I’m writing this as a response to Bill West’s invitation to a Geneablogger’s Picnic. Bill blogs at West in New England.
He provided these questions as starters:
- *What food does your family serve at picnics?
- *Are there traditional foods or family recipes?
- *Is there one particular relative’s specialty you wish you could taste again or one perfect picnic day you wish you could go back and relive?
At the risk of being as welcome as a herd of ants at the picnic, I have to say there really weren’t any picnics in my family.
I passed up writing on Miriam’s AnceStories2 prompt about summer because I didn’t want to be too negative. Summer is my least favorite season because I don’t like being hot. As my brother says, “We come from a family that doesn’t like to sweat.”
I think the root of this “problem” derives from the part of the country we’re from and the fact that our livelihood came from working outdoors. It is just too hot in the Texas panhandle to enjoy a meal out of doors. Most years, it gets hot in April and stays hot through October. Here’s picture I have of some of my family making the attempt–doesn’t it look like fun?
The woman in the white dress on the right is my grandmother Rachel Cooper Osborne. I believe the man just behind her whose face is hidden may be my grandfather–I’m basing my guess on the way he’s wearing his hat. It looks familiar. The women are her sisters-in-law–married to my granddad’s brothers, some of whom are in the background nearer the cars.
I just don’t think this looks like a good time. I don’t know the circumstances of this gathering–my guess is that it’s near Pampa since that’s where these couples lived at this time in their marriages. It looks like they’re maybe getting ready to roast some marshmallows–can’t believe this crew would roast weiners. I don’t know, but you can see how the surroundings just aren’t conducive to picnicking.
My dad wasn’t really a grouch, and he didn’t insist on many things, but he was adamant about not eating out of doors. His view was that he worked outside all day and when he came home for a meal, he did not want to go back outside. And don’t get me started on what he thought about picnic fare such as wieners or bologna. He was a farmer to the core–he didn’t mind being outside dawn to dusk to do that work, but he certainly didn’t want to have a meal out of doors. And his view of meat definitely didn’t include anything other than the standard cuts of beef he’d learned from his stock-raising relatives and his own experience. We always had beef in the freezer and that’s what we ate. (Those were the days before we were aware of the health and social consequences of raising and eating so much beef.) My mom, with her German roots, occasionally sneaked some bologna into the house but trust me, it never appeared on my dad’s plate.
So my theory is that this is an important piece of info to record about my family. I think we didn’t picnic because we didn’t live in a part of the country where picnicking was a part of the culture–the outdoors were part of our work life but not a big part of our recreational life.
We had long hot summers–the closest to a picnic we had was when my mom and I would take dinner to the field during wheat harvest. That was usually early June and it was often 100 degrees–we had the hot meal we’d spent the morning cooking loaded into the trunk of the car, we parked into the wind so the car wouldn’t overheat, and the men came in on their combines and trucks and used the shade the vehicles cast to eat. (My mom had on gloves and wore long sleeves because she was so fair-skinned.) My Uncle Pete always requested my mom’s smothered steak and there was always a lot of iced tea. We served it unsweetened though nearly everyone put in varyig degrees of sugar. There was always dessert–usually a cake or a cobbler. It was too hot for ice cream–it wouldn’t have lasted a minute under those circumstances. The men were grateful for the break and the meal and they put their dirty dishes back into the trunk and we were off, back to the house to clean up. No paper plates or plastic utensils for us. And, in response to Bill’s prompts, I’d only like to repeat this experience if I could be with my family for the event.
In South Dakota, my grandmother usually fixed lunch at home for Granddad to come in for–which he didn’t need much of because Gran had fixed eggs, fried potatoes and pork chops for breakfast. His fields were closer to the house than my dad’s were back in Texas. The one thing I remember, too, about my South Dakota grandmother is that she had sewed some layers of fabric around some quart jars that she used for a “thermos” when she took tea or water out to Granddad in the field. I don’t remember any of us ever having any official ice chests or picnic baskets.
It really was a different world.