How to Pack a Perfect Picnic

19 May

Picnic-ing is one of my favorite things and an event I think everyone should have on their spring and summer to-do list. Whether it’s a romantic plan with your lovah,  an impromptu lunch break with your girlfriends, or you just made sandwiches for your messy kids and don’t want them to spill mustard on the carpet, a picnic is a great idea. It’s getting outside, it’s putting down your iPhone, it’s enjoying food without any distractions so you actually taste the food. It’s a picking blades of grass, having someone braid your hair, staring at the sky, deep conversation kind of time. And you should do it. You should go have a picnic right now.

Still here? Argh! You never listen! Fine, then read these tips on how to have a perfect picnic:

1. Ambience

A picnic is special. You’re not eating on the ground because you’re homeless…hopefully. You’re there because you want to have some sort of experience or because someone who dragged you outside wanted to have some sort of experience. So don’t half-ass it.

  • Pack your food up in a picnic basket if possible. If not, tie it up in a scarf and put it on a stick hobo-style. People may look like they’re judging you, but they’re really just jealous. However you pack it, don’t put it in a plastic grocery bag. They’re ugly and they rustle and they ruin the mood. And sometimes they blow away and then you’re littering. Litterbug.
  • If you don’t own a picnic basket that comes with silverware and picnic plates, bring real silverware. It makes the meal more luxurious. You’ll feel like Marie Antoinette before she went sans head. Also pack cloth napkins or dishrags. If you’ll be boozing, bring wine glasses. Even if you’re drinking beer. Beer from wine glasses is the new wine from wine glasses.
  • Bring your designated picnic blanket or an old sheet. Preferably one with tiny flowers on it.
  • Forgo the technology. Drop the iPhone or the Gameboy or whatever it is that keeps you from looking someone in the eye when they’re having a conversation with you. If you bring a camera, take only a few pictures. Don’t spend the entire time snapping photos of yourself next to trees or eating cheese and don’t post on Facebook “I’m at a picnic!”. Somehow, I feel posting what you are doing on Facebook whilst doing it takes away from the experience. Plus, nobody cares if you’re at a picnic.
  • Clothing: optional.
  • Music: if you have some means to listen to music outdoors, please bring it along. Bring whatever kind of music you like, but if you’re stumped, I suggest She & Him or Fleet Foxes.
  • One time, just one time, when you’re on a picnic, block off the whole rest of the day so that you can eat as slowly as you want, stay til dark, or come up with a genius idea with your friend and get to work on it right away.

2. The Food

Oh, the options you have for picnic food! You can pretty much pack whatever you want as long as it’s special to you and it won’t spoil or melt too quickly. Here are a few ideas:

  • Tiny sandwiches. You don’t have to use silverware, they’re fancy, and you can eat a lot of them because they’re tiny! Try cucumber and mint with cream cheese,  curried chicken salad (I make mine with routisserie chicken because it’s easier), goat cheese and watercress or fig, radish and butter, smoked salmon, smokey “blt”, etc. etc. Stack whatever you like on that bread. It’s your damn picnic.
  • Cheese. If you don’t want to put a lot of prep into the  meal, just bring a few different cheeses and a baguette or sleeve of crackers. Think brie on bread with some honey, or soft cheese on homemade raisin bread. Yum. Pack some fresh fruit or dried cherries or figs to eat with it.
  • Salads. I have a tasty strawberry salad recipe. Spinach, sliced strawberries, chopped avacado, and poppyseed dressing, which you can pretty much pour on anything and it will be tasty. Any variation of classic macaroni salad is also picnic worthy. This Chicken Walnut Potato Salad with olives seems to have it all. And CountryLiving’s Corn and Chickpea salad made me drool just reading the recipe.
  • Dessert, dessert, dessert. I believe every picnic must have a dessert. Even if the main course was Doritos. Ideally, you would be able to scare up two delicious slices of pie, but homemade cookies like those shortbread ones with jam in the middle, pudding with two spoons so you can share or even a nice fruit salad all make lovely pic-sserts.

3. When the Grub is Gone…

I’ve disarmed you of your technology and now your food is gone and you’re sick of talking to each other. What to do? There are a million picnic activities to pass the time.

Read. I know, books are so passe. But pick one up anyway. Here are a few picnic book suggestions:

  • My Mistress’s Sparrow is Dead: Great Love Stories from Chekhov to Munro, edited by Jeffrey Eugenides. This is a book of short stories that is great for reading out loud to each other.
  • Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk by David Sedaris. Sedaris is hilarious and best read out loud and this book is full of animal fables short enough to breeze through in an afternoon.
  • A Leaky Tent is a Piece of Paradise: 20 Young Writers on Finding a Place in the Natural World. Since you’re outside already…
  • The Blind Contessa’s New Machine by Carey Wallace. This is a novel based on the guy who invented the typewriter. He made it because his mistress was going blind and can’t write him love letters. It’s real good and romantic and very sensual in a 5-senses sort of way so I think it would be cool to read outside.
  • What I Didn’t See by Karen Joy Fowler. Short stories. I just like this book.
  • Biographies. Like something by Bill Bryson, Dolly Parton’s autobiography, Trouble Man about Marvin Gaye, whoever you’re interested in. If they don’t have a biography, print out their wikipedia entry.
  • A choose-your-own-adventure book. Fun. Kitschy. Nuff said.

Games. I’d like to be the kind of person who holds card-game night at her home. But I don’t really know any card games. It’s on the list right under “get outside more” so why not learn gin rummy on a picnic? Two birds! Other games might include a Sunday crossword, CLR dice,  Who Would You Rather Do, or a riveting round of I-spy.

Flower pickin’. Or flower plantin’.

Sports. Play catch. Throw a hacky sack. Yo-yo. Whatever.

Music. Bring your guitar, harmonica, or castanets. Make sure to put out an upside-down hat out for tips. Easy on the John Mayer.

Make Out. Come on, who doesn’t get the urge to make out when they’re on a picnic blanket? Keep it PG, though. I almost couldn’t go back to the beach after witnessing the near-humping that went on there that afternoon, and I’m not talkin’ humpback whales.

Swim. Or as we craft-hallers call it, wade.

There. I hope you’re sufficiently schooled in picnic-ing. Please do enjoy one this season, whether it’s at a park, in your backyard, or in your living room. I would bet you that these tips would impress any romantic company you’re currently woo-ing or friends you’d like to impress/find…but I don’t know how creepy you are so…no bet. Enjoy anyway!

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3 Responses to “How to Pack a Perfect Picnic”

  1. Amy May 19, 2011 at 7:09 pm #

    Oh Annie, this one was great! I’ve been trying to get Jeff to go on a picnic to the park forever – now I’m just going to plan it and take him along. Super ideas! I think, however, we’ll pack the Yahtzee game and leave “WHO Would You Rather Do” at home – LOL!!

  2. Nancy Long May 21, 2011 at 12:51 am #

    I say leave the music at home too. Listen to the birds and kids playing! (and each other)

  3. caffeinelights June 6, 2011 at 4:45 am #

    I love it!

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