Have we changed the way we picnic? I recently watched an old Mad Men episode where the Draper family drives out into the country for a picnic lunch. The scene is exactly what you expect with a wicker hamper and a blanket. As they pack up to go home, Don tosses his empty beer can into the bushes and Betty flings the paper napkins and plates onto the grass, which made the internet really sad because no one likes a litterbug. But aside from the littering, has the art of eating on the grass changed?
Maybe we have better containers. They close with a snap which is much more reassuring than a Tupperware's burp. Also, we have softer fabrics. Good Lord, those scratchy wool blankets of our ancestors could give my ankles a yeast infection.
But the ants haven't changed. Nor has the hardness of the ground. Dirt has not evolved in any significant positive way.
So picnics are still overrated and romanticized. Like Prom and New Year's Eve, no matter how you prepare, disappointment awaits. I remember once organizing a lovely picnic dinner to Ravinia, the toff summer home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra where it's not uncommon to see blankets spread with silver candleabras and perspiring champagne buckets. What we saw, however, not five feet away was a blanket spread with the perspiring buttocks of a man whose girlfriend was apparently not opposed to open air intimacy. I mean, really!
Even Jane Austen hated picnics. Her character Emma Woodhouse pissed off the entire Highbury community when her desperate attempt to eek a little fun out of a strawberry picnic turned into a bullying episode rivaling Mean Girls.
So, back to Mad Men. These insulated cups, new in the shop, were spotted on Betty's Connecticut kitchen counter in Season 6. The whistle-trimmed swizzle sticks are my brilliant addition and I suspect she would not appreciate such vulgarity. I can imagine Don using it to call for a refill. God knows if I heard him whistle, I'd come running.
So, if you must picnic, do it like the Drapers, with fashionable alcoholic beverages and minimal food.
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My own Mad Man makes a great Old Fashioned. You can read more about it here.
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