The weather’s turning warm, the flowers are blooming, and everything is beginning to turn green. It’s picnic time! My wife and I love going on picnics. We are always on the lookout for new places to stop. You can too!
What you need
Picnics can be as plain or as fancy as the situation calls for. Sometimes we just carry our meal in a lunchbox and use a picnic table in the park. Other times we load up the picnic basket and find a secluded beach or grassy field to spread our blanket out on.
I looked at a number of local stores before finding a picnic basket that I was happy with. This meant a few weekends of exploring shops, looking for just the right one. If I had started out by asking family members, I could have saved a bit of time, as it turns out that there were two sitting unused in attics. (hint, hint) You can pick up a number of different varieties online, such as this one, this one or this one. Most of these come with a set of dishes. If not, you can get a set from the local “everything for $1” store (insert the name of yours). For only a few dollars I had a set of plates, bowls, silverware, long-stemmed glasses , napkins, placemats and candles. Due to the low cost I can easily replace any that happen to break. I picked up a set of sheets at a yardsale for about $2, and have been using them as a blanket. Cheap, easily cleaned, and can be doubled up if desired. My whole picnic set cost around $30-40.
It took me a couple of tries to figure out how best to pack everything inside my basket. I don’t take everything if I don’t expect to need it (the bowls often stay home). Generally, I start with the plates on bottom, layering a napkin in between for padding. The silverware is wrapped inside the other napkin and tucked inside a glass. The glasses are rolled inside the placemats for protection and laid on top of the plates. The candles (tea candles in small glasses) are tucked into the corners of the basket. All of this takes up about 1/4 of the basket. I generally lay the blanket/sheet on top of the dishes and begin packing the food. The heavier/sturdier (tupperware/thermos/bottle) items go on the bottom, with the other items stacked on top.
What to eat
I don’t know that there is such a thing as a “picnic meal”. I’ve had everything from sandwiches to grilled chicken. It all depends on your location, how much time you have, and most importantly, your tastes. If the picnic is only part of a larger day, you will want something that travels well, such as sandwiches or a salad. Is the picnic the main focus? Try something a bit fancier; grilled chicken, rice and veggies.
Whatever you choose, it doesn’t have to be fancy. You might find that food you have everyday tastes better, simply by having it in a new setting. This means that a sandwich and chips might be exactly what you want. Try some bread and cheese, a selection of fresh fruit and a nice drink to compliment them. Maybe you won’t want more than a salad. See what sounds good and go with that.
Where to cook
Where are you going to prepare the food? If I’m having a picnic later in the day (say lunch during a day trip) I often choose to go with sandwiches and just pack the ingredients. I can actually put the sandwich together at the location so that it is freshly-made. When the picnic is the main focus, I sometimes prepare the food at home just before leaving. This generally means that I have to pack it so that it stays warm. Soup and liquids will go in a thermos, chicken and other solids are often wrapped in aluminum and then in a towel for insulation. Sometimes I take one of my camping stoves and simply prepare the meal at the spot.
Where to go
Now that you’ve got your equipment and decided what you’re eating, it’s time to figure out where to go. There are countless options available here. You can go to the local park and either use one of the picnic tables or find a grassy area where you won’t be interrupted. Perhaps you want to find a spot overlooking a ball game. Find a stream or beach and eat beside the water. Go hiking to a favorite overlook. Boat out to an island and eat there. My wife and I have tried all of these options, and are continually on the lookout for new ones.
Make it special
It’s easy to add those few small touches to make a picnic extra special. Have some fresh fruit for dessert. Bring some long-stemmed candles (be sure to catch the wax with something, or it can get stuck to your blanket). I always try to surprise my wife during our picnics, so I do all the packing; I try to slip in a bottle of sparkling juice, some favored dessert, or something else to make it special for her.
For those times when you don’t have someone with you, picnicing can still be greatly enjoyable. A past job of mine included traveling about the area, and I enjoyed the opportunity to eat my lunch in many wonderful locations. I focused on the good food that I had, and on the beautiful settings I was in. A picnic is as special as you make it.
It’s picnic time!
Paper bag or a hand-woven teak basket makes no difference. Doesn’t matter if it’s the same sandwich you have every day or chicken breast in a special sauce. Bench in a park or an island all to yourself, it’s all the same. Savor your food, drink in your surroundings and focus on the good things in life. What is important is that you get out there and go picnicing!