PACK A PERFECT PICNIC
July is probably best known for being the month when everyone gets married, but we always think of it as picnic month. On the cusp of summer but after the spring rains, July is chock full of perfect picnicking days. The picnic is sort of an apocryphal pastime–you’re probably painting a mental image of the checkered blanket spread on a perfectly manicured green lawn, a big picnic basket packed with cold fried chicken, iced tea, and coleslaw. But really, a picnic can be a lot of different things, including whatever you want it to be.
We’ve devised some picnic scenarios below that are a little out of the ordinary. Keep in mind that you need roughly the same things for every picnic–something to sit on, something to eat and drink, something to carry the food and drinks in, and people to share the experience with. The little extras are up to you.
Up here in the Pacific Northwest, when the city gets too hot, many of us head straight to the nearest river to “float.” Really, all this means is finding some kind of floating device (any boat, kayak, or inner tube will do), gathering a group of friends, and taking a day to leisurely float downstream. But this scenario can be applied no matter where you live. Find a body of water, be it lake, river, or swimming pool, and let that inform your picnic choices.
If you are, in fact, floating, you’ll need to figure out a way to keep your goods somewhat dry. Maybe you have a dry bag or a waterproof backpack, which is ideal. If not, zip-top plastic bags will work. If you’re lounging by a lake or pool, you don’t need to worry about this. Either way, plan to bring plenty of sunblock, hats, and sunglasses to fend off UV rays. You might also want to pack some natural insect repellent.
For a floating picnic, keep the food simple. Nothing that needs utensils, for example. Baguette sandwiches are perfect for this. Make a niçoise sandwich by tucking sliced tomato, butter lettuce, sliced hard boiled eggs, black olives, and blanched green beans into a crusty baguette. For lake or pool-side picnics, you can pack almost anything you want food-wise. If possible, bring an ice-filled cooler with plenty of Brew Dr. Kombucha and mini watermelons for tasty hot weather hydration.
The idea is to stargaze in style or just benefit from cool nighttime temperatures if the weather is hot during the day. First, choose a night when the moon is full or almost full so you won’t need a light source, and find a spot where you’ll be able to benefit from the natural nightlight–a park, a hilltop meadow, or the beach are good choices. If desired, bring a candle with you for extra ambience.
Later in the evening you’re probably not going to want to eat a full meal, so pack a cheese board. Grab a few different types of cheeses–for instance, a log of fresh goat cheese, a wedge of brie, and some sharp cheddar–and something to spread the cheese on, be it baguette or crackers. Fresh, seasonal fruit is probably the best accompaniment to cheese, but dried fruit, honey, or fancy jam are all good options. Don’t forget to pack a couple bottles of Brew Dr. Kombucha Happiness , which pairs just as well with cheese as wine does.
If you ride a bike regularly, you know it can be a great way to see places. Unencumbered by the same traffic you face if you’re driving a car, you get to soak in your surroundings. On your next bike commute, scout out spots that would be good for a picnic. It helps if the route you’ll be taking is scenic or interesting.
Divvy up your picnic supplies between bikers. A very lightweight blanket is best for picnics on two wheels. Try to pack picnic food that won’t weigh you down. A simple pesto pasta salad loaded with cherry tomatoes and fresh basil leaves is a cheap, filling, and highly portable meal. Or make a few different flavors of hummus, such as roasted red pepper, beet, and spicy jalapeño-cilantro and bring along vegetables and pita for dipping.
This might be our favorite picnic scenario. Nothing says “summer” like a music festival, and there’s no better way to take it all in than by stretching out on the grass with something delicious to eat and music playing in the background. Because food can be really expensive at festivals, we recommend packing your own. It’s an easy way to save a little money and eat what you want.
Since festivals can be pretty crowded, find an out of the way spot to spread your blanket. Depending on how you pack, you can enjoy almost any food, but the easiest ones will be highly portable, require minimal cooking, and need little, if any, refrigeration. We love avocados for this reason. They’re nutritious, won’t take up precious cooler space, and are absolutely delicious. Bring along a loaf of bread and some salt and you’ve got avocado toast for days! To gussy it up a little, pack a jar of pickled peppers, a small bottle of sriracha, some kimchi, or marinated artichoke hearts (or all of the above!).
Another good option is a simple chickpea salad. Combine canned chickpeas, chopped celery, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt for a very simple, delicious, and healthy meal. If you’re in need of some extra nourishment, pile the chickpea salad on top of your avocado toast. Wash it all down with kombucha and you’ll be the envy of all those folks standing in long lines to eat overpriced festival food.
It’s really hard to go wrong with a summer picnic. In fact, it’s a little like a choose-your-own-adventure story, but even better. Don’t feel like you have to limit yourself to conventional picnic wisdom. Make your own rules! You can picnic just about anywhere. Over the course of the summer, you may even want to try all of the above ideas. Gather your friends, some delicious, portable food, and soak in the summer from your picnic blanket.