You must understand this: We Linguinis NEVER take picnics lightly.
However, you must understand our background of picnicking before you can truly be amazed at yesterday's excursion to Lost River State Park in West Virginia.
Growing up, there were always several picnic excursions throughout the summer and they were always hours away. My father always liked to be traveling in the opposite direction of the traffic; so, though we lived near the shore, with a beautiful state parks 10 to 30 minutes away, we were always heading "against traffic" to the "mountains" of New Jersey (High Point State Park has what New Jerseyans call "mountains"). This required leaving at 6 o'clock in the morning and dragging in at 9 o'clock at night -- but not a single second was spent sitting in traffic (though Pa would look at the line of cars going in the opposite direction and comment on how ridiculous it was to be sitting in traffic like that).
I realize the purpose of a picnic is to eat -- A. Meal.
Remember, though: We arrive at 8 o'clock in the morning. So breakfast, lunch and dinner all have to be arranged and carted. There were bags of Mrs. Obco's Donuts and thermoses of coffee (my parents had an official coffee thermos bag specifically for this) for breakfast, deli for lunch with a complete selection of cold cuts, rolls, bread, condiments and salads, and then a variety of meats to barbecue for dinner.
On top of this, were the rare treats of junk food -- this was the one time my mother would buy us any sweet crap the television has convinced us was the end-all in desserts. And she wouldn't just buy a package -- she'd buy an entire BOX; boxes of Twinkies, boxes of TastyKake pies, boxes of chocolate grahams, boxes and boxes and boxes of sugar! (We won't discuss the long-range ramifications of this practice; right now I choose to make this a happy memory...in her heart, Ma meant well -- though when I tell this to my kids now, they're really bummed.)
Okay. That was just the food. Now we had to load the car with things to occupy us for 12 hours, both in the car and at the picnic site. John Boy had his maps and pamphlets, Dark Garden had his assortment of recreational equipment (fishing rod, basketball, swim gear), I had a pile of books, my mother had her crossword puzzles, and Pa had his beer (though, in all fairness, he was the one who took DG fishing, swimming and to the playground, not to mention he did all the barbecuing).
Oh...did I mention the assorted relatives? Grandma, aunts, cousins -- sometimes it spilled over into a second vehicle, particularly since a dog or two also had to be accommodated.
Whenever we'd arrive at the park, if it was crowded, my mother used to moan about there being so many people around that it wouldn't be relaxing. It occurs to me that, upon seeing our parade enter the picnic area, most of the other people were thinking the same thing.
Nowadays, my generation is in charge of the picnicking and, while we've streamlined a few things, it is still and event requiring more planning than the Normandy Invasion. Everything is up for discussion, from the venue to the menu.
JB makes lists and, while I've never actually seen his list, it must look like this: beer, bratwurst, bottle opener.
DG brings all the meat, barbecue stuff...and cleaning products; lots and lots of cleaning products. We always have the cleanest picnic site in the park. No roll of paper towels and damp cloth for him -- no! He's got spray disinfectant and cloths and wipes.
I bring the stuff that has to be cooked ahead -- salads, side dishes and...yes...dessert; one dessert. ONE.
Yes, we've pretty much got this picnic thing down, though I will admit, all the advance planning a prep can get stressful until we decide on everything.
Well, until yesterday...
It all came together too easily -- which should have warned me. We immediately agreed on the venue, we each stated what we were bringing (admittedly, we do turn into the Atkins family on picnics) and we generally coordinated a time (cell phones don't work at Lost River).
I have to admit, it was coming together so nicely that all week long I hardly gave it a thought. I did my usual grocery shopping and only threw in a few items that were picnic-related (instead of doing my usual pre-picnic shopping blast I can ill-afford). I did a few prep things the night before, slept in the day of (unprecedented!), and loading the car consisted of one cooler and Zsa Zsa's water bowl and tie-out chain (which we only use if we see park rangers driving around -- I try to spare her the indignity of being in chains when there is no need).
So here is how it went down:
DG was bummed because my nephews both had to work that day and couldn't come. Dirtman was also working, so he wasn't there. Heir2 couldn't make it home from Roanoke for the holiday weekend, so he wasn't there.
No one brought paper plates.
No one brought tongs to barbecue.
No one brought paper towels.
JB blamed it all on the fact that for the first time, he hadn't made a list (he never put these things on his stupid list and, besides, when he makes a list, he always forgets to put something on the list anyway, rendering the list useless).
However (and everyone else may disagree, I'll admit):
I had a wonderful, relaxing time. We had a nice, secluded spot next to a brook. I could sit on a rock and put my feet in the water. It wasn't too hot or too cold.
All the other stuff?
We made do.
Note the dishes made from aluminum foil, the knife doubling as "tongs" and our site-side cleaning system (actually, we only washed our hands in the stream).
The food was great. It was a beautiful day. But, more importantly...
...Zsa Zsa was happy.