Picnicking Made Perfect

Posted on
Megan Smith

I am an avid cookbook collector. The more unique and obscure the better. So when I found a copy of an old cookbook, “The Picnic Gourmet” by Joan Hemingway and Connie Maricich, I knew it needed a place in my collection.

The idea of picnicking has all the elements of charm, whimsy and nostalgia this modern day homemaker can dream of. But the charm and whimsy is balanced with the experience with the pitfalls of picnics: bugs, unpredictable weather and tricky food-packing maneuvers.

At our home, we picnic often. On any given night you can find us in our backyard dining al fresco. Out come the quilts, the trays of food, the drinks, the napkins, the bug spray and the candles, where they are carted off to the backyard to be plopped down under the old maple for a meal. But just when I think I have a pretty good grasp on the fine art of packing a picnic, I read a 288-page book like “The Picnic Gourmet” and realize there is still much to learn and enjoy about this nostalgic pastime.

Picnic Checklist

Picnic basket or cooler





Serving utensils

Cups and wine glasses

Corkscrew or bottle opener


Cutting board


Salt & pepper

Garbage bag


Bug spray or citronella candles



Packing & Picnicking Tips

• Remember that everything must be carried to the picnic site. Be realistic about the amount of food, drinks and décor you bring. Several hikes to the car probably isn’t an ideal way to start off a relaxing picnic.


• Pack crushable food (think chips) in zip-top bags filled with air to create a cushion.


• Pack the cooler in reverse order. Dessert first, main course second and appetizers third. This saves time and effort, and will keep items colder longer.


• An ideal ratio is 75 percent food and 25 percent ice.


• Pack salads and spreads made with vinegar instead of mayo, which will stay fresh longer.


• Use tightly sealed containers to transport food. Mason jars work for many things. Just wrap them in a soft fabric napkin before packing.


• Freezing water bottles and packing them in the cooler is a great way to conserve space, keep food cold and have cold water to drink during the outing.


• Foods that need refrigeration should not sit out longer than one hour. Keep them in the cooler before and after the meal.


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