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A Note from Marcy

Welcome to the July 2006 Issue
Complete Recipe Selection at www.BetterBaking.com

 

Dear Friends and Fellow Bakers,

Show me someone who doesn't like picnics and I will show you a Summer Scrooge. Picnics are Summer!  True, food is always an occasion certain food events: brunches, barbecues, beach/seaside parties and picnics are occasions where both the food, the style and the locale all converge into something beyond the some of the parts. Perhaps it is because the latter three venues are outside and seasonally tethered. The outdoors provides atmosphere and that special seasoning; the summer is short enough to make it extra precious. Easy to see why we savor it so..

July is launched (on this side of the Atlantic) with the twin holidays of Canada Day and Independence Day. I couldn't help but tip my hat to my Canadian home with a scan of a great Canuck baking mitt. Not only is it a perfect mitt (thank you Winners/TJ Max stores) but it actually works.

Speaking of holidays, why are two countries, so close and so similar, also so bound by the closeness of their national holidays, asked my son Ben recently. Good question, kiddo. I told him it is because, much like him and his brothers, Canada and American, have that special bond. Sure, just as siblings do, we tussle at times, but we also are close, sharing our cultures, our weather, and our wheat, and American Idol - as neighbors and fellow family members of North American would tend to be. As a Canuck baker gal, I can't think of nicer neighbors to have at the longest, unguarded white picket fence aka the American Canadian border. Happy July lst and July 4th! The BB Test Kitchen has cooked up something maple, something in an American Dream flavor and a bit of red 'n white and blue to celebrate with.

As for picnics, patriotic or not, we offer some treats, savory and sweet, keeping things easily make-ahead. For myself, I generally prefer baguettes or fresh, homemade country boules or French breads, cheeses, and sliced meats, to assemble sandwiches on the fly (versus packing pre-made ones). In Montreal, things are tilted towards the European approach, I prefer to mix and match an assortment of picnic elements.

Food is easily taken care of - but what about the quintessential picnic basket? I discovered tons of picnic baskets online but highly recommend a classic, English hamper (read more on the Windsor, below). The fun and glory of a traditional picnic baskets from choosing your own signature hamper to filling them, being creative with them in a myriad of ways - is one of the nicest of summer tasks. Your basket is an instant heirloom, initiated by the first picnic it caters or first picnic of the season. Either way, it is a symbol of your most special family times.

We lost our picnic basket somehow last summer and thus began my hunt for a new one. I researched them all - from the trendiest and best to the most intriguing (and slightly moldy) ones from estateauctions on eBay (which is where I found my picnic art).  My beautiful, totally outfitted Windsor picnic basket comes is available from Picnic Time is offered by www.pacificleisureshopping.com. The Windsor looks and performs just as you expect the perfect picnic basket to perform : with gorgeous, ceramic plates, snappy cutley in its own compartments, stemware in wicker sleaves, a pretty blue blanket, a wine holder, thermos, silver salt and pepper shakers in separate holders, and leather, satchel style straps binding a gorgeous wicker trunk.  For a crafted, heirloom American picnic basket, go no further than a woven ash strip basket from Basketville www.Basketville.com. These are the most old-fashioned, beautiful renditions of an old-fashioned basket with fold-down carrying handles and a lift-off or sliding wood top. If you need some heat on your picnic, look no further than the portable Q grills from Weber. Check out http://www.weber.com/q/default.aspx for the niftiest, most compact, high-performance, take-along picnic, beach and camping grills on the market. They look a bit space age but they work so well for so many occasions where you just need some quick flame for hotdogs and burgers that Weber cannot keep them in stock!

When purchasing an unfilled basket, you get to enjoy selecting all the tablewear you want to fill it with. I found neat choices in outdoor cutlery, cups, plates - you name it at Pier One but mostly at Wal-mart and Ikea. At Wal-mart, I also found a giant, classic reed basket for $16.00 that is the sort of thing Yogi Bear would tote around. It is also fully lined. Wicker and reed baskets can also be sprayed any color you want. Mini ash strip baskets from www.Basketville can be used for two-people picnics or when you simply need a smaller basket for wine, cheese and bread.

If filling your own basket with tablewear, I suggest you buy real cutlery and enamel on tin plates which are durable, not too heavy but also nicer than paper plates (but paper plates are fine, as is plastic cutlery). Tuck in a colorful blanket too.

The initial fun of a picnic seems to start in just choosing your picnic basket style: British tea-style hamper or reed basket simple and then filling it with the ecouterments that suit your personal style. I tend to keep one basket  for the food and another one (or even a thermal picnic knapsack) to tote the stuff to eat the food with, serving utensils, matches, and cold drinks.

 www.PacificLeisureShopping.com also offers a line of upscale, well-designed thermal picnic knapsacks, which might be your preferred style, if you are traveling light, hiking or biking your way to a picnic.

Happy July, however you celebrate it or usher in the most sunny days of the year. As always, happy baking.

Marcy Goldman
Editor and Host
www.BetterBaking.Com
Est. 1997


Previous Monthly Essays from A Note From Marcy:

Essays to tickle your funny bone, wake up your inner baker, twinge on your heartstrings, or make you smile and say, ‘I’ve know the feeling; I know the place”. If you missed an essay, or a season in baking or inner sensibility, we invite you to stroll through our archived Notes From Marcy.

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