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


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“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.

BUFFALO WINGS IN CRISIS!


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original watercolor painting by kayti sweetland rasmussen

I was surprised to learn that buffalo do not really have wings! This is not a term that I grew up with. However, the annual frenzy of the Super Bowl is upon us, and it is a known fact that chicken (aka buffalo) wings are one of America’s favorite Super Bowl munchies.

This year, however, the ubiquitous treat is in jeopardy. There might not be enough wings to feed America’s insatiable hankering for Buffalo Wings. This Super Bowl, snackers will have 12.3 million fewer wings to chow down on than last year, according to the National Chicken Council. The culprit: Last summer’s drought drove feed prices up, so farmers couldn’t afford to raise as many birds.

This is at a time when wings are increasingly becoming to Super Bowl parties what eggs are to Easter and candy canes are to Christmas. Snacking is so important to Super Bowl activities, in fact, that many snack makers say the week leading up to the Super Bowl is when they post their biggest weekly sales bump of the year. Avocados are at a rock bottom price to encourage guacamole makers. The potato chip shelves are emptying fast. Cases of beer are sailing out the doors. Is sit any wonder then that America has an obesity problem?

All I can suggest then, is to make a mad dash for the nearest supermarket and load up before the Buffalo wings are history. For we fans in the Bay Area, our pom-poms are dusted off, and front row chairs reserved. Go Niners!!