Saturday, August 20, 2005

Picnic Memories...

Lately I've been thinking back to picnic memories of summers gone by. There are so many, it’s hard to know how to sort them out or where to start.

One special type of picnic I recall was evening picnics at a nearby lake after my dad came home from work. There was a state park there with a beach, plus a playground, picnic tables, grills, etc. We would take hot dogs along to cook over the grills, or maybe just sandwiches. Many of the picnic tables were in little wooded nooks just a little way from the beach. High on the ledges above the beach were more picnic tables and also horseshoe pits. My dad and brothers often enjoyed a game of horseshoes after we ate, or while the picnic was being prepared.

We also took a picnic every time we went on a road trip in the summer or fall. There were no fast food places along the highway in those days. Ice cream places and dairy bars were about it. (I was nearly college age before I ate at the only McDonalds in our state back then!) We often went out for ice cream in the evenings in summer -- there were several places not too far away. But we didn’t eat out much. A Chinese restaurant occasionally, and my grandmother sometimes took us (one or two at a time!) to Howard Johnson’s or a similar type of place. So picnics were always in order on day trips. Our very favorite picnic sandwich was something I think my dad invented, though my mom was usually the designated sandwich-maker. It was a bologna-tomato sandwich, which doesn’t sound as delicious as it actually was. Wheat bread would be generously spread with mayonnaise or, more often, Miracle Whip. A slice of bologna would be placed on one side and thinly sliced, perfectly ripe tomatoes on the other side. The tomatoes would be lightly salted and generously peppered. Then the two slices would be put together and neatly sliced in half. No plastic sandwich baggies back then... we put the sandwiches in little waxed paper bags.

Blueberry -picking expeditions also called for a picnic lunch. Sometimes we went to the top of a nearby mountain, where there were many high-bush blueberries. The old farm up there had been the boyhood home of the hired man on the farm of my mother’s childhood. In later years, my parents found another mountain farm even closer to home where we were welcome to pick berries -- although the blueberries there were of the low-bush type. In either case, we could drive the family station wagon to the top of the mountain and then, buckets secured to our waists by a belt (leaving both hands free for picking) we would fan out to our chosen picking areas. Farther afield, we would drive to my great-uncle’s farm about an hour and a half away. He had a cow pasture which was filled with high-bush blueberry bushes. It was very quiet and secluded there, and we always thought about bears. .. and bulls. Uncle Tom had a sign reading “Beware of the bull” or some such warning. However, he did not pasture such a creature in this field. He merely wanted to keep people out of his blueberry patch!

For a few years when I was in elementary school, the school year always ended with a picnic. One year, for some reason, my grandmother was going to be packing my picnic lunch. I can’t remember if my mother was ill, or too busy, or just what the reason was. But I do remember my grandmother asking me what kind of sandwiches I would like her to make. I think I surprised her (and myself!) by asking for her famous Ribbon Sandwiches, a time-consuming delicacy which started with an unsliced pullman loaf sliced crosswise in fourths. It was then filled with three different fillings -- I believe she used tuna or chicken salad, ham salad, and egg salad. The next step was to wrap the loaf snugly and chill it well -- ideally, overnight. When ready to serve, the loaf was sliced to reveal colorful “ribbons” of filling in the white bread. What nerve I had to ask for something that required so much work! But, if I remember correctly, she did make Ribbon Sandwiches for me.


  1. Hi Mom! I like the picnic posts--makes me hungry to read them!! :) I'm glad you are doing this blog; it's cool to have more of your memories all written down in one place. Also I'm glad you did that list of homemade mixes. I know I have some of them, but now I know another place to look if I can't find my copies! :)

    Oh, also I wanted to add that you may get more people commenting if you change your settings so it allows anonymous comments, unless you'd rather not, of course! :)

  2. Thanks, Carrie! Glad you are enjoying the blog. I didn't realize it was not set to allow anonymous comments. I did change it, and guess if I have any problems I can always change it back.

    Yes, I'm glad I'm doing this, too. It is good to get these things written down while I still remember them. I feel the same about some of the recipes... glad I have a place to turn to look for them. Now it may be a tad easier when I begin the task of typing another personal cookbook!


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