Eating outdoors is not everyone’s idea of a picnic, but there are plenty of people who think that is nothing finer than to eat sandwiches in the sand, bake clams on the beach, barbecue in the backyard or carry a boxed lunch to the bleachers. Even churches hold a lot of outdoor suppers.
Uncounted millions picnic in the park, backpack along country trails, burn campfires for hot dogs and s’mores, and toy with tidbits at the intermission of charming concerts in parks and museum courtyards. There are the fortunate who feast alfresco at rock music festivals, families who bring food on board boats and yet more who spend their summers eating outdoors, comfortably seated around swimming pools or perched on patios.
Dining out is the in thing to do.
We Americans have overcome a lot of the unpleasantness that folks in other countries have to deal with; ants for instance, and the mosquitoes that are almost certainly there although invisible in those pastoral picnic paintings Manet did so well.
We spray the hell out of the area where we plan to eat — and a generous radius around the picnic site as well. Then, just to be sure, we hang up those blue electric devices that zap any flying object that gets too close.
In Europe, picnickers go in for fancy picnic hampers that have leather loops for holding a service of tableware for eight, but give not a thought to napkins. No one outside the United States bothers with napkins.
We Americans insist on being provided with a napkin when handed a glass of iced tea or a scotch and soda. Even if the picnic is just a buttered roll and some coffee there are always far more napkins than we could possible use. Paper plates and plastic forks also are the American way to go when we commune with nature.
As I was pondering the topic of picnics I remembered this charming passage from Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. I hope it will make you smile too.
“The Rat brought the boat alongside the bank, made her fast, helped the still awkward Mole safely ashore, and swung out the luncheon basket. The Mole begged as a favor to be allowed to unpack it all by himself; and the Rat was very pleased to indulge him, and to sprawl at full length on the grass and rest, while his excited friend shook out the tablecloth and spread it, took out all the mysterious packets one by one and arrange their contents in due order, still gasping, “Oh my! O my!” at each fresh revelation.”
Food Job Idea!: Start a picnic service that caters to boaters, private plane passengers, and for desk-bound workers, conference attendees or wherever people gather together.