I live near a large park. In the late spring or as soon as the grass dries out a bit, almost every family in my neighborhood has the same idea for a sunny weekend: picnic in the park! There is something special about eating outside. You feel free, relaxed, and happy, especially when there’s food! This routine of a picnic day at the park every weekend persists for several months. Here are some tips to guarantee a successful and happy picnic!
To fully enjoy your meal, it is important to remember to bring some essentials:
1. Baskets, backpacks, coolers: Think about the transport of your accessories and your food. If the distance to get to the place is large, it is preferable to opt for a backpack, a basket, or cooler with wheels. This prevents back pain.
Also, have one cooler for food and one for drinks. The latter will be opened more frequently and will most likely be filled with ice.
2. Airtight containers: Owning several different types of containers comes in handy. They maximize the space required in the cooler or backpack. In addition, the plastic containers have the advantage of being reusable and lightweight. I prefer the containers with a lid that must be screwed, especially when it is transported in a backpack.
3. Cookware: I think the dishes play a very important role: it is what makes a countryside picnic. If I go to the families in my neighborhood, some prefer the camper kit (bowl style), luxury (ceramic plates and crystal glasses), or modest (reusable plastic plates). In short, every situation is unique and it’s up to you to decide what you want to carry. Visit the outdoor specialty stores to find compact, lightweight, and durable sets (plates, bowls, cups).
4. Service utensils: To serve your various dishes, be sure to bring the necessary tools: forks, tongs, spoons, ladles, spoons, bread knife, cutting board, and brush to clean the grill, napkins, etc.
5. Items essential to the rural atmosphere: a sheet or large towel, a corkscrew, and good company! And to leave no trace of your passage, remember to bring a few bags for your waste.
Some food safety rules
So your return trip goes smoothly, it is important to follow certain rules of hygiene and sanitation.
- To slow bacterial growth, there is nothing like the cold! So have at all times a few blocks or gel packs in the freezer. If you do not have one, freeze several juice boxes or water bottles. Also, to maximize and maintain the coldness of the cooler, refrigerate all your perishables in advance (salads, sandwich fillings, meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, condiments, etc).
- Make sure your cooler is clean and emits no musty smell. If it does, clean it with hot soapy water and wipe it well.
- If you bring raw meats, place them at the bottom of the cooler or your bag to prevent them from contaminating other foods. Wrap them well in ice or freezer packs. Avoid contact between cooked and raw foods.
- When you arrive at your picnic area, try to place your cooler in the shade and on the grass rather than asphalt, which draws a lot more heat.
Some ideas that can spice up a picnic
I like to make a soup picnic. I put it in an insulated container. During summer, I opt for a cold soup, gazpacho as a spicy soup, or melon. In autumn, I prepare a soup of Crecy squash to warm the troops.
In the category of salad, I like to add cooked beans to my salads. They replace the meat well and, moreover, they have less risk of contamination, which is convenient for a picnic. I like to mix sliced carrots along with roasted beans and wash it all down with a dill vinaigrette. Vegetables absorb flavors well so cooking ahead will give you very tasty salads.
The sandwiches are a classic that can be good to leave out from time to time. For variety, I prepare spring rolls with chicken, mango, cucumber, and coriander that I wrap in damp paper to prevent them from drying out. For sandwiches, I mix vegetables with different textures: roasted pepper, julienne carrots, cucumber sticks, cherry tomatoes confit, onion compote, etc. They bring color and change!
Another variant: wheat tortillas stuffed with mashed black beans and served with spicy tomato salsa. Yum.
If you have the option of cooking on the grill, it might be interesting to do it in advance of the twists of fish, vegetable kebabs, etc. Simply place them on the grill when you arrive at your picnic spot.
For dessert, when berries are in season, they go well with some scones and whipped cream. A cherry clafoutis can be a lot of fun too, like fig tarts. A crisp apple pie is so great, especially if it is still hot when served.
With that said, I’m going on a picnic! And for everyone’s enjoyment, please share with us your ideal locations and your favourite picnic meals!