The Sampler Takes a Picnic
The Summer Solstice has passed and we are into the summertime—in short, my favorite time of year, and the perfect time for dining “al Fresco” or “out-of-doors.”
Not content with an open air bistro or a streetside café, I pressed on into the great outdoors, and set my sites on a full-fledged picnic.
I considered the list of local possibilities: a town village green, a county park, several state forests, and a truly world-class State Park. Chances seemed good for the obligatory setting of natural splendor; maybe even “in the grass” if the lawn seemed preferable to the many available standard picnic tables.
Provisioning the expedition was not to be a difficult or time-consuming chore. Many local eateries provide suitable carry out; a freshly-made sandwich from a local eatery might be nice, or, better yet, the deli sections at both the Nashville IGA and Bean Blossom Shopworth grocery stores offer hot and cold deli selections to go. They’d also be glad to make you a sandwich.
Most importantly, for my purposes, is the fine selection of pre-made cold salads, including potato salad, tuna salad, pasta salad, and—my favorite—sea leg salad.
For the right amount of cash, they’ll plop a scoop or two of any or all of these into a neat little plastic container suitable for carrying around and, ultimately, disposing of properly.
Most also offer fresh, in-house breads like croissants or Kaiser rolls, and all the fixin’s— mustard, mayo, lettuce, tomato. You can also pick up picnic type supplies like napkins (or their cousins, paper towels), plastic cups, plastic eating implements (it isn’t really silverware, after all), and like that.
What should a picnic consist of?
Well, first of all, there should be a blanket of some kind—a spread, a table cloth, or, in a pinch, a gentlemen’s jacket or a newspaper. Secondly, there needs to be a picnic basket, if only for the sake of good old Yogi Bear, because he loves them so passionately.
Fortunately for me, last summer sometime in a weekend pursuit of “Yard Sailing,” my fiancée and I had acquired a very serviceable and practically antique woven picnic basket with a hinged, wooden top, hickory strip handles, and little straps inside to secure the various comestibles.
Shortly thereafter, at another yard sale, we obtained a slim volume of romantic poetry with a view toward just such an outing.
Therin we encountered the ancient and universal picnic instructions in the words of the classical poet Omar Kyham’s “Rubaiyat”:
“A book of Verses underneath the Bough,
“A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread, and Thou
“Beside me singing in the Wilderness,
“O, Wilderness were Paradise enow!”
I packed my little basket with, not a loaf, but certainly a little bread wrapped around some smoked turkey and Swiss cheese, and headed out to the “wilderness” of the Brown County State Park with my soon-to-be-matrimonialized Thou.
We found a nice vista in the park, with a stunning view (aren’t they all?). I asserted myself to the point of eschewing the sturdy table in favor of the well-kept lawn “…underneath the Bough…” of a friendly looking tree.
You know, there is absolutely no hurrying this picnic business. You have got to give it time to have its magical effect. Time is the secret ingredient. Just sitting there, surrounded by beauty of the natural, romantic, and gustatory varieties, and relaxing and letting it all slowly soak in.
“…She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies,
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meets in her aspect and her eyes…”
There’s plenty of time; to nibble, to sip, to chat idly about nothing in particular; time to notice “her aspect and her eyes”, as George Gordon (Lord) Byron would say it, and to drink in the bounteous beauty of Brown County spread at our feet.
It was another English Lord, Lord Chesterfield, who is first recorded to have used the word “picnic,” in 1748’s “Letters”. It comes from the French “Pique-nique” and derives from “piquer,” “to pick.”
So pick yourself up off the sofa; pick up your wicker basket, or even a brown paper bag; pick up some delectable victuals at any of a number of local markets or eateries; pick up some decent representation of the vintner’s art, and then go pick out a spot resplendent with the unmatched natural beauty of nature.
And have yourself a nice, long, boring afternoon of picnicking and be profoundly satisfied.