…AND ONE MORE THING
Gotta love those summertime picnics
Summertime cookouts are dependable staples in our lives. Hardy old-fashioned food never fails when you look over the choices displayed on the picnic table.
You can be guaranteed there will be a spread of potato and macaroni salads—all variant shades of white with touches of each cook’s special ingredients making the dish a classic recipe.
My husband and his two sisters at a reunion, unbeknown to each other, made “mom’s potato salad.” There sat the three bowls side by side. One sister claimed to have the actual recipe; the other two cooked from memory. Both women were positive mom used Hellmann’s Mayonnaise™; their brother was certain that mom used Miracle Whip™. The trio of siblings bantered and sampled each other’s work. Which one made the most accurate rendition? No decision was made; no victor was declared. They moved along to the merits of using celery, peppers and mustard giving new life to an old family tradition.
I kept my mouth shut laughing to myself, though. Since my mother-in-law had passed away before I married her son, I had no first-hand knowledge. I approved of my husband’s version, which is not one iota like my own mother’s recipe. (My mom’s potato salad is hands down the best if you ask me.) It just goes to show you how siblings have their own versions of everything under the sun growing up in the same household!
Which leads me to yet another quirk of mine: I dislike anything with an overpowering taste of mayonnaise— even a dish disguised and wrapped up. I take a small portion first to check my taste buds. I have no clue where this aversion surfaced from my childhood that could bother me still today. Oh, I guess it could be something worse. Salads are not my warm weather comfort food.
I will fill up a big portion of my paper plate with tossed salad. (How I love it when the hostess considers how much weight is placed on a flimsy plate, and chooses to use sturdy heavyweight ones.) There is one thing that puzzles me every time. I can never get my hands wrapped around the plastic tongs well, and I drop green leafy stuff on the table. It makes for a mess. I’ve seen some spectacular salad spills in my day, so I am probably a pretty average loser. And always, by the luck of the draw, I’m the first one to use a new bottle of salad dressing. That requires balancing my drink and putting down my plate carefully on the table’s edge to open the dressing.
Inching down the line, I spy baked beans topped with chunks of bacon in long aluminum pans ready to serve an army. Different folks have their own opinions on the right quantity when bringing a dish to pass— from the widow who cooks for herself, to the career gal who manages a catering business.
It is a trip down memory lane standing in the serving line with the person who has brought the baked beans. She eagerly relates a quick story about grandma’s secret ingredients—which you never do find out —and a few other pieces of family history, too, sprinkled in for good measure.
At one picnic a lady was raving to me about her special recipe for baked beans until her young daughter, overhearing the conversation, reminded her mother that she hadn’t done more than open a couple cans of beans. It never fails out of the mouths of kids comes the truth. The woman insisted that she had seasoned the beans with some extra spices to make them original. It wasn’t my place to referee. I took a big helping in hopes that her “doctoring up” was not in vain.
On every picnic table there is a “mystery” dish—a casserole, vegetable combo or fruit concoction. The first brave soul that spoons up a bit revealing the inner contents deserves my kudos. That leaves it wide open for me to examine, poke and prod while speculating its merits with my fellow line mates.
Of course, there are way too many desserts. Amateur cooks love showing-off and outdoing each other. It can turn into a rivalry. These cooks should have a silent auction to see how much their delicacies would raise for charity.
I haven’t even mentioned the hot dogs, hamburgers and sausage on the grill with buns and relishes along side. It is always intriguing to be in different parts of the country and see what local meat brands are served. Ribs, pig roasts, chicken bbq and speedies can be a treat to talk about for days.
Ice tea—great to splash over insect bites, lemonade, soft drinks and other liquid refreshment cool me down a degree or two on a hot day.
Standing in line watching guests fill their plates, laugh and talk together— old and new friends, is what brings meaning to an informal gathering. You make do. It’s the occasion after all.
I’ve arrived at the end of the table, and I will look for a seat under a shady tree to savor all the colorful delights on my plate along with the yellow jackets that have crashed the party.