“I Want the Hamburger,” Ensign, July 1985, 68–69
It was near the date for our family’s annual summer vacation at West Yellowstone. My husband, our four children, and a cousin from Virginia were all anxious to leave, but for some reason, I was less than enthusiastic.
Because I couldn’t understand my feelings, I looked closely at the details of our trip. I didn’t mind getting the clothes ready. I didn’t mind overseeing the packing. I didn’t mind the little details, like leaving a note for the milkman, or buying and packing the food. But when it came to preparing the menus and the meals, I did mind.
Having to worry about meal preparation took the fun out of our trip for me. While the rest of the family slept in or sped along the trails on the motorcycle to greet the beautiful morning, I had to cook breakfast. I was the one who had to watch the time and leave the beach and swimming and water skiing early so that supper could be ready for the hungry vacationers. And I was the one who had to miss a canoe ride to prepare lunch.
It didn’t take me long to come up with a solution to the problem—this time I would ask the children and my husband to take care of the meals. I knew my twelve-year-old daughter would agree. She was always willing to help in the kitchen. But how would dad and the three sons, ages four, nine, and sixteen, react? And so I put off asking them until we reached the summer home. Once there, I decided to draft them rather than risk having a request turned down.
“Hear ye, hear ye, gang,” I announced. “Watch as I put the food away. Notice what we have: corn on the cob, hamburger, eggs, soup, hot dogs, tomatoes, bacon, cereal, lettuce, rice, potatoes, tuna fish, watermelon, …” The list went on. “From this will come all our meals. There will be no trips to the store except for milk. Posted here is a list of your assignments. The meals by which you find your name will be entirely your responsibility—planning, preparing, serving, and cleaning up afterwards. Notice, too, the rule at the bottom of the page: all meals will be on time! I will be available for consultation only.”
Silence. I rushed outside and listened at the door while the family absorbed the shock. Instead of listening to complaining, I heard, “I speak the bacon for my meal.” “Plan on French toast when I fix breakfast.” “I’ll make hamburgers so don’t snack on the potato chips, because I’ll want to use them too.” “I guess I could make tacos.” “How much tuna casserole will I need to make to feed a family this big?” “Someone read for me, what meal do I have? Breakfast! Good, I will fix cold cereal.”
I was bewildered. How could this be? They were actually excited! They were delighted! All this time I had thought I was helping them by doing all the cooking. Now I could see that I’d do more good for them by sharing the responsibility.
It was truly a vacation. As I look back upon it, I am still amazed that at times I was the last one up in the morning—just in time for breakfast. The meals were very good—some odd combinations and strange substitutions, but still tasty.
It is getting vacation time again, and we can’t wait to go to Yellowstone. But this year—this year, maybe I’ll be the one to use the hamburger. Sharon Ballif, Ogden, Utah