What are the ingredients that define the character and success of a picnic? First, there’s the setting—a rustic picnic table by a glistening lake, a blanket spread on the bluff of a hill, or folding chairs and tables set out in a churchyard, for example. Then there’s the company, of course, and the occasion for the picnic. We at Picnic- Basket.com believe the carrier itself, be it a handsome wicker basket or insulated picnic tote, is an essential part of the mix. But perhaps trumping all the other parts of a picnic is the food that will be pulled out of the basket for everyone to savor.
Just what makes picnic food picnic food? While there really aren’t any hard and fast rules, a few guidelines apply. Picnic food very often means finger food, especially when the picnickers will be sitting on the ground and even more especially when children will be present. Sandwiches, fried chicken, fajitas, kebabs, and other self- contained foods eliminate the need to cut with a knife and fork. Foods that are well suited to outdoor eating taste good a room temperature, and don’t melt, deflate, or dis- color quickly. They travel well, fitting in neat lidded containers within the picnic basket.
We will be posting picnic recipes to fill your picnic baskets with. Each is designed around a particular theme or regional cuisine, or with a specific setting in mind. The themes range from informal, low-key events like a beach picnic or tailgating party to upscale, gourmet meals (“Romantic Picnic for Two”). Think of the menus as suggested groupings of dishes, and feel free to mix and match as the whim strikes. The glazed brownies that cap off our City Park Picnics, for example, will feel just as appropriate in the South-of-the-Border Cookout. And if the list of recipe ideas for a particular menu calls for more kitchen time than you have to spare, simply replace some of the dishes with store-bought versions. Will anyone complain if you produce supermarket or made-from-a-mix brownies at the end of a pic nic? We doubt it. Let your own judgment, personal taste, and schedule be your guide.
For group picnics where there will be more than one cook in attendance, why not
choose a menu together and divvy up the cooking? We offer a picnic cookbook for free to any- one who registers on our website, making it easy for groups to access to the same recipes. And unlike a potluck, where the selection of dishes that show up is random, every menu from this cookbook ensures your group a picnic spread designed with variety and harmony in mind.
A cookout or barbeque is, in a sense, a type of picnic, and we’ve included in this cook- book several menus that require or benefit from on-site cooking. The All-American Fourth-of-July Barbeque, which features homemade burgers, is an example. Other meals are completely make-ahead.
What essential non-edibles should you take to a picnic? The list will vary with the set- ting of the picnic and the foods served. Look for a comprehensive list of everything you might want to have along in our next post. You can print out the list and store it in your picnic baskets to have for easy reference.