9 Comments

A JUG OF WINE, A LOAF OF BREAD—AND THOU


450px-Pierre-Auguste_Renoir_-_Luncheon_of_the_Boating_Party_-_Google_Art_Project
“Luncheon of the Boating Party” by Pierre-Auguste Renoir

We once ate a picnic in a small boat while floating down a river in the Perigord. I had hoped to eat an authentic Cassoulet for lunch. Instead, we opted for the nearby deli and a small rented boat.

We had expected the French families in boats alongside us to retrieve carefully made lunches from baskets. But all had brought potato chips and sodas or beer instead. They jealously watched us as we laid out chilled artichokes with mayonnaise, Bayonne ham, tiny sausages, a small baguette, Cabecou cheese, figs, little plastic tumblers and a bottle of rose, all tucked in a capacious backpack.

The Dordogne is a slow river and we drifted along amid small eddies and chirping birds. It was the best picnic I ever had.

The Victorians loved to picnic. They knew the joy of joining the wild and the tame while trudging through field and stream for lunch. Painters such as Renoir, Manet and Monet were among many who found the delights of eating outdoors worthy of a few dabs of paint.

The only difference between “picnicing” and “eating outside” which for most of history was just eating — is the pleasurable collision between human refinements and the energies in the natural world which have escaped them.

When I was younger I produced picnics as close to those in the abundant cookbooks as I could in spite of raising an eyebrow from Dr. Advice, whose idea of a picnic in the park is egg salad or tuna sandwiches and not a lot else. Not that he wasn’t happy to eat my potato salad, ham sandwiches and cold fried chicken, he simply felt it wasn’t necessary to “put on a show”.

The most committed picnickers can always find a new temple of nutrition, and after reading a glowing review of a local taco truck we tried it out yesterday. We chose well, taking both fish and carnitas tacos to the local park and then stopping by the corner ice cream shoppe for a butter pecan cone.

The food truck craze has proliferated all over the country, with fleets of them setting up on given days and offering fare from street food to banquet worthy cuisine.

We picnic often, usually with a couple of tuna or egg sandwiches washed down with a can of soda! Time changes all, except the joy of sharing the outdoors with a few chirping birds under a live oak or willow on a grassy knoll.

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9 comments on “A JUG OF WINE, A LOAF OF BREAD—AND THOU

  1. We used to picnic a lot, especially when the kids were young, even combined it with a portable small wood barbeque. Sausages and cheap wine with crunchy bread rolls were essential with perhaps some cheese or ham, chicken, stuffed olives and sun dried tomatoes.

    We sat on grass and that is now getting more tricky, not so much the sitting, but the getting up. A few months ago I sat in one of those butterfly chairs. You know, it has a thin rounded metal frame around which is wrapped some loose fitting cotton cover.

    When you sit down the bum nearly touches the ground and your knees point upwards. Well, I could not get out of it. I could not get enough leverage to get up. I finally lowered myself on my knees on the ground and used all my strength to then get up. I saw a few people laughing.

    The world can be so cruel.

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    • This made me laugh since I regularly struggle to get up off the floor while either exercising or cleaning the house. Nice to know I have company.
      Once on a family camping trip, we were obliged to get a motel room, where we took our portable gas stove inside to cook our “picnic” dinner. The thing caught fire of course and we had to force the window open and toss the entire thing out into the rain. I can’t remember if we went hungry that night or not.

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  2. What a great tribute to the picnic! I need to go on one pronto now! (Maybe I’ll wait till Spring).

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  3. I still remember our family picnic basket. It was relatively large, of woven wood, with two wooden covers that lifted up, and wooden handles. Inside there were red, yellow and blue plastic divided plates, with matching cups and cutlery. There was a footed rack, too, so you could put something like a pie in the bottom without it being damaged.

    We weren’t so fancy when it came to the food, but often there was cold fried chicken or sliced ham, potato salad, brownies, deviled eggs. And, a jug of lemonade. So good!

    There’s a new food truck park that’s opened just down the road from me. It seems there are four or five trucks. I’ve not tried them yet, but there are some wonderful ones in Houston. The last time I was at the art museum, the empanada truck was there. Oh, my. That’s good eating!

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  4. I looked all over for our picnic basket a couple of weeks ago. Finally figured I had given it away, but while changing beds in the guest room I stumbled over a basket of hats at the foot of the bed. Voila! Our picnic basket. We did well with a small ice chest so it was OK. I also have a really small zipper case just big enough for a sandwich and can of soda, so we’re OK.

    The food truck craze seems to have swept the country. I think we are all comfortable with good fast food.

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  5. Just thought: Maybe I’ll start a new business!

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