The original concept of “the picnic” is lost in time. Etymologically, we can trace the word back to late 18th century France. However, the idea itself was probably more about what would today be called a “shore-lunch” (as in angling) or a “huntsman’s respite”. As the 19th century advanced, the picnic became a more civilized, and recreational activity.
The Industrial Revolution and the introduction of powered automobiles provided common people access to “the countryside” and all its charms. As Ranger might say, “And that’s our History lesson for today”.
Fast forward to the 21st century :
For reasons unknown to me, I have a severe weakness for cold fried chicken. You know ? I mean KFC, the original Colonel Buzzard.
Death by Sodium and T’fat (yeah I know they don’t use transfat anymore but it tasted better when they did).
No other chicken tastes like it and none ever will. AND nothing suits a picnic better ! T’Hell with your ham and cheese sandwiches, I wanna chow down on that suweeeeet finger-licking, and sucking, and licking again, old Kentucky Crow. Better still, in the shade of an old maple tree, beside a pond, on a sunshiney Thursday afternoon, so we got the park to ourselves.
There’s something primal about dining outside. Something natural, basic … wild. Even crappy food tastes better outside. Stuff you would never eat otherwise, tastes great. In my childhood, my cousin Dave (from the posting “You May be an Old Guy If” ), and I were up in his attic, shooting icicles off the eaves of the OPP station across the street (just pellet rifles). When one of us missed the target and cracked a window, we ran for the hills. But cousin Dave grabbed a can of alphabet soup and a can opener on his way through the kitchen. We made our way through waist-deep snow to hide under a granite overhang we’d found the year before. Cousin Dave wrestled the can of cold alphabet soup open, and we shared handfuls of the congealed, greasy, slimey contents while making claims that they’d never catch us. Then cousin Dave taught me the limerick :
Makes ya poop,
Down yer leg,
And out yer boot.
I think that was the only time I tasted alphabet soup. It was frickin’ delicious !
Someday I’m gonna buy and mix a can of Irish stew, and a can of creamed corn just to see if it tastes as good as it did on Picnic Island in Poplar Lake 45 years ago. I was fishing out on the lake when my camping companions, the Verge brothers Tommy and Gary, detonated a giant economy size can of pork and beans on the campfire. Even at that age I had enough sense to know, the can would explode if heated while still sealed, but not them. My tent fared well enough, but theirs was covered in pork and beans, which was just as well as it was heavily stained from an incident involving mustard during a terrific sibling fight the night before. Anyway, all we had left to eat was the Irish Stew and Creamed Corn, and I swear that combo was the most delicious thing I’d ever tasted. Oh yeah, I know it wouldn’t taste any Hell if I tried it today. I’d just like a reminder of what it tasted like, and maybe it might prompt a memory or two.
Last Summer and Fall, the wife and I enjoyed a number of picnics. Some, we made at Home the night before, and packed deliberately with intent to picnic only. Some, we packed “just in case” we found a suitable spot while primarily intending to hike a trail. We’d scout out a town for a sub shop and return later for a picnic after walking a nearby trail. For example, Millbrook Ontario has a Sub shop, and a lovely picnic park with equally lovely trails, a shadey maple, and a pond. What more could you ask for ?
Warkworth has a beautiful streamside picnic spot where we enjoyed a wonderful outdoor lunch watching swallows swoop over the water and goldfinches hop about the bushes. Seymour Conservation Area has completed (just last Summer) a gorgeous new canopied picnic facility over-looking the crystal-clear flooded quarry. As well, there are huge boulders suitable for setting up a picnic lunch on, right where I was standing when I took the picture below.
We often stop at Algoma Orchards and get a couple of fresh apple strudels to have for lunch (I never said it was always a healthy lunch) while sitting on the bench overlooking the bluffs at nearby Samuel Wilmot Nature area.
Ranger and I have had tailgate lunches over-looking the rolling hills of Southern Ontario on abandoned backroads and at Conservation Areas like Windy Ridge. We have yet to return to Don’s Old Guys Tree House for a lunch.
The wife and I have tried Winter picnicking with wide mouthed soup thermoses. While the idea is enchanting, this last Winter has been brutally windy, making for unpleasant outdoor dining conditions. Combine that with the fact that “we ain’t no Spring chickens either” we didn’t get much Winter picnicking done. There was a pleasant (yet unintentionally insulting) incident though. We’d just completed a picnic at Wilmot Creek when we walked past a small group of younger folks on the wide trail. The young woman pushing the baby carriage (with difficulty, though I gotta admire the effort), asked what we were gathering as she pointed to the bag in my hand. I explained that it was just the leftovers from our picnic, then explained we like to picnic out on the trails wherever we go. Her response was, “Oh, that’s so cute !” She might as well have hooved me in the personals. I realized that I’m at that point in Life where an attractive young woman considers my actions “CUTE”. Next, I’ll be harassed to dance with all the bridesmaids at weddings because I’m “CUTE” (that’s pronounced harmless, damn-it ! ).
Oh well, I still got the wife to continue growing old with, and to continue going on picnics with, and that was the plan from the start. And it’s working out just fine thus far.