Friday, July 5, 2013

Picnics Then and Now

Yesterday was Independence day and George and I are so bad at having fun these days that it took us all day to decide what to do.  The fireworks we attend are on July 3, so that really wasn't on the table.  I suppose that we could have hunted down another show but one is enough for us.  Anyway, we messed around all morning then worked all afternoon, then headed to the local lake for a summer picnic.

We are also bad at picnics. Growing up for me a picnic involved my mom packing all day the day before, then us piling in the truck and travelling to one state park or another. Then my dad would set up an elaborate dining shelter constructed from various tarps and clotheslines and other camping equipment.  We would turn on the country station, settle in and "people watch" while Dad built a fire and roasted a five course meal.  My job was to get as wet, muddy and sunburned as possible during all this. (I remain skilled at this and can still manage to go from middle aged professional lady to 8 year old redneck child in about 15 minutes.)

Flash forward 35 years and to our family picnics.  These are usually a part of a vacation or day trip  to a hike/battlefield/produce pickup/etc. I pack the Official Reese Family Hoagie.  We hop in the car, drive until lunch, find a park and jump out.  In approximately 15 minutes the entire picnic takes place. I unpack my Go-Bag, unpack the hoagie, a bag of chips and some fruit.  George reads a map while we eat, run to the bathroom, and pack back up.  If it is raining, the picnic takes place in the car.

We go on a lot of day trips, and this strategy works for us. It has several advantages in that we have an economical lunch, avoid fast food restaurants (as I write this, we haven't been to McDonald's in at least 10 years...) and we get to see a lot of state parks around the region.  But  it's not really a picnic.

Last night we came close to something in the middle of these two types of picnics:  I did not cook on site, but I made a Couscous Salad (adapted from Giada after last weeks' cooking show watching).  I picked up some fried chicken from the grocery store along with a loaf of Italian bread and a hunk of watermelon.  We packed up Rebecca's patriotic cake and a gallon of iced tea.  We headed to Moraine State park and grabbed a table with a view of Lake Arthur.  George even got out a chair!!! We used a real table cloth (OK it was a sheet), ate a leisurely dinner, then hung out for about 2 hours while Rebecca picked berries, Julie took a nap on the picnic bench, and George and I just relaxed.

Maybe we will get the hang of this someday.  Maybe our grandchildren will need to be hosed off before we come home when we take them for picnics...

 Official Reese Family Hoagie 

(Feeds 5)
1  loaf Italian bread, cut in half, top to bottom..  You can scoop out some of the bread from the top half if you think it's too bready.

Layers of lunch meat, cheese and veggies as desired.  

Cut as appropriate for shape of  loaf.  I usually cut it in quarters, once lengthwise, then once crosswise, the cut some of the quarters into eighths. 

Store in sandwich bags, pack dressings separately.  Picky people remove what they don't want

Go Bag

I keep this packed at all times for quick access with: 

Paper plates and plastic ware.
A few water bottles
Sharp knife
Roll of paper towels
Assorted bags for garbage and collection of berries, interesting rocks, shells, dead animals, etc)
Twister mat (this works as a table cloth, or mat to sit on if there is no table, or a makeshift tent or raincoat, or I suppose a form of entertainment if you get really bored.)
Hand sanitizer
Tube of sunblock
Tube of bug repellent
Emergency snack (hard candy or animal crackers or granola bars)

Couscous Salad

Dressing:1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil2 tablespoons cider vinegar1 1/2 teaspoons paprika1 teaspoon kosher salt1 T Lemon Juice

Whisk together until smooth.

Couscous:1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil1 1/3 cups couscous
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Saute the couscous untill browned.  Add 2 c water and bring to boil. Simmer for about 5 minutes or until done.  Cool. Add to dressing with:

2 cups packed baby spinach leaves, coarsely chopped1 tomato, seeded and chopped1/2 c good feta, crumbled1/4 c chopped green pepper1/2 c chopped cucumber
1/2 c chopped red onionKosher salt

Chill and serve.

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