Falling in Love with Picnics
Two years ago, I fell in love with picnics and a British boy. On the cliffs above the sea in Scarborough, his hometown, we spread out a blanket and some of the pickings we had grabbed at the local market. The sea breeze was cool and we both had jackets, a typical English summer. We looked from the headlands back over to the castle ruins across the bay and I remember feeling distinctly happy and at peace.
Perhaps it was the light that was just right, or the thrilling feeling of falling in love with a person and a place, regardless, I fell head over heels with picnics and as for the the boy? In the immortal words of Jane Eyre: “Reader, I married him.” And picnics have had a place in our life ever since.
So here is my recipe for the perfect picnic: Simple food, a sturdy blanket, an inspiring view, and a good friend(s).
The best picnic foods are those that you eat with your fingers, have strong flavors, and need very little prep work before or during the picnic. That being said, my favorite type of picnic foods tends towards an Italianate self-serve. Sliced deli meats like mortadella, salami, and prosciutto are great picnic foods because they don’t spoil as quickly as other meats without refrigeration. Next you need a few cheeses. A hard cheese, like a pecorino or mature cheddar, will be easier for you picnic purposes however brie is best when its at a warm temperature so don’t be afraid to go soft when choosing your cheese.
Next you need an assortment of crackers and fresh breads. I love to pick up a baguette or a loaf of sourdough. I never worry about bringing a knife and just tear bite-size pieces off the loaf. But to bring just a bit of extra flavor I also pack some marinated olives, a bit of balsamic vinegar, and some finger fruits. Just for fun.
Serving simple finger foods gives you less to worry about and all you need is your food, one blunt knife for cheese, some toothpicks, and a cutting board. Take plates only if you are willing to put dirty things back in your basket, and I like to pack less trash, so I avoid paper and plastic. If you are set on plates and cutlery, think about maybe doing something like this light-weight wood picnic set.
Naturally something a little bit sweet to drink is in order. My personal favorite is a bit of Elderflower cordial. It has a tangy but sweet taste that is perfect to quench your thirst. Just add a little bit into your water (sparkling or fresh) for a delightful sip of goodness.
Last, but certainly not least: chocolate. Need I say more? If you want some more picnic food ideas, that are absolutely glorious, but that require a bit more prep I would recommend purchasing this book called The Picnic.
If you are going to commit to the picnic, you need to commit to the blanket. A flimsy knit or fleece blanket isn’t going to cut it. For a picnic you need a densely woven wool or cotton blanket. It needs to be large enough for your picnic party to sit and lay out on (because a post-picnic nap is essential). It also needs to be thick enough that you won’t feel every rock and weed beneath you. It might be a bit of a burden to heft around, but ultimately it will be worth it.
For the last ten years I have been looking for the perfect picnic blanket. I have had a few contenders over the years. Old coverlets or quilts have served me well, but still a bit flimsy and not always terribly pretty. Three years ago I found a wool and cotton blend throw blanket that is practically perfect, but just the tiniest bit small for company. Finally, after years of searching, I have finally found the perfect picnic blanket. This handwoven Ottoman blanket, is 100% cotton, machine-washable, delightfully thick, and beautifully large. I love it because it works as a picnic blanket, or a table cloth for a standard sized picnic table, adding an elegant touch to the picnic. The crimson color is a fun play on the traditional gingham picnic blanket, but each of the colors has something to recommend it.
We have memorably picnicked in the sheep fields of Scotland, the ruins of Rome, the canyons of the Rocky Mountains, the red rocks of the Mojave desert, and, with some regularity, on our living room floor. Some of these are nearer to home than others, but each has its own power of peace and tranquility. Think of somewhere that helps you to get beyond your everyday life. Do you have a local pond or park? Is there a local orchard or field? Or perhaps a place where you can watch the wildlife? Even your own backyard or living room floor can make charming memories.
All of the other things aside, we all know that people are the most important. Some things are cliché because they are indisputably true. "You never grow old at a table with friends" is a mantra I want to live by. Picnics have a way of bringing people together in the warmth of sunshine, good food, and happy memories. Shop our full picnic collection here.