It’s finally summertime. We had a long winter, dreaming about sunshine-filled activities like walks in the park, daylight happy hours, and outdoor café lunches. So grab your loved ones, pack some yummy food, and head outdoors for the perfect picnic. I recently read that the picnic, a moveable feast, started out as a pocket meal for hunters in 14th century England. Who knew? Although there were no baskets or red and white checkered blankets in the earliest version, one thing that has remained the same is its focus on food. However, with the outpouring of some of the newest picnic gadgets, some picnickers take all but the kitchen sink to eat al fresco, sometimes losing much of the fun behind the picnic.
The traditional picnic meal typically consisted of ham, baked meats, and pastries while the modern-day adaptation often includes fried chicken, potato salad, hamburgers, hot dogs, and brownies. To some, this type of meal can seem highly unhealthy. Many conventional picnic foods can really pack on pounds with the high calories, fat, sugar, and salt. But don’t ditch the picnic altogether. It is not hard to pack your basket with healthier options. Imagine a colorful menu packed with fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, and cheese and crackers. These days, our stores have plenty of healthy options with snack packs and yogurts to make your picnic basket lighter.
When I think of a picnic, I think wine, cheese crackers, and possibly mini sandwiches, which all spell romantic. A big part of romance is location. Choose an unusual spot or a location that can become a special place. Beaches, parks, and botanical gardens fit the bill. Or how about a rooftop garden area? Are you planning to be secluded or surrounded by people? Pack china and stemware for that bottle of wine. Maybe you are only having peanut butter and jelly sandwiches… How cool would that be on some nice china? If your significant other is looking to try a new restaurant, order takeout and pack it in your picnic basket. Don’t forget to pack some candles or a vase and flowers. Or make it easy and pack a potted plant to adorn your picnic blanket or picnic table. Hopefully, the weather will work in your favor. However, if for some unfortunate reason it starts to rain as you reach your destination, picnic in the car. Spontaneous can be fun!
When my kids were young, our picnics were spent at the local park or the Detroit Zoo, and we traveled with more of the kid-friendly fare. Of course, being in the food industry all my life, I was the short order cook at every meal, and packing for a picnic was no different. I packed each child’s favorites. Sometimes, however, cheating and driving through, then just tossing our blanket on the ground before we ate our lunch saved more time to enjoy the park or zoo. Back then, I also packed strollers, balls, and Frisbees to throw as well as juice boxes and grapes, which were kid favorites–no wine and cheese there.
Selecting a menu for your picnic is easy compared to remembering all the other necessary items when packing your basket. When you are having a meal in your kitchen and you forget a serving spoon, you can always jump up and grab one. If you are out on a picnic in a secluded spot, that is not so easy. Here are a few essential items you should always remember for a successful picnic (listed in order or importance):
10. Plates, napkins, glassware or cups, and utensils (including those for serving food)
9. Wine or bottle opener
8. Bug spray/sunscreen
7. Blanket or tablecloth
6. Kitchen towel, paper towel, and a bottle/jug of water for rinsing, washing, or wiping. Also wet naps or antibiotic wipes
5. Cutting board or serving tray if needed for the items you have selected
4. Condiments for your menu items
3. Bag clips for chips or crackers, and/or zip-style bags in different sizes for food coming home after the picnic
2. Garbage bags for trash and dirty dishes and containers, so they do not soil your picnic basket on your return to your home
1. Smile and adventurous attitude. If you are taking the time to pack a picnic, plan to have fun!
Scout out the spot, grab your friends or loved ones, and get packing. You are ready for the perfect picnic!