Vacation Dinners By The Book

Our annual trip to South Carolina has been the textbook definition of vacation. There are pools. There are beaches. There is kayaking and backhand-winner-ing and oyster shoveling. There is napping in the big chair on the patio, book splayed across chest. There is Making of a Murderer binge-watching. (OMG OMG OMG!) There is gin-and-tonic-ing. There is Cinnamon-Frosted-Pop-Tart-ing. There is running on the beach in the early morning, our attempt to outwit the scorching southern sun, which in no way is working.

By all accounts, it’s been a good week. But I’ll tell you what I am enjoying the most: The absence of dinner decisions. Before I left, I took photos of all our vacation meal line-ups dating back to 2004. (This is when my Dinner Diary might actually be viewed as an exercise in practicality, as opposed to a cry for help.) I did this because I hoped that all the psychic energy usually directed towards the what’s-for-dinner question would be freed up to make more crucial vacation decisions, such as Pool then beach? Or beach then pool? OR Would this picture be better for regular Instagram or Instagram Stories?

The joke is on me, though, because you almost can’t tell the difference between one year and the next — the same summer classics appear again and again on the vacation menu. Instead of calling this “boring” and “unimaginative,” I’m going to choose to call it “ritualistic” and “traditional.” (In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a big fan of rituals and tradition.) I thought you might like to see the line-up (above) and their links (below) to help with your own end-of-summer cooking…

1. Gin & Tonics
2. Shrimp Rolls
3. Grilled Yogurt-Marinated Chicken

4. Burgers with Special Sauce
5. Grilled Tuna with Tomato-Peach Salsa (see #4)
6. Grilled Fish Tacos with Cilantro Pesto (page 188, Dinner: The Playbook)
7. Pulled Pork Sandwiches

8. Grilled Steak with Salsa Verde
9. Fried Flounder

10. Grilled Pork with Peaches

11. Summer Cobbler

Hooray for no-decision dinners!

Related: My Drill Sergeant of Leisure


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I know you like your physical journal but just thought I’d share… I started using the Day One app and I really like it. I snap a photo, write some comments, and paste the url for future use. There is a photo only view which allows me to easily visually scroll through dishes I’ve made.


Hey, your special sauce is also my mom’s special sauce! Although hers was just mayo and ketchup, no onions or relish or anything… I also have a feeling that mayo and ketchup is a lot of people’s “special sauce”… haha 😉


I’m a Charleston girl so I appreciate the posts about SC! That’s how we vacation, when we get out of DC (beach house and lots of trips to the Harris Teeter). I have kept a running list on a pad of paper of what i’m cooking for the week. It’s not for nostalgia but to keep me focused on what we’re having for supper each night. I don’t know how to function w/o it!


I think it’s so bad that you kept a dinner diary. I think it actually would help to solve the – what’s for dinner question. Of course some things will repeat but it just would help you gauge what are hits and what aren’t. Also – glad your vacation was delightful!

Best Sous Vide Brands


We tried the ice cream for dinner as a new beach vacation ritual – mid week, one night it’s big bowls of ice cream and every topping you can think of – all the good stuff. The kids loved it – and still talk about the time I let them have ice cream for dinner. My husband and I opted for cocktails and steamed old Bay shrimp – too each their own!


Not sure how I missed this post – but it’s genius!!! Love, love, love, and will be tucking this away for our summer. If only it wasn’t still 6 months away, but at least we have now passed winter solstice!

Nancy B. Horgan

This recipe is a great idea! I was thinking of vacation with my husband for few weeks and I think it will be the perfect recipe . Thanks for the recipe.

Kyle Carter

haha ! I love this . Seriously you give me something which will give some good taste to my tongue. Really this sounds too good.


Great idea! I was thinking of holiday with my family on next week and will make the great recipe. Thanks for your sharing.


My son loves the food that you instruct. He ate all the dishes I made according to your recipe and shared the compliments. He enjoyed asking me to cook every day. Thank you for sharing this recipes.