“If ants are such busy workers, how come they find time to go to all the picnics?” ~ Marie Dressler
What a nice day for a picnic! Let’s pack our hampers full of delectable goodies to eat and drink, drive out to the beautiful, unspoiled countryside, and have a grand time.
Or maybe not.
SO MANY THINGS CAN RUIN A PICNIC
by Faith Shearin
So many things can ruin a picnic—
mosquitoes, for instance, arriving
in a gray hum or black flies or a wind
strong enough to blow napkins
over the lawn like white butterflies,
steaks stolen by dogs, unruly fire,
thunderstorms that come on suddenly,
clouds converging over a field,
where you have just unpacked
your basket. It’s amazing, really,
that people have picnics at all
considering how many plates
have fallen in the dirt and how many
hot dogs have erupted in black blisters,
how many children have climbed hills
alive with poison ivy and how much ice
has melted before the drinks
were ever poured. It’s amazing
how many people still want to eat
on a blanket anyway, are still willing
to take their chances, to endure
whatever may fall or bite. Either they
don’t consider the odds of success
or they don’t care. Some of them
must not mind the stains on their pants,
the heavy watermelon that isn’t sweet
once it’s carved. Some must understand
the way lightning is likely to strike
an open field. Even so—they wrap up
a few pieces of fried chicken, fold
a tablecloth until it is as small as hope.
They carry an umbrella or a jacket
that they accidentally drop on the ground
where it fills with bees. They leave
the houses they built to keep them safe
and eat uncovered, ignoring the thunder,
their egg salad growing dangerously hot.
Picnics always sound like a good idea. They carry our perpetual idealism, a daydream of unfettered leisure, a fantasy of escape. But of course there are perils, as this poem describes. I think that might be part of their appeal — the risk of disaster is worth the price of a good time.
I love the romance of picnics (much as I love the romance of trains). This might be related to my love of all things British, and picnics are certainly a British institution.
I especially love how the Victorians championed picnics. This is interesting considering England’s reputation for grey skies, prevailing damp and constant drizzle. This devil-may-care attitude about the weather was charmingly reckless of them don’t you think? 🙂
When it came to picnics, they didn’t fool around. Forget anemic chicken drumsticks and hard boiled eggs; they packed serious provisions to fortify themselves. Check out this picnic menu from Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management:
“A joint of cold roast beef, a joint of cold boiled beef, 2 ribs of lamb, 4 roast fowls, 2 roast ducks, 1 ham, 2 veal and ham pies… 2 cold cabinet puddings, a few jam puffs, 1 large cold Christmas pudding (this must be good), 2 plain plum cakes, 2 sponge cakes, a tin of mixed biscuits.”
They certainly didn’t go hungry. And I admire how they used real silverware and china. The paper goods we use these days are certainly convenient, but somehow it’s just not the same.
Whether you’re old school or not, there’s a picnic just for you.
Fancy an intimate tête-à-tête?
Or a jolly couples outing (ooh-la-la the skinny dipping)?
Picnics are a godsend, a welcome respite if you’ve been out, you know, hunting:
They can also involve a large number of people, as in extended family or community picnics. Love those potluck feasts!
Sometimes picnics morph into cook-outs,
and if you’re lucky, there’s musical entertainment.
Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like men picnickers have a better time of it (guess who’s on the menu?).
But whether in a park, the woods, or by a lake, a picnic enables us to hone the fine art of lollygagging, the perfect accompaniment to enjoying invigorating rations en plein air. I am most reminded of this whenever I reread my favorite picnic scene in children’s literature:
‘There’s cold chicken inside it,’ replied the Rat briefly;
‘O stop, stop,’ cried the Mole in ecstasies: ‘This is too much!’
‘Do you really think so?’ enquired the Rat seriously. ‘It’s only what I always take on these little excursions; and the other animals are always telling me that I’m a mean beast and cut it VERY fine!’
~ Kenneth Grahame (The Wind in the Willows, 1908)
Maybe it all comes down to this:
Pessimists = anti-picnic
Optimists = pro-picnic
Jama = pro-picnic if Colin Firth is bringing pie 🙂
How do you feel about picnics, and what’s your ideal picnic menu?
The lovely and talented Violet Nesdoly is hosting the Roundup this week. Be sure to breeze on over to check out the full menu of poetic goodness being shared in the blogosphere. Fall picnic this weekend? 🙂
Copyright © 2017 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.