Memorial Day, besides its most worthy reason for being celebrated, is dear to the American heart as the inaugurator of summer getaway weekend season. And with that inevitably comes the popular outdoor picnic, A.K.A., as far as I am concerned, “The Big Schlepp.”
To me this solemn weekend of remembrance signals the time to hide, lest I be invited on what is surely the messiest and most agonizingly uncomfortable of all traditional feasts. It’s not that the idea of dining outside has no appeal to me, but the execution usually leaves me craving creature comforts.
Were modern American picnics at all like the Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe (Luncheon on the grass) as depicted in the 1862 painting by Édouard Manet, I might rush to join. No impinging crowds or air stifled by clouds of burning grease from grills, no random baseballs or horseshoes, no sticky children needing bathrooms, no fear of food poisoning via overly warm mayonnaise in the potato salad, neither beach sand nor woodland insects to brush off: just two couples in a sylvan hideaway sharing simple ready-to-eat fare that seems to consist only of fruit, bread, and maybe a few chunks of cheese.