By Lana Turnbull
Growing up in the Mississippi Delta, the traditional 4th of July picnic could be brutal. With temperatures reaching three digits, and mosquitoes the size of hummingbirds, outdoor celebrations were at best challenging. After years of packing up the family picnic basket and cooler to head out for the typical July 4th get-together with friends and family, my dad finally put his foot down and said, “NO MORE!” As a farmer, he was out in the heat every day, so the thought of taking a holiday and spending it outside was just not his idea of a good time. That’s probably why our vacations always involved mountains, not beaches.
One summer, he and a farming buddy of his had a brainstorm. Why not have a July 4th breakfast picnic. We would all get up by sunrise (I recommend loading the grills, lawn chairs and card tables the night before), pack up the coolers with all the supplies for a breakfast alfresco style, and head for the other side of the levee to a shady, lakeside spot. By the time we had everything set up and the grills were hot, the sun would just be peaking over the top of the levee. The air was still cool, the mosquitoes were not swarming yet, and the sweet smells of bacon cooking and coffee perking filled the early morning air.
Our breakfast picnics were things of culinary beauty (while admittedly not heart healthy) – fresh pancakes, eggs, bacon and sausage, camp toast, fresh orange juice and coffee, with a few bottles of ice cold Coca Cola thrown in for good measure and watermelon for dessert. My best friend and I, still in our lazy teen stage, would stretch out on the hood of my 1967 yellow Chevy Malibu and listen to the radio until the food was ready. I recall strains of “If you’re going to San Francisco…be sure to wear a flower in your hair.” Finally the grownups would call for silence and we would all pause to bless the food before digging in.
There is just something indescribable about breakfast cooked outdoors. There was rarely so much as a crumb of pancake left when we finished. And then almost as quickly as we had arrived, before the mid-morning heat set in, we would have the vehicles packed and ready to head out.
Once we were back at home came the piece de resistance…the NAP. We would crank down the thermostat, and while everyone else we knew was packing up their cars to head to their versions of July 4th picnics, we were snoozing away in air conditioned comfort. Maybe it wasn’t the iconic baseball, hotdogs, apple pie and Chevrolet July 4th celebration, but it suited us to a tee.