Bastille Day Picnic

July 17th, 2012

For our second summer picnic, we decided to go French with the menu theme:  Pan Bagnat is basically a Niçoise salad sandwich and an opened-face variation seemed like it would make a delicious cornerstone to our menu.  As accompaniments, we prepared artichokes and boiled potatoes with aioli, chilled cucumber soup, zucchini confit and a green bean salad.  The day of the picnic turned out to be extremely hot- making me question the wisdom of feeding people tuna and homemade mayonnaise (assuming anyone would venture out in the heat to take the risk).

Earlier this summer in a fit of hopeful planning that we would be spending a lot of time at the beach, I invested in the “Wonder Wheeler Easy Roll Ultra Beach Cart.”  It has these gigantic wheels, like the Hummer of granny carts.  Having lived in Manhattan for eight years, I had always resisted the granny cart – somehow I just couldn’t do it.  But for six of those years, I had a viable alternative: the stroller.  One of the unintended side effects of having fully ambulatory children and giving up your stroller is how much crap you suddenly find yourself carrying. When laden with your purse, multiple backpacks, a laptop and a few shopping bags, suddenly the granny cart doesn’t seem like such a bad option, especially when weighed against the alternative of using your beat up old stroller as a way to carry groceries (or steal mulch from Central Park).  The truth is, for city dwellers strollers and carts are like cars.  And I decided to go with an SUV.

Each Tuesday, I load up the cart with a cooler, a picnic backpack, and a basket of food.  Add to that a folding table, picnic blanket, hula hoops and other outdoor toys and various other items and push it over to the park – easy peasy.  On this particular Tuesday, I was by myself as my family wasn’t going to show up until later.  I arrived in the Sheep Meadow and looked for a shady spot to picnic, proceeding to unpack and set up the table, cover it with a tablecloth, and set out the food and wine.  All alone.  After awhile, thinking it was some kind of performance art, a Spanish tourist who had been watching the whole spectacle asked if he could take a photo of my “party for one”.  Just then, the first guest arrived and got the ball rolling.  By 7:00, the weather had cooled, another random sampling of friends had gathered and we ate a delicious dinner.  As far as I know, no one got food poisoning from the aioli.