A lot of folks dislike eating outside because of the bugs. And others just find it too much work to move dishes and cutlery and glasses and drinks and food from the kitchen to the outdoors. They don’t like the schlepping.
Alexandra Hanson-Harding, 135journals, had an interesting post the other day, about picnics. In it she posted thirty-one questions she wrote for Toastmasters. I’m not going to attempt to answer all of them, but she did inspire me to share some memories of a couple of picnics I’ve enjoyed.
They’re not very traditional, in that there was no red and white checked tablecloth involved. No wicker basket, either. No potato salad or fried chicken. No hotdogs or hamburgers. No devilled eggs. No lemon meringue pie. No big, huge watermelon cooling in a bucket of ice.
We weren’t in a bucolic country setting, either. No sheep or horses grazing nearby. No babbling brook. No big, oak trees to nap under. No rolling hills of green. No row boating, horseshoe tossing, badminton, ball tossing or croquet.
No ants, either. Or bees. Or garden snakes. Or any other little creepy crawlies. Which, in my opinion, is a good thing. A very good thing.
Well isn’t that what you think of when someone says the word “picnic”? I think most of us do. At least right off the top.
But let’s get back to mine.
The first was a yearly event. My mother was born in New York. My grandparents moved to Montreal when she and her twin sister were toddlers, but the rest of my grandfather’s family remained in the U.S. My father did business there; and so, every Easter, we’d go down to New York for about ten days. Part business for my dad, part family visit and part holiday.
For some bizarre reason, my father liked to drive there. He said he liked having the car. Why, God only knows. But that’s what we did. It was fine with my mother. She hated to fly. We’d leave at around 4:00 a.m. My father didn’t want to hit traffic. I didn’t mind because if my aunt and cousin weren’t coming I had the back seat to myself. I’d bring my pillow and a blanket and I’d be asleep by the time we got to the corner of our street.
There were no speed limits in those days. By 9:30 or 10:00 a.m. we’d be at the hotel. All we stopped for was gas and bathroom breaks.
My mother always packed a picnic. Not that we stopped to eat. We ate on the move. We liked it that way. To this day, I remember what she made. Tuna fish sandwiches. My favourite. She also had her own version of chicken mcnuggets. Long before there even was a McDonalds. Hers were SO much better. Well, to start with, they were made with real pieces of chicken breast. Let’s just leave it at that.
She’d bring carrot and celery sticks. Sliced peppers and cucumbers. Cheese and crackers. Grapes. Bananas. Apples. Pears. Oranges. Brownies. Cookies. slices of pound cake. Anything that didn’t need a knife or a fork. She even brought along thermoses of coffee. If I’m not mistaken we once went in the fall, and she brought thermoses of home made soup.
It was fabulous. We all loved it. And rarely was there any food left by the time we arrived at the hotel. For the return trip home we’d load up at the Stage Deli.
Fast forward about twenty odd years. And instead of it being spring or summer, it was winter. Yes, you can have a picnic in winter. You just can’t go outside. My boyfriend at the time and I used to do this all the time: We’d toss lots of huge pillows on the floor. Have lit candles everywhere. Stack all our favourite CDs. And have a glorious fire, raging in the fireplace.
Dinner would be beef fondue. It was one of his favourites and we created the perfect atmosphere for it. We’d lounge on the floor and cook our food, drink lots of red wine, listen to music, stare at the fire, and talk the night away. We’d spend hours and hours eating. We’d have all kinds of vegetables, as well as the steak. Carrots and several different varieties of mushrooms and peppers and zucchini. Whatever we were in the mood for. I made three or four different dipping sauces; and some steamed rice.
When it was snowing we’d open the drapes and there we’d be, cozy and warm inside looking at the snow swirling around the trees outside. It was magical. And then we’d end the evening with some really good, vintage Port.
Ant and sunburn-free picnics. What could be better than that?