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Rice and Peas and Broth and Cheese

The Art of the Picnic

Picnic

Yesterday was Joanie's annual birthday picnic, which I look forward to like nothing else. Rain or shine, the picnic happens every single year. Everyone is encouraged to bring something to eat if they want to, but Joanie spends a few days preparing a bunch of her favorite things too - the result is a huge, diverse spread of absolutely delicious picnic food. Some things, like the brownies, potato salad and spinach-feta turnovers, are all-stars that make an appearance every year. But the rest changes with each passing year and with the guests who come. I love seeing the new things that appear and always wonder about the things that don't make it a second year. It's such a wonderful reflection of how the food culture is constantly changing and evolving.

In no particular order, here's what was served at the picnic yesterday (with the exception of the Turkish pide bread, the bread sticks, and - uh - the fruit, everything was homemade):

Seeded crackers
Meatballs
Carrots in dill vinaigrette
Spinach-and-feta turnovers
Jam bars
Almond cake
Fresh watermelon and cherries
Potato salad with yogurt or Quark (I think? It's the best creamy potato salad I've ever had.)
Pickled white asparagus
Quinoa salad with herbs and peas
Caprese salad
Hummus
Hamantaschen filled with cream cheese and guava paste (recipe in the comments!)
Lentil and parsnip salad
Stewed eggplant and tomato salad
Baked chicken wings
Stuffed celery
Grape leaves filled with yogurt, herbs and pine nuts (I think it's this recipe.)
Marinated tomatoes
Cheesecake with mandarin oranges
Brownies
Breton far with prunes
Beet salad with endives (or fennel?)
Spiced roasted almonds

Hungry yet? :)

Besides the food, Joanie always brings a couple of huge plastic tarps to spread out and then tablecloths to put on the tarps (the food goes on the tablecloth, the people sit on the tarps). There are coolers of iced tea and homemade fruit punch, bottles of wine and water. There are plastic cups (the same ones she's been toting there for the past 40 years and counting) and metal flatware and wooden spoons for serving. The only things that are disposable are the napkins and plates.

At the end of the day, our bellies full, the leftovers are divvied up and wrapped, the tarps and cloths are folded, the trash is collected and tied into bags. Those of us still remaining make our way down from the hill, the long grass tickling our legs, little gnats suspended in air and silhouetted in the setting sun. Some of my earliest, happiest memories are from Joanie's picnic. It fills my soul all the way up to think that now Hugo gets to have the same ones.

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