 at 11:17 am

    the words guilt and vacation can’t be use in the same sentence… they simply don’t match, specialy when it comes to food!!!

  • 19 Ann // Jun 25, 2013 at 4:21 pm

    Looks delicious, will have to try it. Reminds me of Nigella Lawson’s Vietnamese Chicken and Mint salad which we love. If you haven’t tried that one yet you’d probably enjoy it.

  • 20 Lynn // Sep 16, 2014 at 6:14 pm

    We loved this salad. I served this with moistened rice paper and had everyone make their own salad rolls. Delicious! Thank you.

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