It’s summer! That means taking advantage of the weather and eating al fresco on a blanket whenever we get a chance. We may be wearing masks this summer, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t still sun-drenched fun to be had. As long as we maintain our social distance and keep our hands clean, the time-old traditions of eating good food, playing board games and listening to good tunes among friends and family outdoors are not off the table. So get your coolers and blankets ready.
Packing your hamper
Let’s tackle the format first. Think about where you are going to set up your picnic. Is it at a park, the beach, or someone’s backyard? Will there be picnic tables and benches? Thinking about this will help you figure out what you will need. My favourite way to picnic is at a park under a nice shady tree. I usually take a lined beach blanket because the liner prevents moisture from the damp grass seeping though. For me simplicity is key, so I limit my packing to essential items only. Remember to bring insect repellent if mosquitos are a concern.
Let’s talk food. There is one simple rule that I go by when it comes to picnics: I usually don’t bring hot food or foods with mayo in them, like tuna or egg salad, because the longer those foods sit out in the hot sun, the greater the risk of bacteria forming. Trust me, you do not want a case of food poisoning in the middle of your picnic.
So what should you bring? I always include fresh fruits, like watermelon, papaya and fresh berries. I also love to bring chopped up veggies with hummus or white bean dip (think cucumbers, celery, cherry tomatoes, or pickled onions). I include a crunchy snack. My favourite is plantain chips and nuts, but you could bring crackers, pretzels, or tortilla chips with salsa because they are great finger foods.
Shareable finger foods are the most convenient for both consumption and clean up. I love making bite sized sandwiches on site. Each person can dress their sandwiches according to their preference. I pack all the ingredients separately in portable containers. Think cold cuts, pickles, pineapple chow, a loaf of Focaccia, cheese, olives and mango salsa, a guaranteed home run.
Pasta salad and roasted sweet potato salad are perfect for picnics, as the hearty ingredients hold up well, even if they suffer a bit of a battering in route. I also love a rainbow salad, packed in individual mason Jars. To keep all my ingredients crunchy and fresh, I layer all the hearty ingredients and sauces on the bottom of the container.
As for dessert, think seasonal peach cobbler pound cake ( slice before packing if you’re not taking a sharp knife.) or blackberry squares or chocolate cookies that can be transported well in a container and hold up against the heat of a hot, sunny day.
When it comes drinks, I like to keep things simple. Since I don’t drink alcohol, I go for family friendly and refreshingly fruity beverages that are easy to sip on when you’re sprawled under the sunshine. Think of crowd pleasers like watermelon lemonade, coconut and pineapple cooler, and blueberry and mint ice tea. Water is also a great way of keeping things simple and you can easily make it a little fancier by just adding some sliced fruit and herbs. I like to bring mason jars to serve drinks because they have lids to keep away the insects and are also great portable leftover containers.
Don’t forget the music! It’s so easy to sync up your favourite playlists via your phone with portable speakers. Background music is the icing on the cake when it comes to creating the ambiance of your afternoon picnic. Also, bring along your favourite lawn games (bocce ball, croquet), board games (scrabble, dominos) or even a good old-fashioned pack of playing cards to keep you and your guests entertained throughout the afternoon.