Vacation get-togethers are an integral part of summer. Most of the time these gatherings are family affairs, sort of annual reunions.

Being a fortunate beach-house owner with a multigenerational guest list, I have had lots of experience planning and preparing meals. There used to be the usual "welcome" first-night meal, which could be kept warm or reheated for latecomers. Lasagna seemed to please almost everyone. Sometimes it would be a roast turkey or baked ham, which made for great sandwiches later. The meals were never fancy. Dessert was ice cream, fruit and cookies. Easy.

All this has changed with food fetishes. While I am aware of and sympathetic to dietary restrictions related to health issues, I admit to having a hard time adjusting to some of the self-imposed guidelines for healthy living.

There is nothing wrong with healthy living, but it seems some folks have gone overboard in reading labels and turning down good food. It can be hard to keep track of all the requirements and wishes.

Organic everything tops the list, followed by free-range everything. Red meat has been banished in favor of only certain seafoods (which I think have to be caught at midnight under a full moon when the tide is high. Just kidding.)

I no longer take it personally when guests refuse to drink water from the faucet. I am becoming accustomed to the large jugs of bottled water on the counter and assume that the owners can identify their own brand.

Likewise, I am adjusting to the many kinds of bread, natural cereal and crackers that arrive with my visitors. The "I'll bring my own stuff" crowd is of a much younger generation than my peer group, which used to bring frozen casseroles, cakes and certainly vodka and scotch. Today's third and fourth generation are all fit, trim and healthy, to be sure, but are totally into their own eating habits and determined to see that even the smallest of their offspring "eat right."

Some of us were brought up to eat what was served, particularly when at someone else's home. The answer for me is to sit back and let the adult children plan all the meals. That's a treat, since they are wonderful cooks and I'm not at all concerned about the ingredients they choose. The whole purpose of the get-togethers anyway is just to have time together.

But I have to agree with a neighbor who said he just couldn't wait to have a slice of white bread with good old peanut butter made the "real way." And my husband is dying to have a hot dog when the kids aren't looking.

PRISCILLA OEHL

Avalon