My little family just got back from a trip to Northern Ireland and England. I was originally planning to give this post a clever title about traveling with a picky eater but when I saw the front page of a tabloid with pictures of Kate pushing a shopping cart outside of Waitrose a week after The Wedding wearing The Ring and all, I couldn’t resist shamelessly using her name to try and garner some web traffic… Apologies to those of you who landed here looking for dish on Kate Middleton or the Royals but since you’re here, feel free to hang around and read about the food we ate during our trip.
Now when I saw these pictures of Kate a week after she became Mrs. Prince William buying groceries like any normal house wife, I had never heard of this Waitrose store. Shortly after that I saw a TV ad and it looked like a posh store indeed (no wonder it wasn’t on my radar). The closest we got to a Waitrose was passing one of their trucks on the M1 highway! No doubt it was carting a load of delicious high end nosh. When in the land of mince pies, sausage rolls, and pasties, we stay with family and get to make our own food. So we shop at the more wallet friendly Asda. I know what you’re thinking: Mom doesn’t get a vacation, even on vacation. But it really wasn’t all that bad (though traveling with kids is never really a vacation). I wasn’t about to spend my vacation chained to a stove. The extent of my “cooking” was switching on the oven and tossing in a pie or quiche or something.
So, what was it like traveling with Miss Picky Eater? Well, let me start by saying how glad I am to be home. The trip started with an outright refusal to eat het dinner on the plane (not that I blame her – it was ghastly, not to mention way too late for Little Missy to be awake). Luckily this smart mommy had packed plenty of snacks so Missy didn’t starve. Unfortunately upon arrival the situation didn’t get much better. I guess I didn’t expect traveling to exactly bring out the adventurous spirit of a picky eater but I was hoping we could entice her to eat something new. Oh heck, who I am kidding? We just wanted her to eat in general. But seriously, when you combine jet lag with sleeping in an unfamiliar environment and the hyper excitement of seeing cousins and exploring new playgrounds, you’re going to get a seriously overwhelmed toddler and some serious meltdowns. And boy did we have some se-ri-ous meltdowns, usually related to wanting to keep playing with cousins at the “happy house,” which is what she called her auntie’s house complete with a trampoline (“boing boing”). a huge rocking horse (“clip clop”) and a lovely fuzzy dog named Toffee.
Breakfast was generally a successful meal with Missy eating Weetabix and yogurt or toast with cheese and some fruit. One morning I did manage to make a very mini version of an Irish breakfast with beans, sausages, toast and eggs. I was so proud of myself too because I successfully made eggs over easy for myself and the hubs. Hurrah! As is by fate after two successful eggs, the yolk of the third egg broke and Missy got her egg over hard. I say mini version, because of course a full Irish breakfast should include mushrooms, fried tomato, potato bread, rashers, bangers, and brown bread.
For lunch we were frequently on the road and the relative peace of breakfast was lost. One day we decided to go out to a pub called Diamond Pat’s in Newcastle Co. Down. After a frustratingly long wait during which we had to use ketchup packets and coasters to entertain Little Missy to avert a nuclear meltdown, she just picked the beans off her plate of fish sticks and fries. Sigh. That was an expensive plate of beans. Why a pub that has actual fish and chips on its menu serves fish sticks on the children’s menu is beyond me. I can have fish sticks at home any day. What’s wrong with a smaller serving the regular battered fish? Note to self: in the future order a half serving of the regular fish and chips instead of mealy fish sticks for the kiddo. The hubs actually had the fish and chips, which must have been good because it disappeared off his plate in no time flat. It came with a side of mushy peas, which was OK but reminded me too much of Finnish school lunch pea soup. The hubs didn’t touch it either. Clearly there are some things from our childhoods we’re not nostalgic for. I had some poached salmon which was served with a mustard sauce and mashed and roast potatoes as well as a carrot and parsnip mash. The salmon was well done yet moist and the parsnip carrot mash was quite tasty. Missy wouldn’t taste any of it. Other lunches were just as disastrous. Barbeque at Auntie D’s house? I’ll just have a roll, thanks. Shepherd’s pie at Uncle Leo’s? Nah, I’ll just run around and scream, but I’ll sit politely for dessert. Uncle Leo’s ears are probably still ringing. Macaroni and cheese on the ferry from Scotland to Belfast? I’ll kick and flail about so much that the sturdy seafaring high chair will almost tip over. No joke, I had a hard time moving the chair yet Missy almost got it to fall over.
So, did we have any success? This is where we return to Asda. While perhaps not the healthiest option, Asda carries a wide range of refrigerated prepared foods. We stocked up on herbed new potatoes that just needed to be steamed in the microwave for a few minutes, all sorts of savory pies with lovely flaky crusts, and light and fluffy quiches. I usually read and compare labels on all prepared foods I buy but seeing as we were on vacation and British labels are organized so differently from US labels, I didn’t bother. In a way it was better not to know how much salt, sugar and fat we were consuming. These foods were mildly more successful with Little Missy but success depended largely on whether she had napped and generally what kind of mood she was in. The hubs and I enjoyed them enough though that I decided I’m going to experiment with making something similar at home. I’ll definitely share recipes as I come up with good ones.
I’ve been saving the best, though probably worst for you food for last. One evening when we had a bunch of my husband’s cousins and siblings visiting, we decided to get dinner from a traditional chippy. Now, fish and chipsis just the tip of the chippy
iceberg. You can also get a scampi dinner, which has shrimp (or prawns) fried in batter, or a battered sausage, which is just what it sounds like: a sausage deep fried in batter. Aaah, salty greasy goodness and badness all rolled into one. This stuff is definitely only to be enjoyed once in a blue moon, so it’s a good thing the one shop in the Boston area that sold the stuff closed down (bad for the shop owner, good for my arteries). But that’s not even all of it, the crowning glory of the chippie is something that the hubs tells me can only be found in Northern Ireland, and that’s the pastie supper. Pasties are deep fried patties made from mashed potatoes and sometimes mixed with vegetables (I’ve had peas, onions, and carrots). Sort of a bubble and squeak on steroids and in portable form. I’ll have to devise a non-deep fried slightly healthier version of these too. I don’t really think I need to say it because I’m sure you can guess. Little Missy loved this particular meal. Of course, why wouldn’t she?
We’re back home now and settling back into our familiar pattern of Little Missy refusing to eat most things that are placed in front of her, even things she’s asked for. (That reminds me of a thing my brother in law said: “You mean she doesn’t just eat what you give her?” Um, no. But I digress…) We won’t be traveling again anytime soon. Partly because our wallet forbids it but mostly because we need to seriously recover from this trip before we even think about packing our bags again. So, what are your best and worst experiences traveling with kids?