The first "back-to-school picnic" our family ever attended was when my eldest daughter was in first grade. My husband’s company had just transferred our family to Zürich, Switzerland, where our two school-age daughters were attending an international school.
Each family was encouraged to bring a dish to share from their home country. Because there were over 25 different countries represented at the school, the potluck tables literally looked like a global feast. They were swirls of colors, textures and smells — even the serving dishes that presented each family’s specialty were eclectic and exciting!
Sabeen from Syria brought the best hummus I’d ever eaten (her secret was to start with dried chickpeas, not canned) and soft, homemade pita bread. My new Turkish friend Meltem, brought meat boreks (minced lamb and beef rolled in a dough similar to phyllo and baked until crisp). Fusako, whose home country was Japan, brought pickled plum onigiri (sticky rice stuffed with salty, pickled plums). My Swedish neighbor, Gorgeous Eva (she won that nickname from me because she was possibly the most beautiful woman I had ever met, but also because she was one of the kindest) brought a Crock-Pot full of Swedish meatballs (which she admitted buying frozen from Ikea). Dana, my American friend, brought a dish she’d eaten on a trip to Provence, France: white bean and tuna spread (lemony and redolent with capers) and fresh baguette slices, and Paola from Mexico City brought the most delicious guacamole (she soaked the raw onion in lime juice for 15 minutes, drained them and then mashed them with avocado).
Dozens and dozens of other equally delicious and foreign dishes lined the tables assembled on the lower school’s playground. The assorted array of recipes turned that potluck into an extraordinary peek into each family’s culinary and cultural history. It was the most interesting, memorable and delicious back to school picnic I had ever attended.