Picnic: Or Why The Hell Are We Eating Outside?

I did not know what a Blog Carnival was. Thanks to the kind invitation of MacAllister Stone at her Creating Home site, I do now. For this big summer weekend, she’s rolling out a virtual party made of a series of recipes and essays to spur the mood and the fun. So here’s my contribution, with tongue deeply in cheek.

Thanks, Mac!

Picnic: Or Why The Hell Are We Eating Outside?

by Jamie Mason

There are a number of sturdy and standard plans we entertain that don’t hold up nearly as well once they’re launched into reality. It’s one of the amusing things about being human. And summer is particularly prone to showing up our big ideas for being wobbly-at-best. For instance, the belly-flop. Drenching the coals with lighter fluid just to get things going. The Slip n’ Slide. The keg stand. The Slip n’ Slide after a keg stand. The Speedo.

Winter seems to thicken the blood with the good sense to sit still, drowse, cover our backsides, and try not to set aflame anything outside of the fireplace. And, because it makes too much sense, we take all of our meals indoors.

The picnic is a lovely mental picture, though. There’s sunshine and laughter and Frisbees that never land in the cake. But – but, but, but…

Firstly, we invented tables because there’s no level ground that’s level enough to accommodate a teetering glass of lemonade. There just isn’t unless you live on the Bonneville Salt Flats or in one of several counties in Kansas. So, you can drag a card table out of the basement or dress up a weathered, birdcrap-bespeckled park fixture if you’re moved to do so, but I’ll try to resist pointing out that you had the tidy kitchenette, the formal dining room’s mahogany slab, and the coffee table sitting right in front of the television set, all ready-made and waiting to hold your drink upright and your silverware off God’s carpet. Way to spurn an object’s noble purpose, friend.

If you’re roughing it on the floor of the great outdoors and the air is calm enough to keep the blanket corners more or less in their proper place, then–I promise you–it’s too hot to sit there. You’ll see. The temperature of a number of things becomes an issue at a picnic, the back of my neck being one of them. And the waistband of my undies. But a little heatstroke never hurt anyone, right? Right. But, hot food meets cold food in a range of tepid that seems to be very hospitable to e. coli and that never did anything for anyone’s patriotism.

Blowing trash. Other people’s idea of music. Melty popsicles that you cram down your throat faster than you can enjoy because there’s nowhere to wash your hands.

Ants. Flies. Bees, wasps, yellow jackets, and mosquitoes, or a sticky spritzed chemical aura of bug repellent that I’m pretty sure will interact with your SPF 80 and give all your grandchildren two heads a piece, with one eye on each. Dandle a double-cyclops on your knee in your Golden Years if it comes to that, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

But, I’ll tell you what. Wait until the sky goes golden peach at the west end with a deep velvety blue eastern fringe. Holler at me when you see the first firefly. When I hear you, I’ll get a couple of glasses and mash three lime wedges and six big mint leaves at the bottom. I’ll add an ounce and a half of rum, two tablespoons of simple syrup, ice, and club soda.

Have a mojito with me and I’ll watch fireworks with you all night and you won’t hear a single complaint. I promise.

Happy summer!


Author: jamiemason

Wrote THE HIDDEN THINGS, MONDAY'S LIE, and also THREE GRAVES FULL (Simon & Schuster's Gallery Books.) Might write something else if I'm not careful.

5 thoughts on “Picnic: Or Why The Hell Are We Eating Outside?”

  1. That’s just exactly how I feel about camping — but then it’s always SO much fun…even when you’re blue-tarp camping, like we do in the great Pac North. Thanks, Jamie! What a fun essay.

  2. I’m with you, Jamie. When I was a kid and not stuck with getting the lunch ready , building the fire, packing up after, outdoors was fu. But now that I’m older and smarter, my idea of eating outside is to go to a nice resturant with a patio or garden and let someone else do the work and just serve me at my table.

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