Text read by Mary Peters

The warmer weather signals the start of the picnic season! Sooner or later you are going to be invited to one, so what happens at picnics?

An average picnic involves going with friends to a sunny outdoor space, such as a park or beach, to eat, drink and socialise.

Before you even so much as open the fridge, you should first pick a suitable location for your picnic. If you are taking the kids along then you probably do not want to be stuck in the car for hours, especially if it is a hot day, so opt for the local park or beauty spot. If you do choose to venture further afield, take into consideration things such as traffic, whether there’s parking close by, and perhaps most importantly, what the weather is going to be like. It is also a good idea to check if there are any factors that might hinder your picnic –  if you know a particular location is popular with dog walkers for example, then steer clear as you might find your lovingly prepared salad gets skittled by an excitable Labrador. Once you know where you are heading and who will be coming along, it is time to start thinking about what you need to take with you.
Depending on how posh the gathering is, you might take a picnic basket that has plates, glasses and all the things you need to enjoy an alfresco meal. A less posh picnic will involve disposable plates and cups.

For the authentic picnic experience, you simply have to use real crockery, cutlery and glassware – sipping rosé from a plastic beaker just isn’t quite the same! Plus, not using disposable plates and knives and forks is better for the environment. Of course, this is not always convenient, especially for those who like to travel light or have children in tow. Whatever option you plump for just make sure you have the staples of plates, forks, knives, napkins, cups and/or beakers, glasses and a chopping board. If you are taking glassware though, ensure that it is sufficiently protected from breakage – a space-saving solution is to wrap plates and other fragile items in your picnic blanket and glassware in napkins.

Other items essential to the smooth running of your epic picnic are a bottle-opener/corkscrew, a sharp knife for cutting meats and fruit, a bread knife, wet wipes, salt and pepper mills, and bin bags to put your rubbish in afterwards. As with your glassware, take care to ensure the knives you take with you are adequately protected so as not to injure yourself when unpacking.

Given that you will be chowing down outdoors taking some sort of insect repellent is a good idea, as is bringing along your favourite book to read lazily in the sun when in the midst of a food coma. You could even get a Bluetooth speaker and stream music to it from your phone. Be mindful of others in the vicinity though and keep the volume at an acceptable level – nobody wants a noisy neighbour upsetting the ambience.

The food you’ll be eating is obviously a huge part of any picnic but if you don’t have the right gear to store it in then you could end up sorely disappointed once you get to your venue and find what can only be described as a sodden mess. Obviously, the type of food you’ll be taking will dictate the type of containers you opt for but there are a few hard and fast rules you shouldn’t deviate from to ensure your munchies stay fresh and protected en route. If you are taking sandwiches (and if you aren’t, what kind of a picnic do you call that!), be sure to keep them sealed in a hard container so as to avoid crushing. Make sure that the containers are NOT airtight though, as this is a sure-fire way to ensure the bread goes soggy.

Picnic food tends to be cold stuff like chicken thighs, tear-able bread, crackers, tortilla chips and dips, olives, carrot and celery sticks hummus and pitta bread and the summertime favourite – the quiche! Some people do take disposable BBQ’s to cook burgers but be warned most public places prohibit this.

All of these delicious foodstuffs are easy to prepare and even easier to eat with just your hands. If you have salads or pasta dishes that use mayonnaise as a binding agent be careful to keep them chilled in your cool box as it can go off if left out in the heat for too long. Alternatively, swap mayonnaise for pesto to avoid this problem. Pack condiments such as vinaigrettes separately and dress leafy greens when you are ready to serve. Again, this will prevent sogginess.

Drinking is a big part of any picnic and summer drinks like Pimm’s and lemonade – which can be bought pre-mixed – are popular. But if you don’t drink alcohol, just take what you like.

It is also traditional to toss a frisbee around or play a team game like football or rounders.

Picnics can last a long time. People like to stretch out their picnics for as long as possible because, quite frankly, one day of glorious sunshine might be the only one of the year!

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