Monday, July 13, 2020 -
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One of life’s little pleasures

I have always adored picnics. In fact, one of the gifts I’ve received over the years that I cherish is a porcelain Royal Doulton figurine of a young girl in a yellow dress picnicking, an open white basket by her side. Well, to my delight . . . . now picnics are practically mandatory! What with corona, the social distancing requirements, and the recommendation of socializing out of doors, these circumstances all converge into the idyllic conditions for perfect picnicking.

Nothing can quite replace the enjoyment of sunshine drenched, lingering and unrushed, relaxed and informal meals on grassy knolls blanketed by gingham fabrics.

Imagine setting a table on the floor of your apartment and proceeding to eat. How coarse! How uncouth! Yet, if you’re eating outdoors and it’s officially called a picnic, not only is eating and setting a “table” on the ground acceptable, but sitting so close to the earth is precisely part of the pleasure of what makes a picnic. The earth transforms into your table.

Even before you reach your picnic destination the charm of the picnic begins at home, with the packing up of that most special of picnic accessories: the picnic basket.

There is just something about seeing that portable woven wicker basket that says good times are to come, or good times have been had.

Without even peeking into anyone else’s picnic basket, you can pretty much guess a few items that are guaranteed to be there. Lemonade, or a cold sparkling drink of some kind, deviled eggs or tea sandwiches, mason jar filled treats, straws, crusty bread, and a book or a game of some kind.

Of course, a gingham adornment or another is practically a must, be it napkins or even the lid of a Bon Maman jam jar.

It’s a pleasure to eat a no fuss transportable meal in an atmosphere of fresh air in an emerald grassy pasture or park, maybe canopied and shaded by a sprawling tree or two; or perhaps it’s by the seaside. But even if all you did was walk around the corner or into your backyard, with that picnic basket in tow-it somehow feels like you’re embarking on a cozy adventure or that a proper excursion of some kind is about to unfold.

Finger foods or hors d’oeuvre-type foods are perfect for this coronavirus-era of summer picnics.

With light filled days of summer stretching so long, gathering in the park for Shabbat’s late afternoon near twilight Third Meal that leads into Havdalah, can be transformed into a perfect Shaleshudos (seudah shlishit) picnic.

Working with coronavirus food safety guidelines and the distancing concept we’re all adjusting to, I’m thinking that pre-prepared cardboard bento boxes filled with individually napkin-wrapped cutlery à la airplane tray style can be a good picnic plan.

Alternatively, try tiny acrylic filled cups with ranch dressing or hummus and vertically placed crudites of petite green beans, celery, carrots sticks and jicama, sushi slices, gazpacho.

Berry smoothie shots, bourekas, tooth-picked watermelon cubes, potato filled cigars, pre-filled yogurt parfaits, frittata muffins, deviled eggs spaced far apart on a tray, or little wrapped sandwiches, could work as self-contained foods that allow each person to choose his or her own piece, and they don’t require or encourage common serving bowl contact between people.

Little pre-wrapped cheese variety plates with crackers, dried fruits, nuts and olives could be nice too, alongside some cold white wine.

For dessert, cupcakes or individually wrapped cookies would be so easy.

Nuclear families, or whoever your coronavirus pods, coronavirus bubbles or, as I call them, Petri dishes can sit in clusters, properly distanced, yet close enough for conversation or Shabbat singing.

I feel like the fusion of a social Shabbat and inviting picnics are the perfect social-distanced hachnasat orchim gathering for this upcoming summer in the time of corona.

I’m ready with my wicker picnic basket.

Copyright © 2020 by the Intermountain Jewish News

Tehilla R. Goldberg

IJN columnist | View from Central Park

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