It’s 35 degrees, we’ve just spent the last 4 hours dragging our kids around the museums and ancient ruins of Rome. It’s way past lunchtime and everyone is hot, hungry and on the edge of a breakdown. So the inevitable question comes up, ‘what shall we eat and where can we get it? Quickly!!!’
Anyone with kids will have had many similar eating experiences while trying to enjoy their summer holidays. We are not experts but we wanted to share with you our experiences and tips we’ve learnt to make holiday eating fun, and not too stressful.
Cook It Yourself
The first and most important choice for us when going on holiday is to have self-catering accommodation. Eating out three meals a day with a family of four is very expensive. With self-catering we can buy quality ingredients and choose what to cook. When we eat out it is very rare we find somewhere that everyone really likes, so with self-catering we can cook meals that we know the whole family will enjoy. We can prepare meals at a time that suits us and it will be a fraction of the cost of eating out at a restaurant.
All year round what we eat is a primary focus for our family and that doesn’t change when we go abroad. We love to go to food markets and discover new, local and seasonal produce, this encourages us to use new ingredients and develop new dishes. For example this year while in Rome we discovered a little know pulse called roveja, which is an ancient pulse grown almost exclusively in the high altitudes of the Umbria region of Italy. They were almost extinct until in recent years they have been reintroduced by the Slow Cuisine culture in Italy. They have the flavor of a puy lentil with the texture of a fresh green pea. We cooked them in a light tomato sauce and everyone loved them. You can watch the video of our recipe at the bottom of this post.
One thing we have learned from self-catering accommodation is that more often than not the kitchen isn’t well equipped. Once there was no oven or wooden spoons, and another time there wasn’t a cutting knife. Nevertheless we improvise or if it comes to it we buy a utensil or two and it still works out much cheaper than going to eat out every mealtime. It’s rarely practical to bring your kitchen utensils with you.
Of course we don’t spend all our holiday time cooking and we love going to eat out but finding a place that pleases us all is challenging. We want to try the local cuisine and not just eat whatever we know the boys will enjoy. While on holidays it’s very easy to end up in very touristy places eating very disappointing food at extravagant prices. The best way to avoid this is to do a little research before you go out. Find the best local restaurants and have a look at the menu online to get an idea if there is something suitable for everyone. In Rome we found an amazing pizzeria, it was in an inconspicuous place that we would never have known about without doing our research, yet it was by far one of the best pizzas we’ve ever eaten. Always avoid restaurants with waiters standing outside calling you in and more often than not the best restaurants are off the beaten path.
Plan a little as to what time you need to get there to avoid everyone getting to the ‘hangry‘ stage. An important thing to remember is that restaurants in most of Southern Europe and hot climates will not start serving until 8pm.
Don’t Stress It
At home we eat a large variety of different cuisines and we always make our boys try new dishes and ingredients. This makes it a lot easier while we are abroad as they have a broad palate and are willing to taste foreign foods, sometimes it’s a winner, sometimes it’s not.
Of course no family wants to spend their holidays arguing and bartering with their kids about what they can or have to eat. Once whilst on holiday in Greece, we had found this amazing restaurant where they made gorgeous traditional dishes daily, they even went up into the mountains to pick wild greens and herbs for the dishes. Our first son Otis was one and a half at the time and he simply refused to eat anything except avocados, bread and kiwis for the entire holiday. It was stressful as we were concerned he wasn’t getting enough nutrition, but we decided to not let it ruin our holiday and we kept offering him parts of each dish and trusted that if his body needed something desperately he would take it. As soon as we got back to England his eating habits returned to normal. Stress and food never go well together, that’s for sure!
One of the great things about going on holiday for us is treating ourselves with pastries and desserts. In France we love hunting down the best patisseries with the best croissants and amandines. While in Italy this year we spent several days exploring Rome, where the monuments were little more than an excuse to go from one gelato to the next. It was tough.
We have two boys aged 6 and 8 and they are eternally hungry, so whenever we go out we need to be prepared. First of all we always start the day with a good breakfast, usually oat based as oats really keep us going for longer (Oats). When we go out we always take a good supply of snacks. We always have a tin of almonds or brazil nuts as they are a good rich source of fats and protein and keep the kids going. We also usually have some plain crackers or biscuits for carbohydrates, nothing too sweet or sugary. We always include some fresh fruit and always plenty of drinking water. If we are out for the day we usually make our own sandwiches as again it is something that is cheap and we know everyone will enjoy because you can choose what to put in it.
We often bring specialty products with us if we think they are going to be hard to find abroad, such as chia seeds, mixed nuts, herb teas and nutritious snacks for the boys like spelt crackers or protein bars. These can be a life saviour when you’re travelling or arrive late at your destination.
Let Us Know
These are some of our experiences and tips that work well for us while traveling. We find they save us money, keep us healthy and allow us to enjoy a restful holiday. We are sure that every family has ways of dealing with children, eating habits and routines while on holiday, we would love to hear your top tips and experiences as well.
Roveja summer stew
1 1/2 cups of dried Roveja peas
1 red onion
1 red pepper
12 ripe tomatoes (peeled)
4 cloves of garlic
Soak the peas in plenty water with a slice of lemon or kombu seaweed for at least 6 hours. Drain and rinse the peas, put in a pan with water, bring to the boil and leave to simmer. Dice the onion, pepper and garlic and gently saute in olive oil. Meanwhile peel and deseed the tomatoes and roughly chop. Once the onion and pepper have softened add the tomatoes, season well and leave it all to simmer for 20 minutes or until the tomatoes have broken down completely. The peas will be ready by now, drain off any excess water and add them to the tomato sauce, cook everything for a further 20 minutes to let the flavours infuse. Serve with rice and focaccia and garnish with basil.