The lake club I belong to is celebrating its 75th anniversary this summer and to kick things off, I suggested that we hold a “Progressive Picnic,” where members open their grills, tables and food to one another as a way to meet and mingle with friends, new and old. I thought an event like this would fit nicely into the friendly foodie atmosphere, where people already go all out with their lake side picnics, often eying what their neighbors are grilling nearby.
It’s already a community of people who willingly offer those sitting close by a taste of something, share forgotten essentials (marshmallows, hot dog buns, ketchup, matches) and leave leftovers as they pack up to leave. So, I thought a progressive picnic would fit nicely with the lake culture. But since it had never been done before, we’d have to see!
Well, our lake’s first annual Progressive Picnic was held yesterday and it was a success! In fact, I was called “brilliant” (which I humbly yet proudly get to repeat here) by more than a few people, who asked that we hold another one on Labor Day, closing the season. Someone even joked that this progressive style should be something offered to people every weekend and they were actually kind of serious.
Here’s how our simple event worked: People brought a big batch of something they’d like to share — sausages, shrimp cocktail, sliders (that was our contribution), potato salad. They then placed an American flag at their table as a “we’re open” symbol, inviting people to stop by to chat and share food. People even walked around like cocktail waiters, offering samples of their food, as conversations started and people made new friends. My daughter and her friend (usually a bit shy with strangers) embraced this opportunity to meet new people, and walked our food from table to table.
The feedback was amazing. Someone told me how nice it was to finally meet a family they’d seen (but never spoken to) at the lake for twelve years; another person remarked how they enjoyed meeting a new member with such an extensive knowledge of local hiking trails. People enjoyed learning new culinary techniques as they hung out at one another’s grills, talking about food. My whipped herbed butter drew some attention, as I spread it on my mini burgers and explained how I learned this trick from my foodie friend Simon, another lake member. One husband commented to his wife: “Are you taking notes?” Another called for a child interested in cooking, to come watch the grill.
So, as food was shared, conversations flowed and members got to know one another. There were many thanks for this new way of dining in our little community. It demonstrates the vital role food plays in our culture and how it can even affect a club that is set in its ways. The success of this progressive style event at our lake club is a microcosm of what works in the larger population. Cooking and food should be used to enhance our culture and the relationships we have with one another. All the time.
Simple Whipped Herbed Butter
Makes 1 ¼ cups
This creamy herbed butter is divine. Spread on steak, burgers or chicken while grilling, or serve it as a spread for fresh bread. It will transform something ordinary into a tasty treat.
2 sticks salted butter, softened
4 cloves garlic, crushed
½ cup cilantro, washed and chopped
¼ cup parsley, washed and chopped
4 scallions, washed and chopped
In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, whip together the butter, garlic, cilantro, parsley and scallions until well combined and creamy.