People look at me with furrowed brows when I say that we haven't had a family beach vacation in two years. Such an absence is sacrilege in these parts. I could blame the summer we spent in London. I could claim a growing onset of introversion. I could blame Mr. M's rather niche industry, which oddly chooses to have ALL of its American conferences during the summer months for the same group of people. But if I did that I'd be laying false blame. We love the beach. We love the sultry Lowcountry air that works as well or better than most chemical muscle relaxers. We love the lazy hours spent watching the children wear themselves to salty, limp waifs as they run up and down the sand, in and out of the water, and up and down crabbing docks.
Aaron and I tend to be at our most harmonious when working together in the kitchen, so working side-by-side, bottle of wine open within reach, to create a delectable meal of local treats while looking over the ocean or marsh is truly a beautiful thing.
So how is it possible that we went two years without a family beach trip until this week?
Time and place.
Living within a couple of hours of the world's most beautiful coastline can establish a special kind of snobbery. Hypocritically, I've gladly played the role of tourist in other parts of the world, it pains me to see large groups of tourists on the beaches of South Carolina with their mouths agape, looking for the next Civil War relic, poking at washed-up jellyfish, getting out of their cars at the marsh bank to taunt alligators, shopping while talking entirely too loud...not noticing the natural beauty that has been carefully preserved around them. It's the same for people who live in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and even Florida, I would imagine. People are so excited to go to the water that they lose the common sense Mother Nature has been trying to impress upon them since the beginning of time. The beach vacation becomes a thing about crowds, cheap plastic mementos, cheap drunkenness and noise. These are the kinds of things that make me run for the hills.
Earlier this week we were fortunate to spend a few days with our good friends and neighbors at one of the South Carolina coastal spots that has remained fairly untouched by such nonsense. We woke in the mornings to coffee and nature walks among deer, birds and lovely overgrowth. Mr. M and the children in residence caught our dinner off of the home's dock. Everyone in attendance read gluttonously. I actually (embarrassingly) teared up during our last lunch at the house because I was overwhelmed by the honesty that two families can share when the facades of the everyday world are melted away by the marsh air.
That is what a beach trip is supposed to be, in my mind. I'll happily employ this discriminate taste in coastal vacationing now that I've figured out how to define it! Now that the season is almost over, we'll have to make pretenders of ourselves by bringing home goodies from Columbia's Our Local Catch (the reason behind the ridiculous moment of gourmandism I happily shared with Anne Postic last Thanksgiving eve) and tossing them into my growing collection of cookware from Sur La Table (how, exactly, does one become a collector of Dutch ovens? Another stupid but thoroughly enjoyable habit I've developed).
Maybe, when fall arrives, I'll share the secret of what is actually the best time to go visit the coast. Maybe...