I was recently in Florida for a weekend family gathering at the beach to celebrate birthdays for my father-in-law and sister-in-law. The atmosphere was festive: plenty of great conversations, long beach walks, fun games, delicious wine and, most importantly, good eating.

Healthy, tasty food is always a big priority at these gatherings. Our family is pretty foodie. And people came prepared. Several family members drove, so were able to bring containers of homemade beer cheese, quinoa salad, pasta salad, coleslaw, smoked salmon, rum cake and peanut butter fudge. Others who arrived by plane went straight to the store and stocked up the pantry and fridge with fresh breads and rolls, cheeses, fruit, salad fixings, hummus, coffee, creamer and sundry snacks and desserts. Oh yes, and wine.

We went out for a breakfast a few mornings, but then the rest of our time was spent at our awesome beach house. With ingredients for lunches, afternoon appetizers and dinners, we never had to try and coordinate on where to go for dinner, make reservations, etc. And that pleased everyone.

We were on our own schedule with no time obligations. When it came time to prep meals, the kitchen was full of willing volunteers. One of my brothers-in-law is a master griller, so he got up early each morning and hit the local fish market. He bought a catch of the day, soaked it in a marinade throughout the afternoon then grilled it into a delicious masterpiece at night. The rest of us would create a selection of delectable salads and side dishes to complement it.

One of the best things about the house was a big dining table that we could all fit around. This made for some truly enjoyable meals where we could share stories and recount everything we’d done during the day…particularly who had done best at bocce ball on the beach.

Now back at my much quieter home, it’s just my husband and I sitting at our kitchen bar at mealtime, relaxing and recounting our day. Oh, and maybe plotting our next big group trip, too.