Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe - Manet 1862. Notice the bather in the background?

Ooo!  Today is officially International Picnic Day.  I can unreservedly present as a Canadian celebrating a European tradition as dictated by an American website.

We’ve had some fantastic picnic weather lately, but today has not been one of those days.  Fortunately I took advantage of last Saturday’s beautiful weather to picnic on the beach with some dear friends.

The scenery had more in common with Le dejeuner sur l’herbe than you might expect: as we ate a bevy of bare-naked bicyclists dismounted and rushed the beach for a swim.  Had we brought our neckties and chapeaux we would have made quite the composition.

What’s not to like about a picnic?  It is, by any reasonable definition, a leisurely, casual meal in a beautiful outdoor location.  The only downside – the cleanup – can be minimized with planning and would still be an issue if you ate at home.

A lot of people will insist that food just tastes different outdoors.  I don’t know if that’s true, but fresh air and a fresh perspective can make any experience novel.  You’re also likely to prepare different foods for a picnic than you would eat at home, which can be refreshing.  Don’t think that picnic fare needs to be limited to cold chicken and potato salad either.  My dear friend Di (of Escargot Day fame) proved the contrary when she prepared sushi for four 8 days into a 10 day canoe trip in the middle of nowhere.

But that’s really the beauty of a picnic – the meal can be as simple or as extravagant as you like.

If you want to do lots of picnicking this summer, think about preparing a dedicated kit.  It’ll save you lots of time and forgotten corkscrews.  They can be assembled from scratch of course, or you can invest in a pre-made kit like this one I got for Christmas a few years ago.  It’s lightweight, has lots of room for food in the other pockets, and features a handy-dandy insulated bottle sleeve.

Lee Valley picnic kit

Your kit should include:

A blanket (or if you’re more the picnic table type a re-usable plastic table cloth)
Napkins (preferably cloth)
Salt and Pepper (shakers, or individual packets in a pinch)
A bottle opener/corkscrew
Wet naps
Bags for toting out your garbage

Other useful items include ziplocs or tupperware for leftovers, drink cozies, a cutting board, a bread knife, and of course a cooler to keep your food safely chilled.  Your kit will be convenient and will reduce a lot of waste compared to using disposable dishware.

Saturday’s first course is pictured below.  It was followed by grilled veggies, tofu and sausages, and fruit salad with home-picked berries.  It’s a wonder any of us were able to walk home.

Picnic Appies

One of the cheeses deserves special mention: the Nostrala from the Kootenay Alpine Cheese Company.  It’s a washed rind organic raw cow’s milk cheese that’s cave aged for at least 60 days.  It’s modeled after Fontina and has a surprisingly complex flavour.  It is divine.  Go buy it now.

Oh, and if Manet’s naked woman doesn’t do it for you, maybe this will:

Happy picnicking!