• Coolers and ice packs are essential
to make sure food and drinks stay as cold
as if they were stored in the fridge.
• Be sure that your containers are
tightly shut, and wrap pungent items in a
• Put dressings in jam jars so they are
ready to shake and drizzle.
• Bring plastic cups and bottles to avoid
breakage (though I prefer a sturdy tumbler
for drinking wine at a picnic), and don’t forget the bottle opener.—FS
A moveable feast
BY FIONA SIMS
NO ONE IS sure exactly where picnics
began. The Oxford English Dictionary says
the word “picnic” is from the French term
pique-nique, of unknown provenance. The
practice indeed may have originated in
France. The Collins Concise Dictionary says
a picnic is an informal meal eaten outside
and also cites the word’s French roots.
Wherever the word came from, picnics
became de rigueur among France’s newly
enfranchised citizens after the French
Revolution in ;;;;, when royal parks were
open to the public for the first time, though
it didn’t take long for the trend to spread to
Britain. The British picnic really came into
its own in Victorian England, when it was
often an extravagant affair, with an extensive menu and elaborate presentation. It’s
clear that at some point the social practice
crossed the pond to become commonplace
in the U.S.
Today’s picnics, thank goodness, are
much simpler—and far healthier. Inspiration comes from everywhere, including the
plethora of cookbooks with recipes from
In my view, the perfect picnic is one
where you have to do as little as possible so
you can enjoy a beautiful setting and the
company you’re sharing it with. To make that
happen, you need to prepare as much of the
meal beforehand as possible, and even plan
to eat out of the bowls you carry the dishes in.
After you’ve done the prep work, all you need
is a good picnic blanket, some nice napkins
and a few wet wipes, and you’re ready.
What to pack for a fun outing? You
can’t go wrong with a nice cold roast
chicken, cooked simply with garlic and
rosemary. Keep it cool until you eat it. If
you like steak, fry it earlier and then slice
it, dress it with vinaigrette and serve it with
a big beautiful salad so everything stays
moist and the flavors intensify.
A fresh, crusty baguette and a whole
salami, which you can cut as you go, is a
classic picnic choice. If you love sandwiches, avoid making them in advance, as
they just go soggy. Instead, prepare a filling
made with white crab meat mixed with
Greek yogurt, warmed mustard seeds,
diced tomatoes and fresh coriander, and
FOR YOUR TABLE
Tips to pack the perfect picnic
spread it on bread just before serving.
Love fish? Steam it on the morning of
the picnic; choose something easy, such as
salmon, with fresh ginger, coriander and
black bean sauce. Then leave it to cool to
serve on your outing—not fridge cold.
A vegetarian picnic can be just as exciting. Think falafel wraps, mushroom rolls
I always bring cheese, too—hard cheese,
such as a good strong cheddar or a lovely
pecorino, but nothing too gooey.