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June 21, 2012

Picnicking in June


June is the perfect month for a picnic.  I like the heat of July and August (especially for visiting the beach), but in June it’s pleasantly warm and it’s exciting to see the abundance of fresh summer produce at the market.

My first memory of picnicking was bringing food that my grandmother prepared to the seasonal farm workers that would help us on the farm. The feast would usually consist of a platter of vegetables, a big bowl of pasta or gnocchi dressed with a guazzetto of free-range chicken or lamb, and a salad of radicchio zuccherino or some deliciously ripe tomatoes freshly picked from the garden. A loaf of home made bread and a bottle of wine would also make the trip to the fields. I would help by carrying as much as I could, and if anything was forgotten for the meal, I was the runner. I loved it!

We tied the hot pasta in the tablecloth with the bread sitting right on top. We brought the other goodies in a wide basket that was so large it had to be carried by two people. We would sit under the shade of two tall Cyprus trees that flanked the small family chapel. Once the table was in position, we untied the tablecloth and spread it out. We set the rest of the feast–antipasto, crisp salad, and fresh bread–across the table and finally we placed the cutlery and glasses; the wine was always right next to my grandfather so he could distribute it. After the meal, everyone would sit around on the grass and chat, rest for half an hour until the hot midday sun cooled, and then return to working the land. I would help collect all the dirty dishes, carry everything home, and begin washing.

All the work was done with purpose and joy. Everyone appreciated the beauty of the day, the taste of the food, and the shelter from the hot sun. Aside from my sheer enjoyment of eating outdoors, for me a picnic really contextualizes my meal. Sitting under the sun amongst all the little critters that inhabited our land not only reminded me of the time it took us to harvest and prepare the food, but of all the other links in the long chain leading up to the salads, pastas, and and wines we enjoyed on those afternoons.

The Cyprus trees and chapel hidden in the olive groves in Pula

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