When it came to picnicking, my parents were like CIA operatives. They’d load me and my sister into the backseat, wedge a cooler of cokes between us, and refuse to tell us where we were going or how long it’d take to get there. We had cause to be concerned. Daddy relaxed by driving, and it was not uncommon for him to ask if we wanted to go out for Sunday lunch and drive us all the way from Clarksville, Tenn., to Georgia, Alabama or Missouri.

Do you know what tastes good after a four- to six-hour drive? Everything.

One spring, we met up with a few other families to picnic at a Civil War battleground. There were no picnic tables in sight, so the adults started unloading the coolers, picnic baskets and blankets and heading toward the nearest hill.

We tried to tell them it was illegal.

There were signs, warning of the Hell that would rain down for eating a cold drumstick on a Civil War embankment. But all they saw were a bunch of kids choosing to eat lunch in a van on a beautiful spring day.

We were trying to figure out what to do when all the grown-ups went to jail.

Picnicking shouldn’t be that stressful.

Jeff and I live pretty close to Centennial Park, so when the weather’s nice, we make a huge sandwich, throw a blanket in the backseat and have lunch at the park.

My favorite picnic sandwich is an Italian sub. We don’t eat one very often, so it seems special, but it’s really easy to throw together.

I always start with an Italian baguette that’s crusty on the outside, because it’s easier to chew and holds up better than soft bread. Once it’s split, I brush a quick oil-and-vinegar dressing onto the insides of the bread and start the layering. Traditionally, an Italian sub is filled with capicola (that’s “butt cappy” in the South), salami and mortadella, but they don’t taste right to me without pepperoni. The first Italian subs I had were from Subway, and they always come with pepperoni. I can’t quit it.

But don’t add American ham.

Some restaurants add American ham to their Italian subs, but it really dulls the salty bite of those cured Italian meats. If I’m going to go to the trouble of waiting in line and ordering four different Italian meats at the deli counter, I want to taste them.

Once you’ve got your meat situation settled, you can pile on the Provolone, tomatoes and shredded lettuce, and drizzle the lettuce with any leftover dressing for extra flavor.

This is a mighty sandwich, one that can make a 15-minute drive down the road seem just as epic as a two-hour journey to a former battlefield/cemetery.

Share it with three friends. Or one husband and a French bulldog.

Just don’t eat it on a Civil War embankment. That’s illegal.

Italian Subs

From Rebecca Crump (EzraPoundCake.com)

Makes 4 servings

    Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove, minced OR 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Pinch of dried oregano
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
    Sandwich:

  • 1 long, crusty Italian baguette
  • 3 ounces hot capicola, thinly sliced (also called “butt cappy”)
  • 3 ounces Genoa salami, thinly sliced
  • 3 ounces mortadella, thinly sliced
  • 3 ounces sandwich-style pepperoni, thinly sliced
  • 3 ounces Provolone cheese, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium tomato, sliced thin and patted with paper towels to remove excess water
  • 1/2 head iceberg lettuce, shredded
  • Optional additions: thinly sliced red onion, chopped pepperoncini, sliced black olives,  giardiniera
  1. To Make the Dressing: Measure the ingredients into a jelly jar, and shake them up. Set aside for at least 30 minutes so the flavors can meld.
  2. Using a serrated knife, split the bread lengthwise. Scoop out some of the soft bread on the inside to make room for the meat.
  3. Shake up the dressing, and brush it onto the insides of the bread. (You can save any remaining dressing, or drizzle some onto the shredded lettuce.)
  4. Layer the meat on the bottom half of the bread, followed by the Provolone.
  5. Top the cheese with the tomato slices. Season the tomatoes with salt and pepper.
  6. Toss the lettuce in the remaining dressing, and pile in onto the sandwich.
  7. Slice the top half of the bread into four portions, and place the bread on top of the sandwich. Use these slices to guide you as you slice through to the bottom of the sandwich to divide it into four equal portions. Dig in!

Note: If you want a hot sub, skip the lettuce and tomato, wrap the sub in aluminum foil, and heat it in a 350 degree F oven for 10 to 15 minutes.