Planning a Picnic
Four 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 delicious foods we grabbed at the local market. We sat there for hours, laughing, talking, and sometimes just allowing the sounds of the world around us fill the gaps in between. The sea breeze was cool, but the sun was warm when it was able to peek through behind the clouds, 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. Whatever it was, 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.
A picnic is when I feel most relaxed and in tune with my surroundings, but there are a few picnic essentials to making it feel that way. It's not something to rush through, so make sure you have time to simply enjoy being outside in the languid heat of spring and summer. Below is a simple list of what to pack for a picnic. Here is my recipe for the perfect picnic: simple food, a sturdy blanket and basket, an inspiring view, and good company. Read on to understand more about how and why these are our picnic essentials.
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 or one of our wooden bread boards. Take plates only if you are willing to put dirty things back in your basket, but they are not necessary. I like to pack less rubbish, so I avoid paper and plastic. However, these stunning melamine plates are practically perfect for a picnic, featuring these stunning dark dutch floral inspired designs. You don't need to worry about them breaking and they are easy to clean. And for a bit of picnic fun, put a little tin mouse in the basket or on the plate for a good laugh.
Also, don't forget to pack a tasty drink. I love a little fresh squeezed lemonade, artisan soda, or a nostalgic juice box. Last, but certainly not least: chocolate. Need I say more? These are a few of our favorite chocolates to pack, just make sure you don't leave it in direct sunlight, or you might have to lick it. 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. These recipes are so much fun and filled with deluxe picnic foods like as well as a guide to choosing cheeses for picnics.
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 a soft cotton quilt. 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. These stunning quilts are picnic perfect. 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 too small for company. However, this year we found the most perfect quilts for just about any occasion, but the gingham and ditsy florals just remind me of a picnic every time I see and touch them. These linen gingham quilts are just the picnic dream in a blush pink or a mustard combination. Perfect for a few quick games of dominoes or card games.
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 even our own backyard. 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 pond or park nearby? 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. I like to take a book and just enjoy the time to be outside. Whenever I picnic in my own yard, I love to bring out my record player and listen to a few classics that remind me of summer. Here is a collection of some of my favorite summer listens.
All of the other things aside, we 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. And you always need a friend to help you carry the basket or to play a yard game with. Shop our full picnic collection here.