It truly is as American as apple pie. A couple sits on a blanket underneath a shady oak tree on a warm, sunny June afternoon. The girl opens the wicker picnic basket and pulls out some fried chicken and potato salad. For dessert there is a big, thick slice of mom’s apple pie. There is also a thermos filled with icy cold fresh squeezed lemonade to wash it all down with.
These images bring up scenes of a simpler time in small-town America. Although not as many people go on picnics like this anymore, a lot of folks still cook out and BBQ this time of year, especially on Memorial Day and the Fourth of July.
According to a CNN poll of some 38,000 people, ” …the ultimate summer menu would consist of a burger (cooked medium and topped with cheese, lettuce and onions), potato salad, corn on the cob and watermelon, washed down with plenty of ice cold beer.”
And instead of the wicker picnic basket and the couple under the oak tree, today’s picnic would probably include most of the family and neighbors, kids, and the family dog. And the food would be cooked on a charcoal barbecue pit or the latest stainless steel futuristic propane high-tech cooking device complete with temperature controls, burners, and warming rack.
All of the above couldn’t be more American, right? Well guess again. Just like us most of these picnic traditions originated elsewhere. According to CNN:
Let’s look at the good old American hamburger. A lot of places in the United States take credit for inventing the hamburger as we know it today, but the original concept came from Germany. German immigrants had a concoction they called the Hamburg steak. It was roughly ground beef that was seasoned with nutmeg and had things like breadcrumbs and chopped onions added as fillers to extend the meat.
My mom was famous throughout the neighborhood for her potato salad. As hard as I have tried I have never been able to duplicate it. It was one of those foods like soup and stew that actually got better if it stayed in the refrigerator for a couple of days.
Actually, potato salad was also brought over by German immigrants, but it was the kind that was ladened with vinegar. It took American inventiveness to add mustard, eggs, and mayonnaise.
Now the corn-on-the-cob WAS an American invention. A Native American one that is. The Indians shared their sweet corn with the first European settlers to this country. Corn, or Maize was also popular in Mexico about that time as it still is today.
I love watermelon. Once when I was a kid, my grandfather promised me a whole big watermelon for my own if I could carry it home from the market. It took me a while, but I made it. I practically finished off the whole thing in one sitting. Then I went to the bathroom and threw up.
Watermelons originated in Africa. They go all the way back to Egyptian times. Then they were traded to China. China remains the biggest producer of watermelons in the world today.
And finally we have beer. We all know that it too was brought here by German immigrants, but it also was liked so much by the cave men that they may have started farming to grow the grain its made with. Looks like we wouldn’t have evolved without it.