Picnics have been around since before I was born and, believe me, that was a long time ago. Nowadays, if we go on a picnic, we stop by Fred Meyer and grab an eight-piece pack of fried chicken and a few pints of various salads and maybe some Jo Jo’s (the most awesome super-fries in the world) or find a drive through that strikes our fancy.
Back when I was a youngster, there weren’t any fast food places that I recall and grocery stores didn't carry ready-to-eat food. I wasn’t the one driving around, but I don't recall a deli in our neighborhood in Scottsdale.
Mom made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on store-bought white bread, the fluffy kind that tore to pieces if the peanut butter was laid on too thick. We didn’t have baggies of any sort, either. The sandwiches were wrapped in waxed paper or aluminum foil. We took a few apples, maybe a box of cookies, and a bag of chips. Ah, remember Wampum chips? They were the ‘other’ corn chip; tortilla-style chips weren't available in bags yet. There were two flavors of potato chips: plain and barbecue. Nothing fancy like the gyro or biscuits and gravy flavored ones I saw recently. Times were tough…
We put the goodies in an honest-to-goodness picnic basket, not a paper bag or cardboard bucket. Ours was made out of wicker — the natural fiber kind, not plastic. The set came complete with Melamine-type plates (sectioned with ridges so the beans didn’t slop over into the potato salad or sandwich). There were probably paper plates available, but we never used them. We shared a pitcher of Kool Aid or were treated to a bottle of soda, always making sure we saved the pop bottles to cash in for Popsicle money.
If we wanted music, we could open the car door and listen to music on the AM radio. No Sirius, iPods or streaming tunes through a smartphone; just crackly receptions and those obnoxious DJs who talked over the beginning and ends of every song. Of course, there were battery-operated transistor radios around. They came out around 1955. Aw, how great to listen to music without power cords. Just make sure you didn't bend or break the antenna!
We sprayed DDT-type bug spray or swatted flies and mosquitoes with a fly swatter, but otherwise were pest free. We didn’t have to worry about being interrupted by phone calls either. There was no such thing as a portable phone, much less cell phones. That’s why it was so important to let someone know where you were going and when you were coming back. Sort of like a flight plan for a day trip on the road. If you weren't back when expected, friends or family called around or came looking for you.
So, how did you picnic when you were a kid? And how do you do it now? For me, it’s a breeze: drive through. Oh, and make sure you ask for extra napkins, just in case your fast food is messier than my mother’s PB & J’s.
What kind of convenience food did they have in Revolutionary War era America? Find out about Evie’s ‘fast food, colonial-style’ in Naked in the Winter Wind, the tale of a 21st century woman who finds herself in a new and improved body in 1780s North Carolina.
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