In the heat of the summer when I was a kid growing up in L.A.’s San Fernando Valley, my mom would often make a collection of sandwiches — peanut butter and jelly, bologna or tuna fish —that she would wrap up and package with carrot and celery sticks, whole peaches or plums and cookies. Strawberry Kool-Aid may have been involved back then, too. Then she would send my brother and sister and me out to the backyard with a blanket or towel so we could have a “picnic.”
There were many other picnics in our life as a young family, including the big gatherings at L.A.’s Griffith Park with extended family. And as I got older, still more. As a young adult, I enjoyed the competitive preconcert picnics first on the Great Lawn in New York City’s Central Park and when I returned to L.A., at the Hollywood Bowl, at which attendees would vie for the most decadent or elaborate collections of food and picnic décor. Back then, my friends and I would make or bring pasta salads, lobster and cheesecake — and be the envy of surrounding concertgoers.
Now, as a San Diego resident, my picnic experiences have been far more laid back — going to the beach and grilling burgers or chicken or sausages, accompanied by a spicy coleslaw, bread and butter pickles, olives and watermelon and/or lemon bars for dessert.