Tis the season to pack picnic dishes. I’m already stocking up on green beans, mushroom soup and french fried onions.
For guys who aren’t single and don’t have to fix their own covered dishes, those are the key ingredients in green bean casserole. It’s just about the easiest and quickest covered dish to make, which is why I whip up a round for every family picnic.
I also have been known to slave over a hot burner for 10 minutes or so to produce a packet of flavored rice, complete with dehydrated broccoli chunks. Then I sprinkle my own shredded cheddar cheese on top. It’s the personal touch that sells it as homemade.
But the easiest dish for the single guy in a hurry to prepare is macaroni salad — unless, that is, you make it yourself.
My recipe for macaroni salad sidesteps all the usual inconveniences, such as boiling water, dicing eggs and tearing apart the cupboards for the jar of mayonnaise you’re sure you had. Somewhere.
I now share my secret with you:
1) Remove a casserole dish from own cabinet and place it in the car;
2) Stop by the grocery store on the way to the picnic and buy a couple pounds of macaroni salad from the deli;
3) Dump the macaroni salad into your own dish. Smooth it over with a spoon so it doesn’t have that squared-container look. Hide the original container under your seat. (Don’t forget to remove this when you get home. If you do forget, your nose will remind you in a few days.)
4) Place your covered dish of macaroni salad on the food table.
For best results, write your name on a piece of masking tape and stick it on the dish. This is standard practice at large gatherings to make sure you get your dish back. But mostly, you don’t want any of the aunts to miss the fact that you complied with picnic protocol by bringing a covered dish.
Take note: With hardly any modifications, this very same recipe can be used for potato salad, fried chicken and three-bean casserole.
My brother Tim — also single — can bake wonderful pies. However, he has discovered it is less trouble to buy “homemade” from the store. And he is less concerned with formality than I am — he just plops the pie on the dessert table still in it’s plastic, grocery store container, complete with label.
Tim has figured out that if you try to fake out the relatives by transferring store food to your own dishes, then you are stuck with dishes to wash. If you make no pretense, you also make no dirty dishes. This is why Tim generally is regarded as the smarter brother.
The most important things for the single guy to remember to pack for picnics are those handy, disposable containers with the snap-on lids. When you have aunts who cook and bake as well as mine do, you always want to sneak through line again to fill up take-home dishes.
It saves them from hurt feelings for not having their dishes cleaned out. Plus, they don’t have to cart home leftovers.
But most of all, it takes care of supper for you! And you can throw way the dishes when you’re done.
Picnic season is the bachelor’s best friend.