When I think of picnics, I think of Waldman Day.
Imagine dozens of relatives spanning four generations, gathering in one backyard for the all-day annual family reunion. The weather is just about perfect, as summers in Toronto tend to be. And the hours stretch ahead of you: Plenty of time to catch up with Great-Uncle Sammy, to run around the lawn with two-year-old Chana Rivka, and to see what’s new with your favorite cousins.
My mother-in-law was a Waldman before she got married, and it’s her side of the family that started this tradition 18 years ago. You might wonder at their ability to get a large turn-out year after year.
But that’s the thing — they all live in the same city. Getting everyone to the same place isn’t as big a feat as it may seem.
My own family is spread out across two countries, and most of my friends’ families are the same way. I saw my aunts, uncles, and cousins at simchas and on Yamim Tovim here and there; I saw my grandparents once, maybe twice a year — if it was our turn to host them for Pesach.
That’s the American side of the family. I only saw my Israeli cousins once before I spent the summer in Israel at age sixteen. Plane travel was expensive, and to a large extent, we led separate lives.
When I met my husband’s extended family at our vort in Toronto, I simply could not get over the fact that they all live within such close proximity of each other. The one exception: The cousins who live two hours away.
Two?! I thought to myself. Two by car, instead of twelve by plane?
Waldman Day is filled with good, old-fashioned fun. There’s the egg toss, where grandparents, parents, and children smocked in black garbage bags square off against each other. There’s corn-husking, which began as preparation for lunch and then became a contest.
There is also the yearly baseball game in which everyone is a welcome part of the team.
In fact, some of the most special Waldman Day memories were made during those games as my brother-in-law Johnny rounded the bases. Johnny was significantly mentally and physically disabled, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t score a home run. Everyone would cheer as my father-in-law helped him swing the bat and make it back to home plate. The photos are priceless.
Meals on Waldman Day are always potluck, and everyone has their specialty. My in-laws bring the meat for the barbeque, and one aunt is known for her beautifully carved watermelons. Last summer, my sisters-in-law filled platters with country-themed decorated cupcakes.
My husband remembers many Waldman Days from the years he grew up in Toronto. As for me, I’ve seen lots of pictures and heard lots of stories, but I’ve never actually been to one myself.
That doesn’t mean we don’t participate from overseas, though. Gotta love Skype.
The summer we were engaged, my husband and I Skyped into Waldman Day from our separate apartments in Yerushalayim. By the following Waldman Day, we were married and able to Skype in together.
The connection wasn’t perfect, but it was impossible to miss the way Bubbe’s face lit up when our live picture appeared on her screen. We loved getting to video chat with the relatives crowding around the computer…even if there was that one guy on the screen who neither of us could identify.
Life is so busy, so stuffed with deadlines at work and dirty dishes and Little League, that even a family with all of its members living in the same city needs time to reconnect. That’s especially true for those of us with family all over the country or even all over the word.
If your family doesn’t have a Waldman Day of its own coming up, the next picnic on your calendar is probably scheduled for Lag B’Omer. (Which is, conveniently, tomorrow.)
Potato salad is a classic picnic dish, but all too often, it involves a heavy dose of mayonnaise. This lighter version gets its flavor from a mustard and white wine vinegar dressing and its color from bits of purple onion, red potato skins, and sprigs of fresh dill.
Best of all, it works well as a make-ahead dish. So if you’re bringing it to your hosts, you can make it in advance instead of rushing to throw something together at the last minute.
And if you’re hosting the Lag B’Omer picnic yourself? Even better. Make this potato salad today, and you’ll be ready to wow your guests with a new side dish when they show up in your backyard tomorrow.
Mustard dill potato salad
- 7 medium red potatoes, unpeeled, washed, and cut in cubes
- ½ small purple onion, finely chopped
- ¼ cup fresh dill, chopped
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 Tbsp mustard
- 2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
- Salt and pepper, to taste
1. Place a large pot filled two-thirds of the way with water over a high flame. When it comes to a rolling boil, add potatoes and a pinch of salt. Lower the flame to medium-low and cover.
2. Check potatoes after 12 minutes. If a knife passes easily though the largest pieces, they’re done. Drain and set aside.
3. Whisk together olive oil, mustard, and vinegar. Pour over hot potatoes and toss gently to coat. (Make sure to do this while they’re hot so they absorb more flavor.) Add onion and dill and toss gently again.
4. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Chill at least two hours before serving, but tastes even better the next day. Serve cold.