Everything Tastes Better Outdoors continued ...
Picnic season is upon us, so pack up the cooler and blaze a trail to your nearest park, lake, beach or backyard!
- Avoid foods that require last-minute preparation. The goal is to be relaxed, not frantic.
- Skip foods with drippy sauces or sauces that change consistency when they’re cold.
- Finger foods are always a success at picnics.
- Except for the French sandwich pan bagnat, which means “wet bread,” don’t pre-assemble sandwiches. Place meats, cheese, vegetables and condiments in separate plastic bags or containers to assemble when ready to eat.
- Avoid or minimize dairy- or mayonnaise-based dishes as these are more difficult to keep properly chilled to prevent spoiling. Instead, go for vinegar-based dishes as they stay fresh longer and the flavor intensifies with time.
- Experiment with different beverages. There are many different bottled juices, teas and waters available; or treat yourself to homemade lemonade. Wine or champagne is delightful, but not if it’s illegal to have at your picnic spot.
- Include fresh fruit in your picnic basket as a nourishing, refreshing snack or dessert.
Transporting and Storage
- Choose a cooler with high-quality thermal insulation. Check out the newer, soft-sided coolers that have excellent insulating properties.
- Reusable, gel ice packs are preferable to loose ice as the packs eliminate the worry of food getting wet from melting ice.
- Pre-chill the cooler with a few gel ice packs. Place food on top of these, moving it directly from the refrigerator into the cooler just before leaving home. Don’t place warm food in the cooler; it should already be chilled if it’s to be eaten chilled.
- Pack food and beverages in separate coolers if you’ll be getting drinks out throughout the day; the more often the cooler is opened, the more likely food will warm up.
- Place food in unbreakable, air-tight containers.
- Arrange food in the cooler so that the items you’ll be eating first are on top.
- Pack the cooler as full as possible. Consider getting coolers in several different sizes.
- Transport the cooler on the floor in the backseat of the car rather than in the trunk and keep it in the shade during your picnic.
- Select a sturdy, easy-to-carry basket for transporting plates, glasses, utensils, napkins, bottle openers and other picnic paraphernalia.
At Your Service
To be ready for a picnic at a moment’s notice, have at least a few of the following items in a picnic basket stored in a closet:
- Go Victorian-elaborate with fine linens, china and silver or take an uncomplicated tack with inexpensive pottery or plastic plates, glassware and stainless-steel utensils. Either way, you’ve chosen “green” alternatives to throw-aways. Scout yard sales or flea markets and mix and match.
- Cloth napkins are another green choice.
- Spill-proof salt and pepper shakers eliminate waste and mess.
- Bottle opener and corkscrew.
- Cutting board and knife.
For Your Comfort and Convenience
To help remember everything, make a list and check off items as they’re packed. Save the list and later add items that you wished you’d taken.
- Picnic blanket or tablecloth. If practicality is an issue, consider a vinyl-coated tablecloth.
- Cushions, pillows or folding stools or chairs, depending on the occasion and personal choice.
- A folding picnic table might be a luxury for some, but a necessity for others.
- Insect repellent and sunscreen are indispensable to health, safety and a pleasurable picnic. Also consider including a poison-ivy treatment such as Technu (www.teclabsinc.com).
- Games, books, Frisbees, balls and a badminton or croquet set.
- Wet washcloths in a zip-top, plastic bag for washing fingers and faces both before and after eating.
- Cloth towels for drying hands and faces, mopping up any spills, and wrapping up dirty dishes.
- Trash bags for collecting trash so that it can be deposited in the proper receptacle.
For Your Safety
- Do not leave food out of a cooler for longer than two hours and for only one hour when the temperature is above 90 degrees F.
- If taking raw fish, poultry or meats for cooking at your picnic destination, wrap securely to prevent juices from cross-contaminating prepared food and pack with plenty of ice or frozen gel packs. Also, take a food thermometer to be sure that the food reaches a safe internal temperature.
- Bring plenty of liquids, especially water, to keep everyone hydrated.
- If kids are along on the picnic, be aware of any nearby hazards, such as busy roads, deep water or cliffs.
- Stay on the beaten path and check the rules and regulations for the area you’re visiting.
- Keep a first-aid kit in the car.
About the Author: Maggie Oster writes about and photographs food and gardens from the family farm in southern Indiana, where she continues her family’s tradition of frequent, spontaneous picnics
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Everything Tastes Better Outdoors continued ...