Picnics can be as simple as sandwiches and drinks or as extravagant as filets and champagne flutes — and everything in between. Fortunately, we have tips that will help you fulfill picnic potential.
Temperatures are starting to fall somewhat, and with that comes a growing itch to get outdoors without turning into a puddle of sweat. What better way to enjoy the outdoors than with decadent food and Mother Nature tagging along?
When was the last time you went on a picnic? Has your picnic basket been abandoned in the attic or closet for years? Or even worse, do you have a void in your life because you don’t even own a picnic basket?
Eating outside with our hands has been in style since humans developed opposable thumbs. The original predecessor of the word “picnic,” however, first appeared in 1692 as “pique-nique” (pique meaning pick and nique meaning a small thing) in old French text. Throughout the 18th century, people began using “pique-a-niche” to mean “pick-a-place” where friends and family could gather outside to eat and enjoy nature.
Outdoor feasts have been popular since the medieval era when huge banquets were held before a hunt. But it was in the Victorian times that picnics became fashionable — writers and painters gained inspiration from them, and they appear in books by Charles Dickens and Jane Austen and paintings by Paul Cézanne and Claude Monet.
So why not follow the lead of the greats of times past and host a picnic? It will take a little planning and preparation, but it’s sure to be a memorable experience your friends and family will cherish. Whether your outing is for two or 20, you’re sure to have a good time if you keep these picnic pointers in mind.
Invite someone you love
All things are better when shared, and perhaps picnics most of all. Invite a friend or a first date or your spouse. Picnics are wonderful treats for everyone alike, and they’re a great way to enjoy the outdoors, eat local food and see Green Country’s many beautiful parks.
Pack all the essentials
A basket and a blanket (if you’re not using a picnic table) are musts. You’ll also want to bring napkins, utensils, umbrella to keep the sun off you, sunscreen if you don’t care for an umbrella, bug spray and even things like a Bluetooth speaker if you’d like a little background music. We’ll get to the food next.
Prepare delicious food and drink
Food is really at the heart of picnics, so everything must be unbelievably delicious. You’ll want to make foods that travel well. A few ideas are pasta salad, fruit salad, a variety of sandwiches, hummus and crackers or vegetables, bento boxes, wraps, cookies, and pie. A quick Google or Pinterest search will provide a landslide of ideas. Don’t forget the drinks. Be sure to bring a Yeti or other travel mug that will keep drinks fresh as needed. If you’re bringing wine, don’t forget a corkscrew.
Keep your food cool
When packing a cooler, it should be about 25 percent ice and 75 percent food. Place the most substantial and most perishable foods directly on top of the ice. A full cooler will stay colder longer than a partially empty one, so fill your cooler with more ice if there is still room remaining. Don’t choose foods with mayonnaise or ice cream, since they turn bad quicker or melt easily.
Learn picnic packing hacks
It can be a real challenge to save space and keep everything fresh and organized for your picnic. Use a muffin tin to serve condiments and toppings for easy access. Use frozen bottled water in coolers to keep food and drinks cold, then drink when thawed. And use plastic cups to keep salads fresh and carry cupcakes safely.
Prepare the mood
What is the atmosphere of your picnic? Is it a romantic afternoon for two? Then consider bringing champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries. Is it a family outing? Then don’t forget some games for the kids and kid-friendly food and drinks. Also, be sure to keep in mind any dietary restrictions your fellow picnic-goers may have when planning the meal.
Keep the bugs away
Keeping ants, flies, mosquitoes and other pesky bugs away is Picnicking 101. If you don’t ace this step, your picnic could be a disaster. Be sure to pick a spot away from any soggy ground, or wet grass where mosquitoes are more active. Bugs hate the smell of citrus, so consider lighting a citrus candle or spraying a citrus essential oil. Keep food in the containers until you’re ready to eat. Bugs are especially good at smelling sugar, so keep your dessert contained as long as possible.
Bring the fun
Picnics aren’t just about delicious food; they’re also about having a great time. Packing a few games will help make the experience even more enjoyable. Games to consider include cornhole, horseshoes, board games (preferably ones without paper or pieces that could blow away), soccer, kickball, and water balloons. Of course, merely throwing around a football is always an option too.
Fly a kite
This could require that you spontaneously go on a picnic on a day that just so happens to be windy. But seriously, when was the last time you flew a kite? If you have children, they need to be introduced to the joy of flying a kite. Of course, if you have a picnic on a windy day, that entails extra preparation to make sure your food doesn’t take flight as well.
Picnic Packing Checklist
Who doesn’t love a picnic? But unpacking your basket and realizing you forgot an essential — not so much. Use this checklist to make sure you’ve got it all figured out.
- Consider packing two containers — a picnic basket for tableware and nonperishable items and a cooler for cold food and beverages.
- Do all the cutting at home. Don’t plan on chopping things at the picnic.
- Pack your basket in reverse order to make it easy to get at the items you need when you arrive at your picnic site. Place nonperishable food on the bottom, then serving items and tableware, and finally the tablecloth on top.
- No basket? No worries. Load your goodies into a sturdy cardboard box, plastic bin, or even a backpack.
- If you’re feeding a lot of people, bring two coolers. Since the frequent opening of a cooler allows the cold air to escape, use one for frequently used items such as beverages. Use the second cooler for perishable foods like meats and salads.
- Carefully estimate how much food your group will eat to avoid leftovers. Unless they can be kept very cold or very hot, leftovers of perishable items should be thrown away.
- Bring a decoy meal. Place something smelly (like a can of barbecue baked beans) about 30 feet away. Do it five or 10 minutes before breaking out your feast. Right away, the greedy bugs will signal to the other insects to go toward the decoy, buying you some bug-free time.
- Save extra condiment packets from fast-food restaurants to bring along on your picnic — the packets are ideal for easy outdoor meals.
- Keep a roll of paper towels on hand for mopping up spills and wiping bowls, containers, plates, and utensils before re-packing.
- Sanitize after contact with others, before you eat, and after you use the restroom. Do you know where that Frisbee you’ve been playing with has been?
- Bring along plastic bags to cart home dirty dishes and silverware, and for garbage in case there are no trash barrels at the picnic site.
- And finally, of course, leave the picnic site the way you found it. Shake those last few crumbs off the blanket, but otherwise, nobody needs to know you were there.
November is also the month for giving thanks, and we’ve got that covered as well. Whether you’re a Thanksgiving newbie or pro, this issue has all the recipes, tips, and techniques to make your holiday season easier, more delicious, and as sanity-saving as possible.
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