Every once in a while our family goes through one of thos convulsions of togetherness that becomes the stuff of legends by the fire at subsequent reunions. Once in a summer, we all pack up a meal and go to see the Orioles.
This annual ritual, enacted with no solemnity but great joy, see us all descend on Memorial Stadium bearing enough provisions to support the Greek army in its attack on Troy. We, like the Greeks, attack the high seats and purge ourselves of the accumulated enervations of winter by yelling for the Birds.
For this one golden afternoon, all generational differences of opinion are sidelined, all dietary considerations are obliterated, in the closest thing Baltimore affords to the ancient liveliness of the Dionysia.
We go to make pagan gestures to the resurging spring, to eat and laugh and watch the ball make its glorious rounds of the bases in the hands of the Chosen Team. We exult in youth, jollity, deviled eggs and barbecue loaves. We wave celery sticks stuffed with Cheddar at every "Charge!"
Everybody makes something. Everybody eats everything. At the end of the day we rollick home, windburned and replete with good food, the rich smells of the ball park, and the wonderful experience of rubbing elbows with the rest of the city in a united goal: "Whomp the daylights out of them -- Bawlmer's the Best."
The Ball Park Picnic below serves eight and can be put together ahead of time and snatched from the fridge to the brown bag in a jiffy. (Note: Fans bearing picnic baskets must enter the stadium through gates W4 or E4.)
The updated classics from the '50s are splendid ballpark food:
Celery jalapeno-cheddar sticks
16 celery stalks with wide bottoms
1/2 cup (about 4 ounces) sharp Cheddar
1/2 cup Monterey Jack with jalapeno peppers
1/2 cup softened light cream cheese
2 tablespoons finely chopped pickled Salonika peppers (about four peppers)
1-2 teaspoons brine from the Salonika jar
Grate the cheeses on the large side of the grater. Mix in the soft cream cheese, jalapenos and juice until the mixture becomes a moist paste. Wash the celery sticks, dry them, and stuff with the cheese paste. Wrap each stalk in plastic wrap and chill.
Prepare a day or two before the game:
Barbecue pork loaves 1 boneless pork tenderloin, about 1 1/2 pounds
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 cup fresh mushroom slices
12 ounces tomato paste
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons tarragon vinegar
1 finely minced clove of garlic
1 bay leaf
several shakes cracked black pepper
1 or 2 --es Tabasco sauce -- more if you like hot barbecue
salt to taste
Mix all the ingredients except the tenderloin in a casserole dish that has a snug lid. Wash and dry the tenderloin, and put it into the casserole. Cut it into pieces, if necessary, to see that the sauce covers it.
Bake in a 325 degree oven, covered, for about three hours. Turn the tenderloin over halfway through baking. Add water, if necessary, so the sauce always covers the meat. When the meat tender enough to shred with a fork, remove it from the oven and let it cool. Pull the meat apart with forks -- it should be thoroughly shredded.
Thaw four loaves of frozen bread dough. Divide each roll in half. Oil your fingers, and pat each lump of dough into a circle about 1/2 inch thick. Stuff with the shredded pork mixture, and as much of the sauce as clings to the meat without puddling. Roll the barbecue into a fat, cigar-shaped roll, seal the edges of the dough by pinching them together, and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the barbecue loaves are golden brown. Cool them on racks, then refrigerate in plastic bags until ready to pack the lunch.
Note: If you bake the loaves on a pizza stone sprinkled with a little cornmeal, the crust comes out quite crunchy. If you prefer a softer crust, glaze the rolls with a little milk and bake on a lightly greased baking sheet.
* These are the culinary creations of my brother-in-law, and did much to clear the way before us when the concerted clan yelled "Charge!" in response to the Oriole bugle.
deviled eggs 12 large eggs, hard-boiled
1/2 cup or more Duke's or other sugarless mayonnaise
2 teaspoons French's or other "ball-park" mustard
2 teaspoons Coleman's or other powdered mustard
1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
salt and pepper to taste
24 stuffed manzanilla olives
Lower each egg, one at a time, gently, into a large pot of boiling, salted water. Boil for 10 to 12 minutes. Removed from stove, drain off hot water. Plunge eggs into a bowl of ice water and stir them around until their outsides feel cool. If they are fresh, you should have no difficulty shelling them. Dip each one into the cold water after shelling, then dry.