Written by: Cally Worden
Eating outdoors has to be one of the most enticing of summer pleasures. The thought of finding a peaceful, grassy spot, flopping down onto a blanket and breaking out a delicious picnic is enough to make your mouth water. But al fresco eating doesn’t always go to plan: most of us will have experienced our dream picnic being thwarted by bugs, spillages, the weather, or less-than-appetising food. To avoid these picnic perils this summer, follow our simple guide on how to plan the perfect summer picnic and make memories you’ll treasure forever. For the right reasons.
Preparation, Preparation …
Even those most adept in the kitchen will struggle to create stunning culinary delights in the middle of a field. And besides, the whole idea is to relax when you arrive, not spend an hour pulling stuff together precariously on your knees while everyone else chills out. A little preparation goes a long way. Before you leave the house be sure to chop veggies, carve up your loaf of bread, create your kebabs and slice your salad expertly into tubs.
Think ahead to the practicalities of the type of picnic you are planning. If a BBQ is involved you’ll need fuel, matches and a means of extinguishing it when you’re done. Take stock of your planned feast and imagine what utensils you will need to serve and eat it. Will plates or bowls be best? How many will you need? And don’t forget the cups or glasses. Condiments and dressings can also transform an ordinary picnic into something special so be sure to pack these too. And think ahead to the clean up – a rubbish bag (or two) is a good plan, as is a roll of kitchen towel, and a pack of baby wipes for sticky fingers.
Do Battle with the Bugs
The types of insects and other creepy crawlies you may encounter will depend on when and where you pitch up for your picnic. Citronella candles can help to keep mossies and midgies away, but if you’re not taking a table you may prefer a fire-free bottle of repellent spray instead.
Take a close look at your planned picnic site before your set out your stuff – ants have a habit of remaining hidden until the food breaks out, a closer inspection of the grass will quickly reveal the presence or absence of other bugs. You need to expect a few, this is the outdoors after all, but some sites resemble a bug-metropolis – these, you want to avoid. Oh, and look out for droppings and dog poo too – there’s nothing worse. Eeew.
Remember your Food Safety
If you are cooking meat or fish be sure that it is fully cooked and hot all the way through before you eat. Make sure raw foods are added to a space lower down on the grill, or away from half- or fully-cooked portions to avoid cross-contamination. And be especially careful to pack and transport raw meats completely separate from cooked varieties. Ensure you have dedicated utensils and plates or containers for each too.
Keep your hands washed often when you are handling fresh meat or fish – you are wise to follow washing with a ‘dry’ hand sanitizer too. Be aware also that some foods spoil more easily and quickly than others. Mayo and cream, or yoghurt-based dips and salads can go off with surprising speed on a hot day. If you take these, and fresh cheeses for your picnic, try to eat as soon as possible, transport them in a cool box, preferably chilled with ice blocks.
Keep to the Country Code
You will select your picnic spot because it looks idyllic. So be sure to leave it that way. Take leftover or unwanted foods home. Pick any and all litter. If you have to pop behind a bush for a pee then bring your tissues back with you and bag them up for the bin when you get home. Extinguish all fires with care; don’t leave a patch of scorched earth. In short – behave responsibly; return home from your picnic in the knowledge that you have left your little piece of temporary paradise ready for the next picnickers to enjoy.