It’s back to school today for my family – my husband is off to welcome his teachers at the school where he’s an Assistant Principal, Ruby’s off to 2nd Grade, and I’m spending the day scheduling schools who will be participating in Spoons Across America’s 1st – 5th grade programs in food literacy education. There are a lot of mixed feelings in the house as we wake with excitement for the promises that a new school year brings, but we also mourn the loss of summer and the time we had together as a family up in New England.

This summer, our annual family camping trip took us to Maine – a few days on the coast in Acadia National Park and then to the middle of the state where we camped by a beautiful pond and went white water rafting.  One of my favorite parts of camping is the outdoor kitchen we create. I cook over a small propane stove, reaching into the cooler (or the back of the car) for ingredients, and then we eat in our camping chairs in front of the campfire. We are all together for every meal – no phones (no service), no news, no distractions other than the mosquitos that haunt our legs and ears.  Since it’s summer and I do love to cook and eat good food, we always try to seek out local farms, bakeries, and markets. When we’re successful, this can turn into a salad of local kale, fire roasted potatoes and some great sausage from the farm down the road from our campground.

But then there was the time we were in West Forks, Maine…  miles from any farm, farmers market, or really any grocery store except for Berrys…which was probably more tackle shop than grocery store. Luckily they had hot dogs and cheese!  So instead of one of my campsite “gourmet” meals, we roasted hot dogs on a stick and made “Nacho Pie” with beef jerky on the campfire. It was delicious!

It may not always be gourmet, but eating together as a family is what counts!

As we get back to school and return to the hustle and bustle of everyday life, this is a powerful reminder of the importance of spending meal times together. I know how busy our days and nights get, and there is not always the chance to cook up an elaborate meal, let alone all get to the table at the same time. But family meals are as much about the face to face time we get when we sit together, as they are about the food we eat. I care very much about eating locally and seasonally and cooking fresh, healthy tasty meals for my family. But, sometimes a hotdog on a stick, eaten with joy with the people I love, can be just as good.