Summertime is in full swing, and in some locations, people are getting out and enjoying the warm weather. A popular warm-weather activity is a picnic. Depending on your resource, either July or August is National Picnic Month, and National Picnic day is celebrated in April. What a disconnect, right?
Regardless of when you celebrate picnics, there does seem to be a consensus that summer is a great time to go on a picnic, and in this post, I’ll help you have the best picnic ever!
Where did the word “picnic” come from?
Some people would like you to believe that it has a negative racial connotation. However, my research showed that the premise was false. Our modern word “picnic” comes from a 17th Century French word, “picque-nique.” A picque-nique was a social gathering where each attendee brings a share of the food or wine. The French word “piquer” either referred to a leisurely style of eating (“pick at your food”) or just plain “pick.”
Picnics today can be as simple as food shared while lounging on a tablecloth laid down on a lawn, usually at a park, to a big event featuring lots of people, picnic tables, and grilled foods. What I’m going to discuss in this post is the more intimate affair with 2 to 6 people in attendance.
Creating the Perfect Picnic
Step 1: Location, Location, Location
The first step in creating the perfect picnic is deciding on your location. Will it be at the park? The beach? Your backyard?
Ideal locations are scenic, they have a view worth looking at that you find beautiful or pleasing. Some of the best picnics I’ve been too were at National Parks such as Yosemite or the Grand Canyon. But I’ve also had some memorable picnics as my local city park, or even a vista point along a highway while traveling.
Secondly, you want to find a location that is comfortable. Is there enough shade for those who want it? Are there good locations to place the food and sit down? Some people like to sit on a blanket or tablecloth on the ground. Others prefer a picnic table. What is right for the people at your picnic?
And finally, does the location have the facilities you need? This may be as simple as a tree to lay your blanket under to as complex as a gazebo with grill and restroom facilities.
Step 2: The Food
Now that you know where you’ll be having your picnic, what will you serve?
You have plenty of options and what you choose really depends on your taste, what ambiance you’re trying to create, and what tools and facilities you’ll have available to you. Here are three ideas:
Traditionally Simple Picnic: Sandwiches and Sides
Each person gets a sandwich, some chips, and a soft drink. August is also National Sandwich Month, so this might a very good option for you. For a little flair, some fresh fruit, potato or macaroni salad, and a cookie can be added.
Continental Picnic: Baguette, Cheese, and Fruit
This is perfect for a romantic picnic. A freshly baked French baguette along with a selection of cheeses, fruits, and perhaps some cured meats, served with a bottle of wine and you’ve got a recipe for romance!
Summertime Grilling Picnic
If there is a grill available, or you’ll be bringing along your hibachi, then you can have some fun with a summertime grill. Hotdogs and hamburgers are typical, but some people like to grill chicken or even veggie burgers. Typical accompaniments are buns, condiments like ketchup, mustard, and mayo, potato salad, macaroni salad, corn on the cob, a variety of salads – you name it, if it goes with grilled food and can be packaged in a plastic container, you can bring it to the picnic. This type of picnic is great for family and friend picnics.
Step 3: Picnic Apparatus
You’ve got your location and you know what you’re going to serve. What tools, equipment, and other apparatus will you need to serve your picnic meal? Here are some suggestions:
- Picnic Basket or Backpack: This is what will carry your food and equipment. Put some thought it this. You want something that will be convenient, can enough space, and will keep your food protected.
- Cooler: You’ll need this if you are bringing something that needs to be chilled, such as drinks or perishable food items.
- Tablecloth or blanket: Make sure you choose the right type for what you’ll be doing with it. Something you’ll put on a picnic table may be different than something you’ll place on the ground. Will you need something that has a water-resistant element to it?
- Plates: Paper plates are your best option because they make for easy cleanup. But even with paper plates, you have a lot of options.
- Cups or glasses: What kind of beverage will you be serving? If you’ll be providing canned beverages like soda or beer, cups may not be needed. But if you’ll be serving wine, you may want to bring along plastic wine glasses.
- Napkins, paper towels, and utensils: You’ll want something to help clean up spills, as well as cut and eat the food you’re serving.
- Cutting board and sharp knife: If you’ll be bringing food that you’ll need to prepare on-site, be sure to bring what you’ll need to prepare it!
- Specialized tools: If you’re bringing wine, you may need a corkscrew. If you have bottled drinks, bring a bottle opener. If you are grilling, you may need togs or a large grilling fork. If you plan to make s’mores, be sure to bring skewers to roast the marshmallows with.
- Ice: You’ll need this for your cooler as well as to cool down your beverages. If you have time, you can freeze some bottles of water to use as ice. The benefit of this is that you can drink them when they defrost!
- Trash bags: Please leave the picnic area as clean (or better) as you found it. Pick up after yourself!
- Bug repellant: Depending on your location, you may want to bring along some bug spray, citronella candles, or both. Who wants their wonderful picnic to end with endless itching?
- First Aid kit: It is always a good idea to have a first aid kid handy to attend to cuts, bruises, and other minor mishaps that can happen when out and about. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy. Just make sure you have some antibiotic spray or ointment and some bandages.
Step 4: Logistics
Now that you’ve got the big, important things decided, let’s cover a few minor details.
- How will you get there? Will you drive? Hike? Kayak?
- Will attendees go together or meet at the location? If the latter, be sure to provide very good directions.
- What will you wear? Comfortable and flexible clothes are usually your best option.
A Picnic Is What You Make of It
There is no “right” way to have a picnic. It is what you make of it. You and your guest(s) decide what you’ll do and how much fun you’ll have. I hope the suggestions above will help make every picnic you have the best. Now go out and enjoy the summer weather!