Summertime is (nearly) here, and the livin’ is easy. Or at least it should be as easy as possible. As we all know, enjoying good, satisfying food out of doors is a vital element of any successful summer. If you’re like me and enjoy spending time in the kitchen (just so long as it involves working with food, rather than dirty dishes), then there is no problem constructing a hamper full of proper summer fare. Setting off on your bicycle, motorcycle or in your Volkswagen van with classic picnic foods, such as oven-fried chicken and/or macaroni salad stacked with liberal amounts of smoked ham and studded with fresh green peas. It is a ticket to blissful remembrances of childhood past. If, however, you relish the idea of heading to your favourite outdoor destination for an after work or weekend meal, but can’t stand having to come up with the food to go along with it, then are still plenty of good options open to you.
One of these options is getting some food to go. This doesn’t have to mean hitting the fast food drive-through lane or subjecting yourself to a gag-inducing supermarket-roasted chicken straight from a factory. How about stopping by your favourite Greek or Indian restaurant for some foil dishes loaded up with curried eggplant or chicken souvlaki? I guarantee the food will taste even better in the shade of a tree, with a cool rock as a back rest, than it does sitting at the restaurant’s tables. (If only our Canadian liquor laws were a bit more civilized, you would be able to enjoy this meal in a public space with a glass or two of chilled white wine or a nice handcrafted beer from one of our wonderful smaller breweries.)
Even simpler, less expensive, and less time-consuming is the option of whipping up two or three dips and spreads, such as hummus with lots of lemon, a tapenade of fragrant black olives and anchovies, or a refreshing tzatziki with shredded cucumber. All you need are a hand-held blender, a few cheap ingredients, and a commitment of time amounting to no more than fifteen or twenty minutes. Make a stop at your local bakery to pick up a fresh baguette and perhaps even a lemon meringue pie, if they know how to make a good one, and you’re away to the races or the duck pond.
If you don’t want to buy dessert, a better idea is to track down a place where you can send the kids off on an adventure to pick dessert for free. Fresh blackberries, wild strawberries, fat blueberries or straight-from-the-bush Saskatoons, with a dollop of whipped cream on the side, anyone?
However you choose to construct it, the most essential thing about a picnic is that it should be enjoyed in a place with the best possible view that you can find. Whether it’s a seaside beach, a field of wildflowers, or a mountainside pullout with a spectacular view, the scenery becomes one of the meal’s ingredients. It should also involve food that tastes wonderful and makes you feel good about your choice you’ve made after you’ve finished eating it.