I was invited to attend a picnic this weekend and I was delighted to accept because the weather during the day has been so un-San Francisco like, warm and sunny, almost like summer!
The night before, however, I was beset with anxiety. How would I get there? Where could I sit? Would I be able to access the picnic area? Was there an accessible restroom nearby that I could get to? Would I be able to stay out in the sun the whole time? What could I wear to cover up? Where is my hat? What can I make to bring? Would I be a burden to the other people? Would I have a good time?
Oh, anxiety, you are such a demon. I supposed all this comes from feeling helpless and vulnerable during this healing period. It’s only temporary but the lack of sleep the night before and the insurmountable hurdles some of these questions posed felt quite difficult. Happily, it all worked out beautifully.
Fortunately for me, in San Francisco, there are places where a disabled person can picnic and have a good time! We went to Chrissy Field and my friends picked me up in their car. Thanks to my temporary handicap placard we were able to party pretty near to the picnic area. There was a decent dirt path that led to the lawn and we found a nice spot with amazing views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and Angel Island and the curve of the city to the Bay Bridge.
The purpose of this picnic was more than just friends getting together for the afternoon. My amazing friend Biggie was being interviewed by NHK World television for a program about foreigners making bento. She is the original bento food blogger and received much acclaim for her website Lunch In a Box. I personally use her website frequently to find recipes because she’s an amazing cook and when I get home I wonder, how did she make that Thai curry? Or what is in that sanbaizu sauce?
This is such an exciting time for her and so wonderful that the Japanese film crew flew out to watch her make bento and then observe the bento picnic and then (gulp) interview her friends about bento and Biggie. I grew up eating Japanese food, thanks to my neighbors and living where I did, but I never made or enjoyed a homemade bento before my friendship with Biggie. It has really expanded my world.
As Biggie says, bento crosses all cultural lines and anything can go into a bento, and it is the best way to use leftovers!
With my weird food allergies, I can’t tell you how many times I have ended up in the emergency room because something I purchased for lunch was contaminated by egg. Bringing a bento box not only is an economical way to use leftovers but makes lunch feel special. This is a direct-from-Biggie-quote.
For her special picnic I wanted to bring something tasty and special and happily I had enough goodies in the fridge for a special bento. The focus of my blog and locus of my food preferences are items that are local, sustainably sourced and grown. The harmoniousness of my bento happily reflected this mindset.
- Cypress Grove Purple Haze goat cheese
- Jimtown fig and olive spread
- My friend Ambu’s amazing hand caught and hand smoked trout
- Red onion from Eatwell Farm (purchased through Good Eggs)
- Rainforest crisps from Lesley Stowe (although these are Canadian I have a huge fondness for them and they probably one of the finest crackers I have ever eaten, and are small batch made)
Happily, everyone enjoyed my humble bento, especially the Japanese film crew who polished off every last bit except for a sprinkling of red onion. I also brought a container of Costco’s smoked pulled pork doused in bacon hot sauce (my favorite sauce) and some fresh rice, which got polished off. Cold bing cherries were the perfect finish to my contributions to the picnic.
The other bentos were truly fantastic and I am sorry I didn’t take pictures of them. Because I was sitting up in a camp chair (the current gimp factor did not permit me to join the others on the picnic blankets), my angle of photography was pretty poor.
Biggie made her incredible Spam musubi, the best spam musubi on the planet, I might add (see her site for the recipe); little liverwurst and sweet pickle roll up sandwiches, maki style; a bento filled with rolled local sliced salamis, prosciutto and bresola; Tillamouk extra fancy white cheddar; a fancy prepared bento with fruit and vegetables and the maki sandwiches; and a bento of hot rice and mapo dofu, a spicy pork and tofu dish made extra spicy with lots of Sriracha sauce; and a huge Louisana crunch cake. It isn’t a picnic without cake! Friends brought a bento made especially for a child with fried fish, vegetables and fruits, a bento with fried polenta squares drizzled with pesto (amazing!), edamame and vegetables. We washed all of this down with lots of wine, hard cider and beer, and juice boxes and chilled water and juices for the kids.
As one parent said, bringing bento to a picnic is a perfect thing, because it can be eaten alone or shared and it’s not like a huge bowl of food that can get tipped over or go off.
We hit that wonderful peaceful lull that comes to every picnic when everyone is sated, the sun feels fantastic and one gazes out over the incredible views with perfect contentment. Like a bento, it was a perfectly encapsulated moment of enjoyment.
The interviews were handled with great care and consideration and did not feel at all intrusive. We really enjoyed getting to meet the crew and chat about food cultures, eating habits in California and San Francisco and how we knew Biggie. It was such a fun day!
Soon the program will be aired and I am excited to see my dear friend on television – soon the world will be sharing in her wonderful food!
Later, at home, I reflected on how enriched my life is by knowing extraordinary people like Biggie and the parents from her child’s school, our mutual friends and new friends, and the access to scenes and food like today. Despite being disabled at the moment, I feel like a very lucky lady.