What defines the perfect picnic food? Here are a few qualities to keep in mind:
- Portability. What can you easily carry? There's a reason no one brings a crock of soup or a tall wedding-style cake to picnics.
- Ease of serving and eating. There's no rule that says you have to eat everything with your fingers, but it doesn't hurt. Think cupcakes or cookies rather than cake, a bowl of strawberries rather than a fruit mold.
- Shareability. Picnics are social interactions that center on food, and they're much more fun if you can share the experience of eating. Have enough food for everyone to have a taste.
- Heat tolerance. Legends abound of mayonnaise causing food poisoning when it's left out in the sun. Sushi might not be the best choice, either.
- Price. A picnic is a relaxed gathering, not the place to impress everyone with your Michelin-quality cooking. And remember that you could lose some of your food to birds, raccoons or other critters. Stick to simple ingredients and make it an affordable meal.
Of course, some picnic foods are classics:
- Sandwiches. Instead of making them ahead of time, bring a variety of breads and cold cuts to create a sandwich bar. This way the bread doesn't get soggy, and each person gets his or her preference.
- Fruit. You don't need much more than a good snacking apple, sharp cheese and a baguette to have a fantastic picnic for two.
- Crudité -- that is, raw veggies. Carrot sticks, celery, grape tomatoes and broccoli florets bring flavor and color to any spread.
- S'mores. If you'll have a grill or campfire at your picnic, these treats -- sandwiches of graham crackers, chocolate, and toasted marshmallow -- are practically de rigueur in the United States.
- Hot dogs or bratwurst. Again, this assumes you'll have access to a grill, which opens up a whole range of other possibilities: shish kebab, veggie skewers, burgers and more.
- Chips. They're convenient, but there's no shortage of more healthful and flavorful alternatives. Consider tortilla chips and guacamole or salsa.
On the next page are a few more things to pack before you head to the park.