Our little picnic basket was filled to the brim with all sorts of exciting outdoor-dining fare. The scent of my freshly baked salt and pepper popovers wafted its way right out of the loosely woven top, making it a real test to see if we could avoid eating one before we got to the picnic site. I gave Elle a bite of strawberry instead, and that seemed to stave off her audible stomach rumblings for the time being.
“Let’s go to our picnic, Mommy!” She was beside herself with excitement over this fun new activity with which I had presented her that morning, last Tuesday, to be exact. A picnic, I explained to her, is when you get to eat your food outside on a big blanket that everybody shares – no highchair needed. The prospect of dining in her most favorite of all places – the great outdoors – was almost too much for her to handle. I’ll admit that her excitement about our little picnic, in turn, caused me to get pretty darn excited myself. That’s one of the best parts of being a parent, I think. Seeing the world anew through your child’s actions and reactions never gets old. Plus after being cooped up in the house all Winter, the idea of getting out and enjoying the warmer temps and lovely Springtime breezes with which we had recently been bestowed (thanks Mother Nature!) was truly exciting indeed.
Funny thing is, we never actually got to have that picnic. By the time we’d loaded the car and driven the whopping three miles to the picnic site, the weather had become something far from lovely. Massive piles of ominous gray clouds had begun to blanket the previously crystal clear sky and that lovely Springtime breeze had reduced itself considerably, into a mere shadow of its former self. It was cold. It was dark. It was spitting rain. A picnic, it seemed, was no longer in the cards for us that day. Luckily, Elle is two and a half years old and very easily distracted from her own emotions. When I told her she could run around and look at the water down by the canal for a few minutes, her little melancholy eyes brightened and a huge grin spread across her face. Phew, picnic crisis averted.
Mother Nature is a fickle bird this time of year, putting a different face forward every five minutes it seems. Our picnicking plans were thwarted due to this fickleness, meaning that picnic season would have to wait just a little bit longer. I hold no grudges toward Ms. Nature, though. We’re in that funny little pocket of the year when everything is starting to warm up a bit, “The Big Thaw” has finally happened. We can be so easily tricked into thinking that the warm days are here to stay and that we’ve seen the last of the cold for a while. Such was the case on this day – the day of the picnic that almost wasn’t.
Just because it might not quite have been picnic weather didn’t mean that a picnic was out of the question. When life gives you lemons, the tough get going. Wait, what? Anyway, we opted to make lemonade from those cloudy-weathered lemons and had a picnic on the floor of Elle’s bedroom, complete with her very own mini-sized picnic basket. In addition to our figurative lemonade drinking, we also managed to enjoy the real picnic food to the fullest. Having previously anticipated a successful outdoor dining experience, I’d packed freshly baked popovers, fruit, boiled eggs with herbs, olive oil and lemon, and some leftover apple-strawberry crumble for us to take to the picnic site. Turns out, all of this tasted just as great from the comforts of Elle’s little room. We could have been eating anywhere, now that I think about it. Sometimes, it’s not about the setting, it’s about the scene. The blanket, the basket, the food, the company – those are the things that can really make a picnic special. We sat there in Elle’s room munching on popovers and strawberries, admiring the fake flowers with which Elle had so thoughtfully decorated the blanket and and listening to the rain falling outside her cracked window, and it was enough. It was more than enough.
What a lovely picnic we’re having today! Mom can you give Minnie Mouse some fruit too?
Of course! I’m so sorry Minnie. Where are my manners? I said, laughing.
Oh don’t worry Mommy. I’ll find them for you …
Salt and Pepper Popovers RECIPE
adapted from Melissa d’Arabian
INGREDIENTS: 3 tablespoons melted butter, divided
1 cup milk, warmed for 30 seconds in the microwave (should be lukewarm to warm)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1.5 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
DIRECTIONS: Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Brush 8 muffin cups with 1 tablespoon of the melted butter and place the pan in the oven for 3 minutes. While the pan is heating up, mix the eggs in a blender until pale yellow, about 10 – 15 seconds. Add the warmed milk and blend. Add the flour, salt, pepper, and the rest of the melted butter, and blend until the mixture is smooth. Pour the popover batter into the heated muffin tins, should fill about 8, and place it back it to the oven to bake until golden and puffed, about 35 minutes. Serve warm.