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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Pot Luck Picnic

Summer is here. It's time to grill. It's time to pack a lunch and have a picnic. This Fourth of July is a model of our summer dining. We've planned a pot luck picnic with friends. We'll meet at 6:00pm in the park across the street from the high school football field, share dishes, hang out and wait until it gets dark (usually between 9:15pm and 9:30pm) when the fireworks begin.
In the morning I advance the picnic. Around 10:00am, I lay out half a dozen blue plastic tarps to mark where we'll assemble in the park. Everyone knows to bring a blanket, food and beverages to eat and enough extra to share, beach chairs and  sweaters because it does get cold in the evening.

As the sun goes down and the street lights dim, like sunflowers tracking the sun, we'll turn our beach chairs toward the football field. The fireworks begin slowly, grow in intensity, seem to stop and then rise again in a drawn out cacophony of explosions, whizzing skyrockets and overlapping designs of light. Accompanying each thump of the mortars sending fireworks overhead is an explosion which in turn is accompanied by wow's, whoa's, oooh's and aaah's from our friends and the crowd that fills the park.
As quickly as the fireworks end, even as the smoke still hangs in the air, the blankets and blue tarps are folded, the picnic baskets are packed up, trash is collected and everything is loaded into cars that will then join a slow moving serpentine cavalcade of bumper-to-bumper traffic that extends the evening another half hour or sometimes longer.
The first part of the evening is such fun. For our pot luck picnic, everyone brings their favorite dishes that are easy to transport and share.

Potato salad, roasted vegetable salad, carrot salad, deviled eggs, fried chicken, spicy ginger-lime chicken wingskosher dill pickles, Moroccan vegetable pickles, fresh fruit salad, tossed green salads, salt boiled green beans tossed with roasted hazelnuts in a simple vinaigrette, roasted beet salad, peanut brittle, a fig tartflourless chocolate cake..... The list goes on and on.
And the sharing is so much fun.

Some friends who love to cook, prepare their favorites. Others use the picnic as a time to pick up a selection of cheeses, olives, crackers and fresh bread to share.

I'll bring the sautéed pistachios with citrus rind bits that are so delicious as a snack. My wife doesn't enjoy anchovies so this is a time when I can make deviled eggs with anchovies and capers because I have friends to share them with.
For dessert, I wish there was a way I could heat hot fudge for hot fudge sundaes with caramelized almond slivers. That's a little too impractical for a picnic so that particular dish will have to wait until we're home.

When we travel, I use the same approach to eating in a car or on an airplane or train. Pack a meal as if you are going on a picnic is a great way to turn the trip into a culinary feast.

So, all the best for Fourth of July, summer picnics and long distance travel.