Today I had a hankering for a deviled egg.
I have a plastic container to keep or transport deviled eggs, but as anyone knows, a Southern belle has at least one and preferably several deviled egg plates, and this is mine. I love the rooster and the sunflower, but here is its quirk: there are slots for nine eggs. I don’t know how y’all make deviled eggs, but I cut my boiled eggs in half, scoop out the yolk, mix it with stuff, and fill the egg hollows with that stuff. At the risk of sounding mathy, you can’t add egg halves and come up with nine. I’ve decided this means the person who prepares the deviled eggs must, therefore, eat the extra one. This also works if you need a poison tester, because I connect deviled eggs to stuff like picnics and families, and you know both of those can be treacherous.
The process of deviling the eggs led me to think about two kinds of picnics: planned and spontaneous. My earliest impressions of picnics are the ones we took while we traveled during my childhood. Interstates were rare–we were more likely to take state highways and old backroads to get anywhere. We were also not yet a fast food nation. So trips meant either stopping at wonderful diners and cafes in small towns or–because we didn’t really have the budget for eating out that way–my mother packed sandwiches, fruit, chips, and drinks. When the back seat started sounding cranky, my parents knew it was time to find a shady roadside picnic area, pull over, and stuff food in us. The place might have been left to chance, but not the fixings, because everybody had to have the right things to eat (this one doesn’t like mustard, that one won’t eat Fritos, the other one hasn’t tasted much beyond peanut butter in two years, etc.).
Somewhat irrelevant aside: One time I was watching an episode of Mad Men (set in the early Sixties, if you don’t know), and the Draper family was having a picnic in an idyllic spot–green grass, shade trees, nothing but the sounds of nature and the kids being kids. Don finished his beer and rocked my world by tossing the can as far as he could throw it. Then when it was time to go, Betty told the kids to get their things, stood up, shook the blanket free of plates, cups, napkins, and food remnants, and they all got in the car and drove off, leaving a pile of debris behind. I GASPED. I would just like to say that my family did not behave in a way that would make the Keep America Beautiful Indian shed a tear. We properly disposed of our trash before moving on.
I think anytime children are involved, a picnic requires planning, and I used to be a champion planner myself, so I understand the compulsion. However, as I aged, I began to see how overplanning takes all the joy out of an event–both for the planner and everyone else. Because there will always be things you can’t prepare for, and I’m not talking about only nuisances like ants, mosquitoes, drunks, and rain. The world will not end if a picnic does not go exactly as planned–well, unless it’s taken over by zombies, but that hasn’t happened to me yet, so I disregard it. Consequently, I’m more in favor of the spontaneous picnic.
One such occasion began on a spring night when Lynne and I had a discussion about fried chicken. She said Craig didn’t really like fried chicken, and I said it was probably because he’d never had mine. (Y’all know Lynne is a fantastic cook, right, and taught me a lot of what I know? But never let it be said an Aries will miss an opportunity to be a little cocky.) So we decided to have a cook-off. We each separately spent a late night frying chicken and packed some other random foods. Early the next morning, we loaded Craig’s van, then the two of them, Tom, and I rode toward the Hill Country looking for the perfect picnic spot.
This is Texas, and they really mean it when they say if you don’t like the weather, wait ten minutes. A couple of hours later we were unloading the van in a bucolic setting with wildflowers and singing birds. And without warning, the temperature dropped about thirty degrees. Fortunately, Craig had some work coveralls in his van, so Lynne and I put those on, and we managed to stuff our food past blue lips with shivering hands. Crazily, that memory is one of my favorite picnics ever. And I can’t say it’s because Craig liked my chicken best–he did!–but it turned out that Tom and I liked Lynne’s best, so it all evened out. But we laughed ourselves stupid, rode home in the cozy van, and probably played cards all night with some good cussin’ and cold chicken.
Recently, Lynne asked me if Jess was with us on that picnic, and I remembered that he wasn’t. I’m not sure where he was–he might have been on spring break in Alabama with his great-aunts–but I knew for sure if he’d been with us, he’d have had the sense to get out of the cold.