Recipe Column: How I spent my summer vacation
If someone gave me the assignment of writing about what I did on my summer vacation, I’m afraid the essay would be pretty boring. I did not travel more than five miles from my house the entire week I was off, and home improvement projects (including ripping up a deck and constructing a stone wall) were the focus of the entire week. And yet, now that I am back at work, I find myself daydreaming about that time, specifically the freedom to do what I wanted when I felt like it.
I find it amazing how quickly I adapt to a schedule that does not…well, include a schedule. While my home improvement list was long, I did not rigidly adhere to it. I got up in the morning when I wanted, ate when the notion struck, and every afternoon I took a 15 minute power nap. I really miss those.
I am fortunate to live in a community where people come to vacation on a regular basis. I often observe these folks, and it’s amazing to me the types of activities they pursue. Some water ski or tube non-stop all day; some fish; some sit in floating chairs reading books; some get up early every morning and jog 10 miles, while others bike down the Bearskin trail all day. It just depends on what these visitors consider “fun.”
Intermittently during my week off, I did visit the neighborhood watering hole for a cold one, and one day sat next to a retiree. When I explained to him I was on vacation, he guffawed, and told me that during his entire career as an accountant with a big firm in Chicago, he had NEVER taken a day of vacation. I tried to look like I was impressed, but deep down I thought he was an idiot. And I thought he was an even bigger fool to brag about it.
Really when you think about it, vacations are some of the times you remember the most fondly. It’s not the hum-drum, in and out of every day school or work that constitutes lasting memories, but the times when you are free to get away from the rigors of employment, and have the leisure to explore new activities; to spend extra time with the people that mean the most to you and to try new things.
While my home improvement projects were time consuming and rigorous, I did take some moments to explore new recipes on my vacation. In fact, I can honestly say I think I invented a new type of salad. At least I believe I did, because I have not seen it served in any other place besides my house.
This salad was created on the first weekend of my vacation when I decided to mix up one of my favorite salad dressings. My garden lettuce was just getting big enough to pick, and this dressing has been a favorite of mine since I was a kid. In fact, it was a recipe my grandmother concocted many years ago.
I also decided to hard boil some eggs for the week ahead, and I had some shrimp in my freezer that looked good. Miraculously these items all ended up next to each other in the fridge, so I decided to mix them together and “Mary Ann’s Vacation Salad” was born.
The first time I tried my new salad I was really impressed. In fact, during the course of my week off, I had a few friends in for dinner, and would serve them bowls of this concoction, which got nothing but rave reviews, so I think I’m really onto something. Some even asked for the recipe, just like a little vacation souvenir.
Now I keep a jar of this dressing in my refrigerator at all times, and with my garden lettuce growing at a steady pace, I always have the basic ingredients on hand. In fact, the other day after work I made up a bowl of my salad, and ate it on my new deck which overlooks the stone wall I built while I was on vacation.
That got me to thinking. Maybe it’s a good thing I only had a week off. There’s no telling what physical damage I would have incurred with more “leisure” time.
Mary Ann’s Vacation Salad
1 tsp. salt
2/3 cup catsup
1 small onion, chopped
1 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup cup vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp. papricka
2 tsp. horseradish
1 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. hot sauce
2 hard boiled eggs, peeled and sliced
7 or 8 cooked and peeled shrimp
Mix first 10 ingredients in a quart jar and shake well. Place lettuce in bowl and top with eggs and shrimp. Pour dressing over salad. This dressing gets better with time so make it up at least a day before using.