The Classic Canadian Picnic — it’s all about family, food and having fun.
We may not be a perfect country, but seen from an aerial view of the parks and recreation areas dotting the landscape on a sunny, summer’s day, and we come pretty darn close to a peaceful place to live.
The picnic participants arrive in their overflowing cars and vans, often in a convoy of at least two. Some are jam-packed with gear, including large family-size tents, full-scale barbecues, volleyball nets, portable stereos, even Jerk-cooking drums — all this for a few hours. Others just keep it simple, lugging hampers with homemade sandwiches, thermoses filled with tea, and a soccer ball to kick about.
Everywhere you turn you can see families who originated from all around the world, just a few picnic tables and a blanket apart from each other. Almost side by side, in the same location, you can find Russians, Jamaicans, East Indians, Portuguese, Italians, Koreans, Brits, Croatians — to name but a few. And every group is more or less doing the same thing: eating, chatting, laughing, resting, reading newspapers, and relaxing in the comfortable closeness of extended families, or a cluster of friends.
Babies are passed around; small toddlers are watched by many pairs of loving eyes as they stumble about; children are joined in their games of frisbee, soccer, or touch football by older siblings, cousins, parents and other adults who want to have fun; while still other adults set the table, prepare the food, and cook on the barbecue.
It’s a time of pitching in, co-operation, communal living — all for one and one for all kind of thing. If you’re not in the mood for a group atmosphere, don’t bother coming.
And as each group begins their feast, the various smells of international dishes wafts through the open air. From jerk chicken to curried goat, from plain old hamburgers to sardines, the outdoor gastronomy is a cornucopia of flavours.
Besides the obvious enjoyment of being outdoors, chilling out with friends and family, and leaving the stresses of day-to-day life at home, I also enjoy listening to the sounds of the different ethnic groups — the multitude of languages being spoken, the culturally-specific music, and the intonations of the various voices.
Of course, the sounds of laughter and children’s squeals are universal.
Spending a peaceful day in a park, with all the other families and groups who consider themselves Canadian, makes me wonder why we can’t take this particular atmosphere and apply it to our lives on a regular basis. It’s so easy to get along when there’s outdoor recreation and food.
We need to remember this compatibility in our neighbourhoods, in our attitudes towards newcomers, and even in our political passions about wherever is “back home.”
It may sound simplistic, but on a relaxed summer day, the classic Canadian picnic is a model to live by all year.