Picnics bring to mind two images. The first is a romanticised version: horse-drawn carriages in the countryside featuring men in long coats and women in long skirts carrying big picnic hampers, as they call them in the U.K., spreading their elaborate meals onto large white tablecloths. The second is my real-life experience of taking small children on a picnic, sweating in the summer sun while packing it all together very carefully, followed by a toddler stepping in the cake after being set on the ground. The reality is that a good picnic is a little bit romantic and a little bit humorous. With some planning and a little work, the picnic is a wellbeing luxury that everyone can add to their lives.
The best picnics I’ve been on were reasonably planned, potluck and, of course, elegant. Someone brings a big sheet, blanket or tablecloth for the ground and sets it with a real picnic basket or backpack with real plates, silverware and cloth napkins (although I always pack wipes and paper towels for spills). I usually bring several wood cutting boards to set up a selection of cheese and charcuterie, at least one baguette, and maybe a special salad or two. Add a bowl of olives, some hummus, tzatziki, and carrot sticks and slices of green and red pepper for dipping. And, don’t forget watermelon, grapes, cherries, and strawberries for a sweet dessert. I’m big on bringing some fizz – either prosecco or champagne; a crisp white wine or rose, and sparkling water. Now, that’s a picnic!
But that’s just the spread.
A picnic can be a mood-altering experience. A picnic is about letting time stop and being fully present.
Time with nature: to sit or lay on the ground, absorb your surroundings, notice the light, the air and how the clouds are moving. Time to play: be it cards, a game of frisbee or catch, or maybe even fly a kite. Time to be quiet, if you wish: to read a book or put your headphones on and listen to your favourite music. Time to laugh or to cry, to change your scenery – it’s an experience you’ll want to live fully and cherish.
One of my favourite picnics took place with very close friends right after the COVID-19 lockdown in London, and it was all of the above. We struggled to find parking, carried our belongings in baskets and totes much further than we’d planned. And, yes, a toddler did put his foot in the brie, but we quickly removed it and had a good laugh!
I can remember that picnic clearly, just a moment in an otherwise long day, an evening in a park, in the long grass, in the sunset, distancing from others yet trying to pull them in close via smiles, laughter, empathy. It was the first step back to any form of normalcy, the first intimate glow of friendship we’d experienced in roughly three months. We were all uplifted, breathing in each other’s company like oxygen, and enjoying our drinks and nibbles. I wished then that the evening wouldn’t end. The joy of that evening, of that single picnic, is forever imprinted on my heart.
So, I encourage you to bring a little luxury into your life: the picnic.
Make a simple lunch or dinner, put it into a portable container, pack up some plates, silverware, napkins and a blanket, select a destination, decide whether you’ll go alone or with friends, set a positive intention and turn an ordinary meal into an extraordinary memory.
That’s Simply Eau-de-Vie!