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.

LANGUAGE IS A WAY TO DESCRIBE THE WORLD


Fish Designs
“SOMETHING FISHY” original watercolor painting by kayti sweetland Rasmussen

It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.

Sheila is tall. Neil is tired. In English we use the same word “is” to describe the two conditions even though one is a permanent attribute while the other is temporary.

Or consider the statement: Joan is quiet. What does that mean? Is she quiet by nature, an introvert, or is she being quiet today?

In Spanish, there are two verbs to describe the idea of being. Ser and estar both mean “to be” but with a big difference. Ser describes something that’s inherent while estar is temporary.

If you want to say someone is tall, you’d go with ser, but if you want to say someone is tired, estar is the one to use.

Each language is a different way of describing the world.

With Cinco de Mayo” arriving next week, those of us who thrill at the thought of tortillas, beans and rice and a few hot peppers thrown in, are already planning our menu. I have been thinking of fish tacos for one thing, so the other day we stopped by a taco truck here in town to buy what I discovered last summer to be the best fish tacos around.

Since we had last stopped there, a “gentrification” of sorts had taken place, with the truck turned into a new position, and a pebbled area to wait in. The taker of orders stood in a small window about 50 feet above my head. I could barely see her head. I asked for a fish taco, and she said “no”. I began a friendly conversation with her and discovered that she did not speak English so I asked for a “pescado taco”. Still no.

A very nice Mexican boy standing behind me chatted with her a bit, and assured me that they no longer made fish tacos. I settled for pork.

This year’s Cinco de Mayo will be a mixed occasion for our family. Our son-in-law who passed away last year on the 5th of May, was especially fond the celebration, so we will lift a glass of Modelo beer to his memory.

EGGPLANT ENCHILADAS

I fling tradition to the wind by using eggplant leftover from grilling for enchilada filling. These enchiladas play the old Red Enchilada song with a few new instruments.

Eggplant filling:
1 medium eggplant, cut into 1/2″ slices crosswise
Brush with a mixture of garlicky pesto, olive oil and a little balsamic vinegar
Grill or broil till tender, about 10 min per side. Cool.
2 onions, chopped and sautéed in olive oil.
Cut cooled eggplant into 1/2″ cubes and mix with onions.
Add 3 tsp. oregano. 1/2 tsp. salt
Cook for 3 minutes more

Soften your tortillas by frying in 1 Tbs. oil. Stack on paper towel before filling.

Warm a can of Red chile sauce preferably Los Palmas. (Or you can make your own, but I won’t bother you with the recipe because the canned isn’t awful.)

Dip the softened tortilla in warmed chile sauce, Place about 3 Tbs. eggplant filling, and 3 Tbs. grated cheddar cheese down middle. Fold over sides of tortilla and place seam side down in a greased 9 x 13 baking pan. Drizzle on more chile sauce and more grated cheese. Put in 350 oven 12 to 15 min.

(If you have left over filling it’s also good made into turnovers using some pie crust, I do this if I get tired of filling tortillas and want to hurry up and eat!)