How long it took me to condense the word "picnic"down to its rightful two syllables, I am unsure. For the longest time, I said "pic-a-nic" which was probably too cute for my mom to correct. We moms know how that is.
The first pic-a-nic food I remember were peanut butter and jelly sandwiches when I was six years old. We were living at seminary in Kansas City, in a cul-de-sac on campus referred to as "the teardrop." I think it was called the teardrop because of its shape, but maybe for what the final exams elicited from students.
At any rate, when my older sister and I wanted to pack a little lunch and go off our own little adventure (always "within earshot" of my parents), we wanted peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
My mom would take the crusts off and cut one sandwich in quarters, on the diagonal. We'd each get two cute little triangular PB & J sandwiches which were packed with love and perhaps a sigh of relief that two girls out of the house meant 20 minutes of P&Q (Peace and Quiet), for a change. Mama sent us skipping off with our brown bag, holding hands, promising her we'd stay together.
Other pic-a-nic foods have played two-bit roles in the movies of my memory. Of those that start with the letter "p," I think German potato salad deserves a nomination. So does Pretzel salad (a jello-cream cheese-and pretzel dessert so loved by my husband that my mom calls it Son-in-Law Salad).
And let's not forget pork & beans (which, for the longest time I thought was one word: porkenbeans). Every can of them had a floating cube of lard like a prize in a box of Cracker Jacks, except no one wanted it.
Many pic-a-nic foods have been packed, eaten, and forgotten in my life, but my favorite, by far, was the first one, shared with my seven-year-old sister on a hot Missouri day.
Lesson learned: PB & J packed in a pic-a-nic by a proud parent for her precious pig-tailed progeny presides perfectly in posterity.