As the days get warmer and the trees begin to sprout, our thoughts begin to drift further and further away from our daily responsibilities to dream of the endless possibilities that spring and summer bring with them. Some people yearn for outdoor concerts under the stars, others can’t wait to take their bikes out on unfamiliar trails. The beaches wait for you to walk and everywhere, summer market stalls and ice cream shops are eager to be filled with satisfied customers. Hidden in closets and cupboards are coolers and baskets just waiting to be filled and taken out for a ride. We’re not just approaching beach, biking, and ice cream season, we’re approaching picnic season. Picnicking has been a favorite hot-weather activity for centuries now, with three simple factors that make it the cherished pastime that it is: location, food, and company. Whether you’re a seasoned picnic or haven’t packed your first basket yet, a picnic is the perfect item to add to your seasonal bucket list.
Here are some tips and tricks to make sure your 2014 picnics are among your best picnics yet!
Pick a day and prepare for all kinds of weather conditions
Planning a picnic in advance can be a tricky business due to the inconstancy of the weather. I know this sounds like an obvious suggestion, but sometimes we make assumptions and like to pretend that the sun will always shine in our favor. Be sure to check the forecast! Plan for a sunny day that is not extremely hot. Even if your thermometer reads a mild 72 degrees, it never hurts to look into the details of the day. There could be an unexpected breeze or cloud cover later in the day. You’ll want to know whether or not to bring a light outer layer, or sunscreen if the sun’s rays are a little too hot. If you’ve planned a picnic for a cool fall day (the perfect weather for sweaters), be sure to dress in layers that can be easily lost when the sun above you hits a bit too much. strong. There are fewer things less pleasant than the discomfort that accompanies extreme temperatures or unexpected weather factors during a picnic. Better yet, don’t plan a picnic days in advance and instead be spontaneous on a beautiful day. This will make your picnic all the more memorable.
Location, location, location
The location can either take a break or have a picnic. Forget about food being more important (I can hear you foodies panting in unison, but indulge me here). Sure, it’s a big time (alright, alright, a MEGA highlight), but no kind of delicacy can make up for a bad picnic spot. Imagine if you had to eat filet mignon in a junkyard. Yeah, you eat filet mignon and it practically melts in your mouth, but ten feet away from you is a bunch of dirty diapers. YUM. Take a mediocre PB&J and slice it up in the gardens that inspired Monet’s ‘Water Lilies’ and food might just be the last thing you think of. Do you see where I come from?
When locating your picnic area, be adventurous – pick a spot on the map that you’ve always heard from locals but never visited. Or choose a place that you have always loved and that has special meaning for you. Get in the car, drive, and stop when you see something you like. Picnics do not have to be held at the standard park. Get off the beaten track. Hit the beach at sunset when it’s far less crowded, climb a mountain and feast at the top, or turn your backyard into the perfect beer garden. Remember, you are not only looking for a feast for your stomach, but also a feast for your eyes. No matter where you go, make sure you have the right relaxation gear with you. My suggestion? A wide and comfortable traditional blanket. However, for more rocky terrain I would recommend bringing some simple folding chairs or maybe a few cushions that are easy to carry. Your butt will thank you.
Who considered the sandwich to be the official picnic food? Yes, the sandwiches are great. So big that a large number of Americans eat it almost every day for breakfast. Yawn. If you want a really good picnic, be creative. The opportunities for your propagation are endless! Want some fried chicken? Bring fried chicken. Sushi? Hey, that’s perfectly doable. You can even bring your own travel foreman and cook hot dogs, but then you run the risk of crossing barbecue territory, and yes, picnics and barbecues are two different birds.
Pick a theme for your picnic or designate all attendees with a lesson to bring. Form a group in the middle of the grocery store or farmer’s market and during the “break” send everyone on a wild ride to collect their assigned items. It’s a great tactic to cut costs or make sure everyone eats at least one thing they like to eat. Drinks can be purchased individually, in liters or gallons to share, or for the more ambitious, brew a fun fruity iced tea or a punch to bring. My favorite is a variation on the traditional Arnold Palmer – instead of mixing traditional iced tea with lemonade, use iced green tea. Keep in mind that you will want to make sure you have enough of the correct utensils if you are eating foods that are not so finger friendly. Store your food in coolers or baskets or any old durable bag. Take note of foods that should be kept cold – food poisoning is never fun. And if you just want a sandwich, there’s nothing wrong with that either.
Fun and / or necessary supplements
If you’re like me, you always forget to bring something. Here’s a helpful list of other things you might want to bring:
- Sun glasses
- Insect repellent
- A camera (Because such an epic picnic has to be documented, duh)
- A bag for garbage
- Sanitize your hands for the odd case you get your hand in bird poo.
- A portable music player (But be tactful, keep the volume within reasonable limits. You might like the Frozen Where the Lord of the Rings soundtracks, but other picnic enthusiasts might not appreciate it)
The tips above can help you achieve what has the potential to be a great picnic. Yet what will really make your picnic is not where you are or what you eat, but who you are with. There are fewer simple pleasures in life that are more enjoyable than sharing a meal with the company you cherish. Of the picnics I have had throughout my life, I don’t think there has been a better one than the one I have shared with friends who have become like family this summer on the banks of the River Cam. Of course, the scene was picturesque with punters resembling Channing Tatum floating on their boats and chocolate brown cows grazing in the tall grass around. And yes, the meal was scrumptious between smooth and smoky merlot (Unfortunately America doesn’t have the same open container laws as England. Sigh.), Freshly baked bread from the farmer’s market that was still warm. , creamy goat cheese and freshly picked sweet strawberries.
Regardless of these fantastic factors, it was the fact that for an hour and a half of our crazy day, we had all managed to meet, talk, laugh and create a series of memories that we will always keep with us that has made this picnic in particular a huge success. So grab your friends and loved ones, break bread on a sunny day, and create your own fuzzy memories.
Image courtesy of Jeremy Noble
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