Around The Table: Spring Picnics and Potlucks
The birds are singing even before I have my first cup of tea in the mornings. Nightjars are calling before the sun rises. Pine warblers and mockingbirds are heard throughout the day. The bluebirds nesting in the houses on our back fence are busy flying to and fro. (I haven’t peeked inside yet, but I’m pretty sure they are feeding young ones.) The trees are clad in the bright green of spring leaves and gem-colored flowers decorating the yards are bobbing their heads in the breeze.
This time of year, it is too pleasant outside to stay inside around the kitchen table and simply look at the world through the window. We are beckoned to join the earth in a celebration of warmer weather. We wind up moving our meals from the cozy kitchen table to picnic tables or a blanket spread on the ground in various parks. Our family now delights in hikes, picnics, bike rides, frisbee in the park, tennis, sketching and painting outside. My husband would like to add napping in a hammock to that short list of spring activities.
Although I relish hot soups and stews for the cooler months (please refer last month’s articlefor ideas), those kinds of meals seem most comforting to me served straight from the stove. I rarely carry my Dutch oven on hiking trips, but prefer to pack lighter fare instead.
Melons are a favorite fruit of mine. It is too early for watermelon to naturally be ripe, but I find that the ones in the stores are too tempting to resist sometimes, and I have been known to serve up a watermelon salad just as well as a cucumber and sweet onion salad tossed with a homemade dressing of olive oil, vinegar or lime juice, sugar or honey, and sea salt to taste. Honey dew and cantaloupe, however, are often as sweet as expected and need nothing, other than to be cubed and tossed together to create a light, refreshing dessert.
Spinach, arugula, bok choy or other cabbages, broccoli florets, a variety of lettuces, dandelion or beet greens, make our way into our green salads. Chopped fruits like yellow bell pepper, cucumber, and tomato add color and texture. Fresh, cubed pineapple, fresh blueberries, or dried cranberries add a tart contrast and bright color to almost any salad. Sunflower seeds, bacon, chopped radish, or water chestnut add a welcome crunch. (Spinach, kale, okra, and collards are high in calcium, which helps our family build strong bones.)
Tuna, salmon, and mackerel are rich in Vitamin D and will make their way onto our menu. Like ham, chicken, duck, may be mixed into a salad, or served separately, or wind up in sandwiches. Pickled cucumbers, okra, olives, and other goodies will find their way into our picnic basket or backpacks. Cookies often travel well in a zip-lock bag, but I find that cupcakes frequently need more protection, so I put them into a hard plastic container. When I was growing up, we used the term Tupperwareto refer to almost any hard plastic container. Now, I have a cabinet devoted to all shapes and sizes of plastic containers and a basket that corrals the lids that are supposed to match those containers. One rainy day, I’ll need to sort them out… and the socks that don’t seems to match each other.
We’ll have one or more potluck dinners to attend this month. Taking something that it cool and refreshing will provide the opportunity for someone else to bring something in a crockpot that needs to stay warm. (I like to think I am doing my part by not overcrowding the electrical outlets or the circuitry.) A crunchy cabbage and carrot slaw tossed in a homemade dressing will complement almost any dish that others bring.
Looking at the calendar, I am making notes to remind me that our Eastern/Greek Orthodox friends celebrate Easter on April 8 (looking up recipes for traditional recipes like the potatoes roasted with citrus and oregano and the spinach cheese pie. National Library Workers’ Day is April 10 (hmmm… some food from the last novel we read ?) Holocaust Remembrance Day is April 11 (thinking of revisiting recipes from our Seder meal). Earth Day is April 22 (great day for a picnic!), Administration Professionals Day is April 25, and Take Your Kids To Work Day is April 26 (“brown bag” it with any number of tasty sandwiches, fruit, cookies vs. making something special to send to my husband’s workplace). Arbor Day is April 27 (another picnic day, as we help plant trees in the park).
What are you contemplating as you sit around the table? Best of health to you all!