Saturday, September 3, 2011

A Late Summer Picnic for One

Oh don't let that title mislead you or conjure up feelings of sorrow for your dear author. A picnic, whether shared with friends, a canine pal or just by myself affords me the purest and simplest of pleasures that I can ever imagine. Something spontaneous. Impromptu. Such a magical, carefree word that is, Impromptu. What's in the cupboard? What's in the refrigerator? What kind of a feast can I produce with what is on hand? Simplicity is best, I think. Taking advantage of what the current season has to offer. Naturally, tomatoes of all colors come to mind. Some sharp, salty and piquant cheese to balance the sweet acidity of the fruit, along with the bitterness of some homemade oil cured olives. Remembrances of a lesson about olive-making taught to me by my Grandmother so many years ago in the scary basement of her house. That magical and mysterious, dusty gallon jar sitting on an old, wooden shelf by the washing machine. One trip they were green, swimming in a brine. The next, they were darker remnants of their former verdant selves. Still another trip and they were shriveled and coated in olive oil with red pepper flakes heaped in her blue and white plate, sitting on the dining room table being picked at by eager fingers.
As a boy, I was told to try everything at least once. "You never have to have it again if you don't like it.", was the familiar mantra that still rings to this day from my Mother's lips. That saying has led me far in life, especially now that I cook and teach people how to cook and experience the beauty of the process. It was also a way of her training my mind to be open to new things in this life. Try it all. See it all. Feel it all. Experience it all. Isn't that really the grand lesson to learn from the word "Life"? I think at times we travel down the same worn out food path that our eyes never look up and see the wonder that is given and surrounds us. For me, food always offers something new to experience. To see. To feel. To smell. To taste. And, even to hear. The snap of a green bean. That crunch of an apple.
Here in New England, Fall is on its way. There's something in the air. My mind is beginning to think of warming, comfort food. Roast chickens with crackled skin, braised beef in Chianti, root vegetables caramelized in the oven over high heat to bring out their natural sweetness and goodness. I assure you that I'll include more recipes with sustenance. More beef, more chicken, and more of the pleasures that our local waters in Rhode Island provide for us. Honest flavors. Simplicity and warmth. Something to take on a picnic under the shedding, multi-colored leaves with a loved one or friends.

Or maybe, just maybe you might want to indulge yourself on a luxurious, unapologetic picnic for one.


  1. I love the story about the olives. It reminds me of my mother making pickles, and helping her wash them in the bathtub. She would come home with the back of her car filled with huge "lugs" of cucumbers. She wanted to soak them in a dilluted brine to wash them and the only thing big enough was the bathtub. She scrubbed the heck out of it first, then we would hand wash each one to make sure all were clean.

  2. Sometimes, those memories are our most valuable possessions Dean. I can taste those pickles now!