Thursday, April 7, 2011

Picnic Baskets and Other Things Tied Onto Car Roofs

Some friends and I were chatting about picnicking and the best containers for transporting food and incidentals.I told them for me, A PICNIC BASKET is a must. I’ve had the same rattan basket for years and it is always ready with all the picnic necessities: plates, cups, silverware and assorted serving spoons, napkins, tablecloth, placemats, small cheese board, sharp knife, can opener and corkscrew.

Why a picnic basket? Not only do I like the romantic notion of a picnic basket, I feel that a picnic is the grandest of occasions and a basket simply takes this role more seriously than any other container. The simple act of lifting my picnic basket out of the closet fills me with excitement and anticipation for what is to come.

However, everyone agreed that a picnic basket alone is not adequate for most picnics. We all have a variety of great canvas bags that hold picnic foods pulled out of the cupboard: potato chips, crackers, paper towels and a can of anything. And, of course a cooler is almost always a must. Yet, for the simplest of picnics, just one of the above containers will often do just fine, especially if we are alone or with one other person, and the destination is close by.

Someone asked where I got the idea of a picnic basket tied onto the roof of the car for the cover of Cruising Connecticut with a Picnic Basket. It started with the memory of a 40-year old adventure.

Back in 1972, my husband and I and three daughters, ages 14, 12 and 5 were planning a trip to Southampton, England to visit relatives and impulsively decided to add on a 4-week camping vacation in Europe, traveling through 7 countries. We boarded a ferry in Southampton with all our rented equipment and when we docked in Le Havre, France my husband left us and our “stuff” waiting on the boat while he found a car rental. He came back with the biggest car they had, a 2-door Simca. While we all managed to squeeze our bodies into this doll-size car without a trunk, there was no room for anything else. So, we found some rope and tied everything to the top of the car.

These items included: 1 tent, 2 cots, 5 sleeping bags, camp light, camp stove, folding table and four chairs, place settings, dishpan and various products for washing dishes. Oh, and of course, 5 pieces of luggage. What a sight. Our belongings towered higher than the body of the car!

If there was one tiny plus, it was when we reached the various borders, we were never asked to remove our assorted paraphernalia from the roof for inspection. In fact, we hardly ever stopped the car. When the guards saw us coming they waved us right through.

When I was thinking about ideas for the cover of my book, the image of traveling through Europe with that bizarre-looking car somehow popped into my consciousness and I immediately knew I would use an oversized picnic basket tied to the roof of a car as a starting point. And with the help of a good design team the idea just developed into a fun and whimsical cover that, after five years, still makes me chuckle.

These days, as work on my second book continues I sometimes pause to wonder if I will be lucky enough to get the same kind of inspiration for my new cover.

Need some inspiration to plan your first picnic of the season? Just lift that Picnic Basket out of the closet and watch what happens!