Fried chicken in cel­e­bra­tion of pic­nic month

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On a rainy, windy day re­cently my on­line trav­els took me to a site that de­clared that Au­gust was In­ter­na­tional Pic­nic Month. In con­tra­dic­tion, an­other site in­di­cated that no, this recog­ni­tion of pic­nics ac­tu­ally hap­pened in July, the of­fi­cial first month of sum­mer and the ap­pro­pri­ate time to have a pic­nic. What­ever the proper month for a cel­e­bra­tion, it oc­curred to me that this house­hold hasn’t been involved in a good, old-fash­ioned pic­nic for sev­eral years. Each time we drive into Wakamow Val­ley, I look over at the pic­nic ta­bles and bar­be­cues and think that it would be fun to gather some friends and have a potluck pic­nic at one of those sites. Then we drive on and quickly for­get un­til the next drive-by. One of the high­lights of the end of the Sun­day School sea­son was the an­nual pic­nic, ei­ther at Be­sant Park, or in the back­yard of one of the CPR houses be­side the tracks. At Be­sant there was the at­trac­tion of the swim­ming hole, a ball di­a­mond and lots of space to run and play the games that were su­per­vised by the par­ents. Back at the CPR yard, we had some room for games but mostly the at­trac­tion was the food — no steaks or ham­burg­ers on the bar­be­cue —but food that came out of card­board boxes or heavy ham­pers filled with ice to help main­tain a level of food safety. There would be sliced ham, fried chicken, sliced roast beef from a real cow with­out any thought to hor­mones or whether free run eggs were used in the egg salad sand­wiches. Sev­eral va­ri­eties of potato salad would ap­pear along with some veg­etable cre­ations in Jell-o. The dessert ta­ble would in­clude choco­late cakes with thick ic­ing, home­made cook­ies, wa­ter­melon slices and some­times there would be the op­por­tu­nity to roast marsh­mal­lows over an open fire that to­day would be against the law. Each fam­ily was re­spon­si­ble for its own plates and cut­lery — pa­per plates and plas­tic knives and forks came along some years later. And each fam­ily also brought some ex­tra food and uten­sils just in case some­one at­tended with­out re­al­iz­ing the tra­di­tional obli­ga­tions. Def­i­nitely no one would go home hun­gry. On a smaller scale, we as a fam­ily would of­ten pack a pic­nic sup­per to be eaten at the park or be­side the lake where fish­ing was at­tempted with noth­ing much caught be­sides weeds and a few pa­per bags. Some­times the spur of the mo­ment pic­nic would be sand­wiches and some fruit. If plan­ning were involved, fried chicken and potato salad held pride of place. It seemed no one wor­ried about food safety and to­day’s health in­spec­tors would likely have had a melt­down with their tests of tem­per­a­tures and stor­age. We sur­vived quite nicely, thank you, de­spite some ob­vi­ously iffy habits. But soon the ther­mally-lined ham­pers ap­peared, in­su­lated carry cases and var­i­ous sizes of freezer packs popped up in the stores. And on-the-spot bar­be­cued steaks and ham­burg­ers shoved aside the fried chicken. The last pic­nic with fried chicken for this house­hold was the sum­mer of 2013 when we jour­neyed to Shamrock Re­gional Park, found our­selves a se­cluded spot near a gi­gan­tic checker board and un­packed our pic­nic din­ner: fried chicken, potato salad, let­tuce salad, some veg­eta­bles in Jell-o, cake and wa­ter­melon. All packed among frozen wa­ter bot­tles and ice packs in a ther­mal hamper and eaten off pa­per plates with plas­tic uten­sils — the best of both cen­turies. And so, this month, I salute the pic­nic and won­der if there’s still time this Au­gust so have a real, hon­est-to-good­ness pic­nic with home-fried chicken and all the fix­ings? Just won­der­ing! Joyce Wal­ter can be reached at ron­joy@sask­

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