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Labun: Vacation Perspective

Whenever I go on vacation, my perspective on everyday life shifts... to an angle that lets me believe many implausible, yet optimistic, things. On vacation, I believe that, because I feel how nice it is to be caught up on sleep, I’ll never skip it again. Or now that I don’t have any looming deadlines, I’ll never fall behind on work again. Or because I cleaned the house before I left, now I’m a person who keeps a clean house.

Tragically untrue.

And every vacation I find myself believing in the existence of healthy junk food.

It starts with diet soda – and moves on to healthy desserts - marketed as indulgences you can have in any quantity, as often as you like... which technically makes them not an indulgence, but vacation is no time for logic.

My latest was a faux ice cream with aggressively busy graphics on the carton and an aggressively low calorie count - only 35 per serving; a pint of ice cream with fewer calories than a pint of beer. I added my pint of roasted peanut butter flavor to the freezer at the house where I was staying, to loud protests from every single person there, who had expected something more from my grocery run.

Now, in defense of this dessert, it demonstrated brilliant food engineering. Water was the main ingredient, yet it held together with the consistency of sorbet, not shaved ice. Unfortunately, it still tasted like water. Plus a burned flavor - I assume the roasted peanut butter... roasted too long and without the peanuts.

This was novel! Maybe next would be burned water for cocktails or a flavorless water-sorbet where we add our own syrups for any flavor we want. Everyone else found this novel too – just not in a positive way. But a nearby ice cream parlor served real mocha-toffee ice cream in homemade waffle cones, so nobody suffered for long.

In non-vacation times, I’m aware that dessert is a treat we shouldn’t turn into a major food group. Nonetheless, there’s an allure to seeing a world where it’s healthy to make dessert a foundation of our diet - just like there’s an allure to seeing myself as someone with plenty of sleep and a clean house. And I believe that such wishful thinking is a close cousin to creative thinking, which in turn is the basis of many triumphant schemes... no doubt many of them hatched soon after returning from vacation.

Helen Labun has worked in Vermont nonprofits addressing issues in rural economic development. Today, she is Executive Director of the Vermont Fresh Network, connecting chefs to Vermont farmers in support of the local food economy.
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