If you’re anything like me, you love the idea of a picnic, but in practice, when someone throws the idea up in the air on a Friday night, in this beautifully spontaneous way people do, your Inner Grump awakens (“ugh, so much to organize, I have zero ideas, who’s going to do the shopping, we always end up eating the same thing, the kids will just stuff themselves with potato chips, and it is so uncomfortable sitting on the ground anyway”).
So for you, for me, for us, here are a few ideas I hold at the ready to alleviate my Inner Grump’s fears and turn the corners of his mouth upward: yes, we can have easy and colorful picnics this summer!
Of course, we all dream of lazing around in bed all Sunday morning, then get up to attend a picnic straight out of Pinterest. But the hard truth is this: without a minimum of forethought, it will just end up being soggy sandwiches, canned corn, a squashed roll of paper towels, and lukewarm soda.
No. What we want is ideas that feel fresh, cheerful, and a little bit unusual.
My Best Picnic Tips: Recipe Ideas
French picnics are all about the jambon-beurre sandwich — a split baguette spread with butter and filled with cooked ham — but for a nice change of pace, I like to make a banh mi of sorts, the Vietnamese sandwich I love so much. Get a slim baguette without too much crumb, fill it with meat or tofu (marinated and grilled), grated carrots and cucumber dressed in magic sauce, sliced chilli peppers, a little mayonnaise and a lot of coriander: it’s a close enough approximation and a delight.
And if we think that sandwiches are good, but still a lot of bread to eat, we can make rice or nori rolls by rolling up raw vegetables in rice paper wrappers or grilled nori sheets, maki-style, as for these cucumber and avocado nori rolls (which are one of my most popular recipes on Pinterest! See how nicely this gets tied back in).
Another option is to go for smørrebrød, the Danish sandwich. Instead of making sandwiches for everyone, provide sliced black bread and a variety of simple ingredients: butter, cucumber slices, sliced boiled eggs, thin slices of gouda cheese, pickled herring, thin slices of roast beef, sliced spring onions, fresh herbs… Arrange everything on the picnic table or in the middle of a tablecloth spread out in a pretty meadow, and have everyone compose their own open-face sandwich.
As for salads, which are always a bit awkward to eat on your lap, with the vinaigrette dripping from the side when the discussion becomes animated, I like to assemble them in jars (I use the glass containers from my yogurt maker as I have an extra set), in good-looking alternating layers. Cooked grains and/or legumes at the bottom, cooked vegetables, raw vegetables, something soft (tofu, cheese), something crunchy (toasted nuts, sprouted seeds), and dressing simply poured on top. Shake before eating.