When we think of Earth Day (April 22), a picnic isn’t necessarily the first thing that comes to mind. Images of the environment and our stewardship of an increasingly depleted planet surely do, as do galvanized community clean-ups of public spaces, initiating or rehabilitating municipal produce gardens, and workshops on protecting endangered species. In fact with such a challenging agenda, people throughout our local communities, the nation, and the world tend to forget their differences, at least for the day, and focus instead on a shared goal of preserving the Earth.
While some say the idea was conceived in 1969 at a San Francisco-based UNESCO conference by peace activist John McConnell, and others attribute the concept to the even earlier grassroots concerns of Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson, the Earth Day focus was fully realized in 1970 by Nelson. In that year, a “national environmental teach-in” was observed by 20 million people throughout the U.S., and in fact the event is noted in the record books as the beginning of the modern environmental movement.
Today, though diametrically opposing issues of politics, economics, and war may divide us, more than 500 million people in 175 countries set aside their differences on April 22 with one objective in mind: to honor the Earth, making Earth Day very possibly the only international celebration of commonality.
So how best to commemorate Earth Day in your community? This year, why not pay homage to the planet–and the joining of 500 million common ideals–by organizing a family, neighborhood or community-wide picnic – but with a global flavor. With diversity a hot-button topic always in the news, why not celebrate our differences while embracing what unites us, creating an Earth-friendly feast of nations. In this way, we get to embrace both the springtime bounty and the inspired individuals who produce and preserve it, no matter how they dress, what language they speak, whom they worship or where they live. From Juarez to Jamaica, Brisbane to Bogota, Singapore to Somalia, or East Hampton to East L.A., we all share the planet and are responsible for its legacy. A green feast of nations is an ideal way to show it.
Try these quick and easy international picnic recipe ideas that can be prepared using locally-grown produce and other fresh ingredients for a mindful and mouthwatering Earth Day:
Spicy Shrimp Avocado Nacho Salad
Inspired by Mexico
16 medium cooked shrimp
1 medium avocado, peeled and chopped
3 medium plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 head Romaine lettuce, gently torn
1 cucumber, diced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 tablespoons spicy green chili salsa (can substitute mild)
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh oregano, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
16 baked tortilla chips, gently crumbled, or tortilla strips left whole
Oil and vinegar to taste
Toss together ingredients–except for tortilla chips, oil and vinegar–and chill. Dress with oil and vinegar and sprinkle on chips just before serving.
Tangy Thai-style Melon and Chicken Salad
Inspired by Thailand
12 ounces cooked, shredded chicken
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup lime juice
3 tablespoons fish sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
1 clove garlic, grated or minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (more to taste)
1 medium-to-large firm ripe melon, sliced into thin pieces
1 small green bell pepper, cut into 2-inch long slices
1 small red bell pepper, cut into 2-inch long slices
6 cups lightly packed torn Boston lettuce, (about 1 head)
1/2 cup slivered red onion
1/2 cup thin cucumber slices, halved
1/2 cup lightly packed torn fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 cup lightly packed torn fresh mint leaves
Whisk lime juice, fish sauce, salt, pepper, sugar, garlic and crushed red pepper to taste in a small bowl. Combine the melon and peppers in a large bowl along with lettuce, onion, cucumber, cilantro and mint. Add the chicken to the salad. Pour dressing over the salad and gently toss to combine.
Juicy Bratwurst Burgers
Inspired by Germany
2 pounds ground pork
1/2 pound ground smoked bacon
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon ground white pepper
2 tablespoons marjoram
Lettuce, tomato, onion, red cabbage slaw or sauerkraut for toppers
Combine ingredients, form into burgers and grill. Top with fresh lettuce, tomato, onion, red cabbage slaw, sauerkraut, etc.