For Mother's Day, my family went on a lovely hike at the Great Falls national park. It was the kind of perfectly gorgeous day that you get in Northern Virginia a handful of times a year - brightly sunny and breezy, and the park grounds were packed with picnickers from all around the world. Cigarette smoke wafted down few European tourists resting on some rocks, and beautiful (and fancy-dressed) Latin-American women walked by in their heels, dads with babies slung into backpacks trudged by. In a rocky crevice, I rested on a rock while my children and husband scrambled across a stream, and a little girl with shiny black hair asked me if I knew where she could find a salamander.
In the green, open areas, some families were positively feasting - huge families congregated, with children scampering everywhere and grandparents, aunties and uncles lounged on plastic chairs, blankets, and impromptu hammocks, listening to music and stoked their charcoal grills (one family had actually wheeled out a sizable gas grill. I was impressed.). I of course, tried to sneak peaks at what people had smoking on their grills and spread on picnic blankets.
The scene brought back so many memories from my childhood, where picnicking and barbecuing was serious business. We could just gather and eat food cooked out under the sky, or near water, with loads of friends and families spread out on picnic blankets and chairs, the mamas washing parsley and cucumbers for the tabbouleh under an open water tap. I remember the green grassy hills and the palm trees by springs of Sachne, grilling fish with my aunts and uncles on the shores of Tiberias, and then, the teenage years of barbeques at in the local Jerusalem parks. Other times, we grilled kebabs in the evenings on our flat, stone rooftop, under the canopy of stars, stoking the charcoal in tiny little grills while listening to the call to prayer, and then, afterwards, lying on mats and pillows to watch for shooting stars.
This was the Palestine that I loved.
In honor of the the start of picnic season, I have rounded up a few Middle Eastern picnic-friendly recipes, both mine and others. I wish you joy this picnic season. After all, is there anything better than the combination of good food, prepared and shared with good friends and family, and shared in the midst of beauty?
Dips to Whet the Appetite
Salads for your Table
Meats for the Grill
Coming soon: A recipe for a Middle Eastern Coleslaw!
Have I missed anything? What would you add to my list?