Food

Celebrating national picnic day

Essentials for dining al fresco.

Did you know April 23 is officially National Picnic Day? Whether you’re attending a traditional picnic in the park (weather permitting!) or finding time to get outside of the office, what better way to commemorate the occasion than by rediscovering the joy of regularly dining al fresco?

 

A brief history of picnics

 

The word picnic is derived from the French phrase “pique-nique,” a term that entered mainstream usage in the 17th century. Used to describe the practice of bringing wine to outdoor dining events, picnics largely belonged in the realm of upper-class society. Picnics remained a practice of the wealthy throughout the Industrial Revolution; many members of the working class were unable to afford sufficient daily sustenance which made the idea of having extra food for specifically eating outside unthinkable. Over time, picnics have evolved into a popular family pastime enjoyed by a wide array of people from all walks of life.

 

Planning a group picnic

 

Finding the perfect picnic location does require a small amount of planning and organization but the payoff is definitely worth it. First of all, make a list of the location requirements. For example, is there ample and close parking? Are there public washrooms? When is the location the busiest? Is there a covered pavilion in case of rain? Are there picnic tables or a grill? If you have a couple of weeks to prepare, try calling your city’s parks department to see if they allow pavilion or picnic table reservations. If you’re unable to find a location that caters to your specific needs, consider having a picnic in your own backyard (or a friend or family member’s backyard.) Assign each attendee a task and picnic item, this way no one is responsible for purchasing and preparing all the food and drinks for the group. Make sure that if you’re grilling, someone is responsible for the charcoal and barbecue tools; always be sure to clean up garbage and hot coals before leaving the park.

 

Solo picnics

 

Despite the fact that picnics are considered a social activity, there’s definitely something to be said about the joys of solo picnics. A beautiful setting, a good book and people watching—what else could you possibly need? Unlike group picnics, where everyone’s tastes need to be accounted for, picnicking by yourself means that you can choose your favourite foods without having to consider the needs of others. Get inspired by European-style al fresco dining and pack a small wedge of your favourite cheese, a piece of fruit, some bread, and one or two charcuterie items when planning a picnic by yourself. Or, if you’re a fan of meal prepping at the beginning of the week, make one or two extra meals and use those for picnic fare.

 

Bringing the picnic to work

 

If you’re lucky enough to work close to a nearby park or picnic area the idea of enjoying a meal outdoors is enough to brighten any day at the office. Depending on your work environment, a picnic could be the perfect lunchtime escape for one or it could be an opportunity to get to know your co-workers better. If you plan on inviting your work peers, send out an email asking if people would prefer to make the picnic a potluck or if everyone would prefer to bring their own meal. 

 

Picnic gadget extras

 

Waterproof blanket

 

A waterproof picnic blanket gives you the option of dining outdoors when the ground is slightly damp (plan an indoor picnic on particularly wet and muddy days.) Look for a waterproof picnic blanket with carrying straps for easy transportation.

 

Outdoor folding chairs

 

Skip the discomfort of hard or uneven terrain and invest in some inexpensive lightweight outdoor folding chairs. Most outdoor folding chairs are compact enough that they can be stored in the trunk of the car so that you’re always ready for last minute picnics and day trips.

 

Freezable wine cooler bag

 

Freezable wine cooler bags will keep wine, non-alcoholic spritzers, and flavoured water ice cold for hours and, unlike their hard plastic counterparts, can be folded up and stored in small spaces when not in use.

 

Portable grill

 

No place to barbecue? No problem! Portable grills come in all shapes, sizes and price ranges. From single use-grills to high tech Bluetooth-enabled options, there’s a portable grill for every taste and every budget.