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Picnic Season

06/30/2014 @ 8:37am

It’s summertime and the living is easy, especially if you enjoy picnics. At this time of year, a person could travel the length and breadth of our great nation while eating your way from one family reunion/ picnic to the next. Imagine how much you would save on food!

“But,” you might say, “I can’t just drop in on a picnic where I don’t know anybody!” As my wife and I once demonstrated, you would be wrong.

Some years ago, we decided to attend a family reunion/ picnic. This meant driving a good distance with our patented bean casserole riding in the back seat. As we drove, the beans emitted powerful waves of appetite-whetting aromas.

We arrived at the appointed park in an extreme state of hunger. We joined a large gathering at the edge of the park, adding our casserole to the potluck table and loading our plates with goodies.

“Do you see anyone you would like to visit with?” asked my wife as we scouted for a place to sit.

“I’m having a hard time figuring out who’s who,” I admitted. “Let’s just plop down anywhere – I’ll recognize someone sooner or later.”

So we sat at a random table and tucked into the flavorsome feast. As we ate, I surveyed the assembly, searching for a familiar face. I’m related to these people, darn it! I should be able to recognize somebody!

I was considering collecting DNA samples to weed out all the imposters when the guy seated at my right asked, “What branch of the family are you from?”

“Harold and Mable’s,” I replied.

He studied me quizzically. “Can’t say that I know those names. Who are your parents?”

We chatted amicably with our tablemates for some time as we strove to untangle the mystery of our kinship. I thought about taking the genial bunko artists to task for attending a family picnic under false pretenses, which is probably a federal offense. But then my wife nudged me and pointed.

“Aren’t those your cousins?” she whispered.

She was right. The problem was, they were seated at another group of tables clear over on the opposite side of the park! Egad! We were the imposters!

Two clear choices lay before us. We could immediately apologize for the misunderstanding and leave or stay and continue to pretend that we belonged with this group.

We split the difference. We were having such a pleasant time gabbing with our tablemates that we didn’t want to just up and leave. Besides, we had learned that we knew of some people with whom they were also familiar. For instance, we were all acquainted with the music of Elvis Presley.

After a decent interval, we told our “relatives” that another obligation demanded our time. We took our leave amidst pleas to tarry a bit longer and promises to stay in touch and to not let so much time pass between visits.

My wife and I collected our casserole and walked to the car. We got in and drove around until we found a parking space on the other side of the park where our real relatives were picnicking.  

When asked why we were late, we mumbled that we had been delayed when we ran into some folks that we knew. Which was true, from a certain perspective. We got to know our new “relatives” after yakking with them a good while.

Among my most cherished memories of summertime potluck picnics is the wondrous aroma of fried chicken. I especially enjoyed Mom’s creamed chicken, which probably contained enough fat to feed a village of Eskimos.

The process of making creamed chicken began with a trip to the hatchery to purchase 100 or so baby chicks. I won’t bore you with the next steps, some of which involved the process of transforming fattened chickens into pan-ready poultry. Suffice it to say that the phrase skin the gizzard came into play.

Once the chicken was in the kitchen, it was rolled in flour and browned with chopped onions. The fried fowl was then placed in a roasting pan and covered with cream that was so fresh, it was alfalfa hay the day before.     

The chicken was baked until it was tender as a gnat’s pinky. We poured the gravy – the chicken juice, cream, and onions – over our potatoes. This was an era before calories had been discovered, so concerns about weight gain were nonexistent.

Which sums the American attitude regarding picnics: Don’t worry, it’s all good. And if you spill, don’t sweat it, the dog will gladly handle cleanup.

In other words, the living is very easy. Even if you land at the wrong picnic.

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