…..and thou

“Nothing is better than a picnic.” ~ Zooey Deschanel

Picnics. Does the reality of an actual picnic live up to its hype? I love picnics—at least the concept of them. Eating out in the fresh air. A blanket spread on vast greenness. A bottle of wine, a loaf of bread, a chunk of good cheese, some fine chocolate……………okay now for the not so romantic reality. The reality of most picnics is that they are a lot of work. Time and planning and a great deal of preparation go into something which is supposed to be simple fun with convivial friends and good food.

The first step is deciding where to have the picnic. At the local park? At the beach? In your backyard? And how will you eat–at a picnic table, in lawn chairs eating off your lap, or on a blanket spread on the ground? How many people will be invited and what will be on the menu? Is it going to be potluck, a wiener roast, or a steak barbeque (which these days seems to be limited to millionaires with the price of beef and lack of sales on the more expensive bovine cuts). And most importantly–what about dessert?

The picnics of my youth were wonderful affairs. And do you know why? Because all I was expected to do was show up. Maybe help carry a few things from the car to the picnic site—but all the other variables—who was coming, what was being served, where we were having the picnic were planned by someone else. And that someone else always turned out to my mom.

I never once heard her complain. Not while she was frying up mounds of chicken (she made the best fried chicken in the world). Or while she was making copious amounts of potato salad, fourteen pies (I may be exaggerating a bit here—but only a bit)and all the other fixings that went with a good picnic. She did not complain while she was packing it all up in coolers or wrapping the hot stuff in newspapers to keep them hot.

I have planned a few picnics. I have complained as I made a few salads to go with the inevitable bucket or three of the Colonel’s chicken. I have not been a particularly happy camper in figuring out all the logistics—the who, what, where, when and how of the picnic, nor have I been particularly gracious when it came time to clean up.

I love the idea of a picnic. I love the idea of eating outside. But I do not like heat and humidity. Or bugs of either the flying or crawling variety. I like the picnics that I see the fictional characters of Downton Abbey partake in. But they had servants and cooks. And I believe they may have used crystal and china and silverware at their picnics. Not Styrofoam plates, plastic knives and forks, or paper cups. According to Alice Walker, “Tea to the English is really a picnic indoors” so they are well versed in the practices of the picnic even when picnic weather is not forecast.

I have wonderful memories of picnics when I was a kid. Particularly the one we would have every year to celebrate the Crawford Reunion. (My mom was a Crawford.) It was usually the second Sunday in July—and in the latter years that it was held, it was at Lakeside Park (in Kingsville, Ontario for my blog friends).Tables upon tables had to be corralled so there would be enough to seat the families of my grandpa and all his brothers and sisters and their families. (I cannot readily remember how many but there were at least ten).

We always had a banner affixed with a badge proudly bearing the Crawford tartan announcing our reunion to one and all (and woe betide anyone who tried to take one of the tables under the banner). The reunion itself, for a kid was lots of fun. It was the granddaddy of picnics with lots of people who you were related to in some manner or other, games, and of course, food galore. And when you shared what you brought with the others sitting around you, and they shared what they brought— it was a true feast.

I leave you with a rather romantic view of picnicking from Omar Khayyam who penned this in the 12th century with no mention of fuss and bother, bug spray and sunscreen, or mess and logistics:

A book of verse beneath the bough,
A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness –
Ah, wilderness were paradise enow!

What are your best picnic memories?

Published in: on July 28, 2015 at 1:44 pm  Comments (5)  
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~ Back by Popular Demand ~ Recipe Saturday ~

Picture of red kidney beans

Picture of red kidney beans (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is official. Saturday is going to be recipe day on my blog. It is ironic in a way, since I have spent a great deal of my life calling myself the undomestic diva, but I am sure sharing a few recipes will not mean I have gone over to the “other side.”

I am providing two recipes today. One is for those of you who do not eat meat; the other is more for your reading pleasure (you will see what I mean when you read it). Both of these recipes are from my family’s cookbook (one we all contributed to at the initiation of my sister Peggy about 22 or so years ago.)

The first is one of my contributions, and it is really good. And there is no meat in it, so it is good for all those of you who have given it up. It even breaks my personal rule of not more than five ingredients—but you will be happy I did:

Mexican Bean Salad

1 – 19 oz. Can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

½ cup diced green bell pepper

1 small onion, finely chopped

2 tbsp.  Cider vinegar

1 tbsp. olive oil

1 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

1 clove garlic, crushed

½ tsp. chilli powder or to taste

1/8 tsp. ground cumin

3 cups shredded lettuce

2 medium sized tomatoes, coarsely chopped (1 /2 cups)

In large bowl combine ingredients except lettuce and tomatoes; toss well to mix. Refrigerate covered, at least one hour before serving.

To serve: Place ½ cup shredded lettuce on six plates; top with ½ cup of bean mixture; garnish with ¼ cup chopped tomatoes. Makes 6 servings at 120 calories per serving; 3 grams of fat, and 12 mg. sodium.

Sounds pretty precise for me, eh? Of course I have served it without the lettuce, and just heaped in a bowl and not composed onto six plates. And cumin—don’t have it, so did not miss it—but those of you with a more varied spice cupboard probably have it.

This recipe came from my “healthy” cooking days, but it tastes really good despite that (lol).

Here is the second recipe, which is my brother John’s, and is delightfully whimsical (no one has ever called him whimsical before I will bet). This is his recipe, verbatim:

Bologna Sandwich

Imagine it Fried! Bologna Sandwich (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fried Bologna Sandwich

I usually only cook this magnificent creation when Starr’s not at home (Starr is his wife).

Tools: big heavy frying pan

Temp: as hot as the damn thing will go!

Ingredients:  bologna, 5 or 6 thick slices; a dab of butter or margarine

Directions: Heat the stove (high) and the frying pan. As soon as the pan starts to glow add butter. At this point make sure that the exhaust fan is set at high – everything works better on high. When the smoke subsides and the butter is a brownish colour – add a few slices of bologna – cut it like a four leaf clover to keep the little sucker from curling in the pan.

As soon as the bologna turns near black – it is done. Remove from the pan and set on the counter to drain – (you can clean up the mess after). Get 2 slices of bread (your choice), spread liberally with mayonnaise, mustard, slices of tomato, cucumber, radish, lettuce etc.

Turn on the Yankee Workshop and have lunch with Norm.

P.S. Goes well with chips, dill pickles, and beer.

Weird Tree

Our Weird Family Tree (Photo credit: hball)

His daughter Chay wrote me a note when she read on the blog that I was going to share this recipe and wondered if it was just a “Geauvreau” treat, but said she talked to some of her friends and they were familiar with fried bologna sandwiches too. So we are not all that weird. Well, yes we are, but that is another story…..

Do you have any wonderful and weird recipes you think only your family likes?