Picnics are one of the most delicious simple pleasures of summer. There's nothing quite like a leisurely afternoon nibbling on tasty treats and sipping lemonade in the park or lazily reading (okay snoozing) under a shady tree after an impromptu outdoor lunch. I especially like how adaptable picnics are; they can be everything from a lavish outdoor afternoon tea or as basic as a sandwich and peach enjoyed in your backyard. It's also the perfect way to turn a quick lunch into an event that makes us slow down and appreciate the world around us.
Imagine my joy when I found out that there is actually a day on the calendar dedicated to this wonderful pastime. June 18th is the official International Picnic Day. As if I needed an excuse to bust out my basket! To get ready for this big day, I give you five tips for the perfect picnic.
1. Plan ahead. I've gotten in the habit of keeping a picnic basket on standby along with a little grab 'n go bag filled with the basics: a blanket, a straw hat, homemade sunscreen, DIY bug repellent, and a book or two (for that afternoon snooze, wink wink). My basket likewise includes a stash of reusable enamel plates, silverware, stemless cups, cloth napkins, and kitchen towels (for inevitable spills). This makes impromptu picnics easy and carefree. I simply load up some food then I'm out the door. Last but not least, don't forget to keep an eye on the weather and know your location--both determine what additional accoutrements you might need.
2. Keep it simple. A good picnic is all about enjoying the great outdoors with little fuss. One of the best picnics I have ever had was when I was in Sitges, a lovely beach town near Barcelona. We put together a hasty picnic from goodies at a nearby market: olives, jamon, dried fruit, caper berries, nuts, cheeses, and crusty bread were heartily enjoyed on the beach. We had no plates or silverware, just the bags our goodies came in. Bliss!
I used to be enamoured with the idea of making fancy feasts for my picnics--complex meals and fussy seating inspired by what I saw in magazines--but they always proved more trouble than they were worth. Food got soggy or was difficult to eat, preparation was always more labor intensive than I thought it would be, and I found myself spending way more time (and money) on a good picnic than I did actually enjoying it. The reverse was also true: the more low-maintenance the picnic plans were, the more fun I had. Now this doesn't mean that you can't have your lavish afternoon tea party, just keep the menu uncomplicated with easy to assemble tea sandwiches and other make-ahead treats. So bottom line: simple be thy mantra.
3. Go green. Ditch the plastic cups and other disposable items. Use cloth napkins, real silverware, reusable storage and durable plates. Picnicking is all about enjoying nature so it only makes sense that you would make sure not to use disposable goods that damage the environment. If you don't want the hassle of bringing along plates, you can always up the fun factor by using foods that fit easily in mason jars for a low maintenance picnic. Greening your picnic basket has aesthetic benefits as well--your spread will look so much lovelier using real tableware or mason jars! You can even keep a stack of durable enamel dishes at the ready in your picnic basket for easy prep like I do. Want more ways to green your picnic routine? Check out Pure Home & Body has to say.
4. Keep it real...the food that is. In keeping with my theme of simplicity, stick to whole foods and easy nibbles. Grapes, olives, cheese and a good loaf of bread are hard to beat (remember that Sitges picnic I told you about?). You can also pack a mason jar salad--my Greek or Tuna-less Nicoise mason jar salads would be delish--or an assortment of in-season veggies with an Aioli or Pesto dip. When you use fresh quality food, preparation is at a minimum. Ripe cherry tomatoes are delicious on their own or tossed into this quick Tomato & Mozzarella Salad while fruit gets an extra kick from cured meat in my Proscuitto Wrapped Apricots. Use what you have in your fridge, including Quick Pickled Veggies or Apricot Basil Jam paired with Ricotta, for a no-fuss meal.
Dessert should be equally easy: dark chocolate and fruit, or single serve bites like my Vegan Peanut Butter Fudge. If you are sticking close to home, you can stash Mango Chile Lime or Pina Colada pops in the freezer until you are ready for them in your backyard. Top off your meal with a bottle of bubbly, Orange Lavender iced tea, or lemonade and you're good to go. If you want to go the extra mile, you could even whip up a batch of Coconut Water Kiwi Lime Cocktails (vodka optional) or a pitcher of Watermelon Coolers.
5. Make it festive! Now that you have your easy menu and picnic goodies at the ready for a spur-of-the-moment lunch, you can indulge in the picnic's whimsical side. Wear a blowsy hat and frilly dress to this oh-so-important date, scatter edible flowers across your plates, bring bubbles for the kiddos (and kids at heart), and get ready to twirl in the sunlight. Or take a cue from one of your favorite literary picnics and plan your meal around it. This a strawberry-picking inspired feast from Emma (but without the drama!), a honey-laced affair that would make Winnie the Pooh proud, or invite Alice and the Mad Hatter for a tea party on the lawn.
Whatever the occasion, whatever the plan, summer is for picnics.
Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational collection of musings touching on life’s simple pleasures, everyday enchantments, and delectable recipes that will guarantee to stir the kitchen witch in you. If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is in the everyday, subscribe here.