“How about a picnic?” I offered one sunny afternoon. The kiddo and I just love a good picnic. Of course, ‘picnic’ to she and I, means tossing a couple of sandwiches in a bag so we can eat outdoors, on a blanket. But to the French born man in my life, ‘picnic’ means something completely different; his interpretation is a very French picnic.
“Well, if we’re going to have a picnic it has to be a French picnic” he announced. I smiled, I have come to learn in our years together that the French version of just about anything food related is always delicious, and being an adventurer of the culture of food, I’m always open to his translation. “What does that entail?” I asked. As it turns out it was surprisingly uncomplicated.
“When we go on a picnic in France it’s an all day event. When my Grandmother [Chef Georgette] was alive we would pack the tents, the barbecue and several coolers as well as blankets, pillows — so we could nap after lunch. There was always cheese and bread, wine and a couple of beers, at least one cold roast chicken, a couple dozen hard boiled eggs and, of course, homemade mayo. [pause] My Grandmother would also pack steaks… just in case.”
“In case what?”
“In case the car broke down, heaven forbid we should miss our next meal!”
I suppose I expected something a bit more, I don’t know, elaborate. “That’s it? Cold chicken, boiled eggs and mayo? We can do that.” “Homemade mayo,” he reiterated, holding a hand up to stop me right there“it’s essential.” Clearly there was no getting around the homemade mayo issue. “No salad? No fruit?” I asked. “Honey, in France, wine IS fruit…” True. Must have forgotten myself for a moment.
So off I went to collect the necessary items: a cold deli chicken and a baguette from the local market, a wedge of brie out of the fridge and instead of wine, Orangina (which I love). Meanwhile a half dozen eggs were left in his charge to boil as he hand whipped a batch of creamy mayo.
We packed blankets and cutlery, carving knives and a cutting board and piled it all in the gas-guzzling SUV for a day in one of Canada’s National Parks, thankfully just minutes away. “I think I’m channeling your grandmother” I joked as we loaded our French-inspired picnic, several bags and a cooler into the backseat along with the child and her requisite snackage. He laughed “well, if you are then you’re forgetting the fishing equipment!”
I love his memories of France and his much loved Grandmother, he elaborated wistfully. “We would always picnic near a river or lake, so there was always fishing. On our way there my Grandmother would stop for bait and bread. ‘Stop there’ she would say ‘they have they best worms’ and we would ask ‘what about the bread Mémé?’ ‘Meh,’ she’d say, ‘bread is bread.'”
Fresh mayo on bread? Epic. (Beware overindulgence.) Sharing a family tradition with a new generation? Priceless. Ours was a very French picnic, even without the worms.