September picnic

The sun filtered through the trees like moonlight as we took off our packs and swung our legs over the old railroad bridge. It was a perfect day for a picnic—cool, crisp with the promise of fall, with a stunning blue sky and white light overhead. Poplars and oaks rustled as the river meandered by beneath us, and we spread our napkins for the noontime meal.

My mother had helped me with the sandwiches: big, thick slices of squash bread from Cottage Street Bakery in Orleans, sliced cucumbers and tomatoes from my garden, a thick wedge of goat cheese invited down from Maine, and a few leaves of basil from the pot on the deck.

But the star was the spread. I made it finally—Nelia Dunbar's rosehip jelly—the recipe I received from my call to arms last week. It was a thick, luxurious red, with the aroma of tomato soup and the gooey sweetness of pie. Back in the kitchen, we'd spread it thick on toast and set out through the woods to enjoy that first taste.

The bridge made it come alive, our legs running free through empty air, spurred on by their own reflection and a swig of cider here and there. It seemed appropriate to enjoy the jelly there in the manmade wild, on the banks of a century-diked river still fighting for freedom and an empty railroad bed that wished it'd never found it. The rosehips were like that too, introduced but adopted, long ago washashores now passing as natives.

When we finally shook out our napkins and packed up to go, I wondered how many picnics the bridge had seen. This—our first—would be far from the last.


Toast 2 slices good bread. Spread one side with rosehip or other savory jelly, and the other with a generous layer of soft chevre. Stack one side with sliced tomatoes, basil leaves, and sliced cucumbers, and top with the other. Cut in half, place in a plastic sandwich bag, and rubberband so as to keep from shifting. Bring along a salt shaker, a bit of cider, and one good apple. Enjoy outdoors.

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All text, photographs, and other original material copyright 2008-2010 by Elspeth Hay unless otherwise noted.