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Pull Up A Chair…

picnic.jpg(Photo via Jenna Marie.)

When I was a kid, we had a garden every summer at my great aunt and uncle’s house.  We’d go over there early on the weekends, and weed and pick and plant and harvest, and do all of the work that needed doing. Depending on the season and what was ripening, we’d also make a trip or two over in the evenings during the week. 

I grew up on freshly grown vegetables, and I miss having the space and the time to do all of the tending and canning that we used to do all summer long in my younger years. 

Frankly, I have no idea where my parents found the time to do all of the work required, along with working their day jobs and taking care of me.  The older I get and the further down the parenting road we go, the more I marvel and things like this — the miracle of so much work just getting done.

But looking back there are so many wonderful memories.  Climbing high up in the Montmorency cherry trees, picking a bucket full to bursting while I stuffed myself and fought off the crows who were trying to do the same, and then climbing down to spend the next few hours helping to make jam.  Or that smell of freshly dug dirt at the end of my hoe just after the corn sprouted and I got stuck weeding it.  The sound of the robins calling to each other as we worked the soil, their trilling whistles signalling the potential for an easy meal to their pals.  That sore muscle ache that I got from doing a good day’s work.  And the amazing taste of a freshly picked cucumber with a little salt, and the juice of it running down my chin at the first bite, that my dad would peel for me with his pocket knife the minute we got back to the house and rinsed one off with the garden hose. 

When we worked in the evenings, the deer would sometimes come out to graze at the edges of my uncle’s orchard, testing the apples to see if they were still too green to nibble.  In the early part of the year, they would come out with their tiny spotted fawns and nip at the tender shoots of grass at the edges of the fields, especially in that twilight hour.  I always wanted to bring one home with me, their tawny sides looked so soft with their buff spotted markings and enormous liquid brown eyes so full of wonder at the world around them.

A sun-warmed, perfectly ripened beefsteak tomato, sliced up with some fresh mozzarella, a drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil, perhaps a bit of balsamic vinegar and some basil cut into thin chiffanade, and a grind or two of sea salt never fails to take me right back there. 

And a fresh, juicy peach, tree-ripened and perfuming the entire kitchen with its enticing scent?  That’s just heaven, even before you get that first slurping bite.

It’s summertime, and the living — in my neck of the woods, anyway — is pretty easy at the moment in terms of produce bursting from the stands.  This is the time of year that I always think about having a picnic, and we never seem to get around to doing it.  When I was a kid, we’d go to KFC (it was still Kentucky Fried Chicken back then) and get a family bucket and sides, and I’d get to pick out a chocolate pudding parfait, and we’d load it in the car and take it over to the park to eat.  And I thought it was heaven as a kid.

Sometimes, I get so caught up in doing the “perfect” thing, that I forget how great the half-assed but still really fun thing can be.  So I’ve been trying to remind myself to take a step back and just live and stop worrying so much about how I ought to be doing it.  One of the things on my list for this summer is more impromptu picnics.  The Peanut and I got some food at te Taco Bell drive thru the other day while Mr. ReddHedd was working, and we took it to a local arboretum and had a little picnic and enjoyed an hour or so with the birds and squirrels.  It wasn’t exactly gourmet cuisine, but she loved it and so did I.

This time of year, I feel better if I’m eating more garden food.  So, less guilt about not growing it myself, more joy in what I find at the farmer’s market.  And, to that end, I’ve put together a few links for everyone on some fun picnic and farmer’s market food possibilities.  Would love to hear some of your favorites along those lines or whatever it is that you are doing to nurture yourself this summer, and to that end, any new or recommended links are appreciated.  Pour another cuppa coffee and pull up a chair…

Picnic Recipes from FoodNetwork

No-Cook Menus for Hot Days

Summer Corn and Tomatoes

Vegetarian Eats

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com