Picnics: An Outdoor Affair


story by Steve Barber

Picnics have a rich history as a fun social gathering where each attendee brings a share of the food. Originally picnics were developed as one would pull together a puzzle with each participant bringing a separate dish, with the results of a complete meal. With the coming of the 18th century, the picnic developed into a party theme with an elaborate or competitive sense in presenting the dishes by each individual. This was due to the very rigid, strict Victorian attitudes which prevailed and of course, stifled social contact by the young people. Not to be out-done, the picnic gave these free spirits an opportunity to express themselves socially. The youth headed to the outdoors, with all of the splendor and glamour of the formal dining room yet enabling them to set their rules.

With the movement to the out-of-doors yet still to be refined, the youth developed the very fine crafted picnic hampers, complete with good china, linen napkins, tablecloths and champagne glasses. This was the era of finely crafted flatware, dinnerware and accessories. It also brought a fashion to the courting scene, young men in a crisp white suit, and the young ladies serving tea in a thin china cup and saucer, all outdoors. All of the comforts of home were taken out as the weather of spring encouraged the youth.

As we moved outside, the food changed. The meals were of a lighter style with the majority of cold dishes and easy to eat simple plates. Convenience became the primary aim as the recipes dictated. Today, we still love the convenience attitude, but the romance of the picnic still is key. 

Flexibility is important for planning a picnic. A picnic can be held almost anywhere: in the woods during a hike, at the beach or on a boat, on the roadside while traveling, or in a venue before a concert. At home, picnics can be casual, in the backyard under a tree or on a deck or patio.

Picnics do not have to be complicated meals, just take the time to plan for best results. Once you have a location, date set and menu planned, go outside and enjoy one of the life’s simple pleasures…the picnic.

Helpful Hints to Complete Your Perfect Picnic

Pick the right spot, somewhere scenic with plenty of shade.

Pack correctly, wicker baskets are charming but not always practical. 

Try an insulated bag.

Pick the right blanket, with enough cushioning and easy to clean.

Pack throw pillows, to create comfort and seating options.

Pack food in Mason jars, condiments, sides and salads so they won’t spill.

Use a tray, it helps carry essentials from your car to the picnic spot.

Clean up after yourself, bring garbage bags so you can leave your picnic spot as litter free as you found it.

Don’t forget- napkins, flatware, glasses, paring knife, bottle opener, corkscrew, condiments, maybe a small table and bug spray.


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