It was the Sprout's birthday on St. Patty's day, and we threw her a picnic party at a playground near the Ortega River. I had day dreams of setting up the food, spreading out blankets and lounging for hours by the river, watching the sunset and our little ones frolic about. That Saturday, as I gently placed the 36th cupcake at the top of the stand on the food table, thunder pounded in applause from violet clouds. We moved the entire picnic under a tiny pavilion, ate quickly and let the kids play a bit in the slight drizzle, before loading up and moving out.
It was no picnic. I got to thinking about picnics, and with Spring here it seemed like a good topic to explore. Surprisingly, what I found was disturbing.
What is the etymology of the word picnic? I went online to look it up and the first entry was something on www.Snopes.com. Weird right? Picnic on Snopes? I read the entry...which disproved a rumor that the word "picnic" originated as word describing an outdoor meal attended by white folks, where a black man was chosen at random and hung for the gathering's entertainment. You can read more about it here.
Who started this urban legend, transforming the lovely word picnic into something brutal and violent? The fact that this false definition for the word "picnic" even exists in our language says a lot. So does the story of the murder of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, FL. What does it say about American society where an adult can shoot an unarmed teenage boy, on his way to a store to buy some candy, without any arrest or investigation? Really think it about it, because as his story goes global the rest of the world will be casting its judgement. This is our society, our laws, our people, our culture. We have to own this reality, before we can change it.
As for the word picnic...it actually comes from the French word, piquenique, which seems to have originated in the 17th century to describe a potluck style feast. This little truth put my mind at ease, because if there had been a more sinister meaning it would have ruined picnics for me forever. Picnics are a thing of unity and diversity where people come together and share food in plein air. Last Saturday, Chef and I are attended a guerrilla picnic, or pop-up picnic, as a fundraiser for a community garden in our neighborhood, Riverside. It was a picnic like none we have ever attended, and I will be sure to share with you the details.
It is picnic season...sit, eat, drink, and linger over some meaningful conversation in the sunshine. Enjoy the Spring bloom before the summer blaze sets in.