Today begins a 3-day holiday weekend here in the United States in honor of Memorial Day (Monday).
Memorial Day is a U.S. federal holiday set on the last Monday in May that commemorates the lives given in service to our country. Many people honor this holiday by attending or participating in parades and visiting cemeteries and memorials.
It's also a day of cook-outs and family fun all over the country, the typical start of grilling season, and the unofficial start of summer.
Growing up my family never grilled food. Ever. I didn't even know how to do it until I was in my 20s and learned from friends. I've already shared with you some of the sordid details of my childhood, so I won't go into that again. Suffice it to say that summers were wierd. Our family is small, so there were no family bbqs, no get-togethers on special holidays (other than Thanksgiving and Christmas). We just ate meals prepared in the kitchen. The hot, hot kitchen.
Many windows in the house were never opened; there was no central air or even window a/c units. Few fans were used indoors, and those pretty much just blew hot air around. So when the weather got hot, life moved outside. The fact that we never cooked outdoors doesn't seems to go with that, but whatev. I was a kid and didn't make the rules.
Perhaps that's why my mind just doesn't naturally go to "the cookout place" on Memorial Day. Sure, if I'm planning a meal or backyard get-together I do grill and do so happily. It's just the connection between summer holidays and grilling that doesn't really happen in my brain.
It has become easier over the years to think about celebrating in ways that don't evoke traumatic childhood memories. Making my own traditions has been a process; not forcing the matter and letting it develop naturally seems to be the best way to go. Lately, especially, I've tried to avoid fitting my life into a mold that others set--just because everyone seems to grill out on Memorial Day doesn't mean that I have to.
I don't know what has me thinking more and more about picnics lately. Maybe it's the warm weather that's finally upon us. Maybe it's because I'm gearing down from the long, cold winter and slow-cooked, complicated meals. It's time to slow down a little.
There's just something about a picnic that, for me, conjures up thoughts of soft grass, blue skies and simple food. It need not be lavish. In my opinion, some of the best picnics are quite the opposite. Some cheese. A baguette. Salami. Lemonade. Fresh-from-the-bakery cookies. A blanket, a pillow and a bag chair. A good book. A sunshine-dappled spot under a tree.
Doesn't that sound dreamy?
That's exactly what I'm going for this Memorial Day weekend. I've already bought some herbed boursin cheese, a tomato, various pieces of fruit (a pear, an apple, a couple of bananas). I got a small jar of dill gherkins--they seemed to go along with the idea in my head. Tomorrow I'll get some lettuce, a small loaf of french or italian bread and perhaps a chunk of liverwurst. A jar of salad dressing will be easy enough to whip up. Maybe--just maybe--I'll make some lemon curd. And Monday Mr.W and I will disappear for a few hours. We'll go for a drive, find a pretty spot, and relax.
The cemetery photo at top is courtesy of Dustin C. Oliver under Creative Commons License.
The picnic photo is courtesy of Norma Desmond under Creative Commons License.