Nothing says summer like a picnic, whether it’s spontaneous sandwiches with your bestie in the park or a carefully planned trip to the sea. Luxurious or simple? Spur-of-the-moment or meticulously planned? Fam or lover? Squad or bestie? Or just on your own?
Doesn’t matter! Picnics of all kinds are fantastic because they combine a bunch of the best things in life- good food, good company, and good times.
Here is everything you need to know about hosting a great picnic.
Get with the times- Olden times!
The word “picnic” first surfaced in the 1600’s. It comes from the French “pique-nique”, a term for gourmands bringing along bottles of wine to restaurants and bistros when dining out (that’s BYO for Aussies!). The pique-nique evolved to highbrow fresh air post-hunt feasts and mid-hunt respite meals featuring wild game, among the leisure class like those depicted on elaborate woven tapestries and paintings. The word “picnic” first appeared in English in 1748 and was associated with card-playing, drinking and conversation. Sounds like a good time!
Picnicking took off among the lower classes in France after the French Revolution, when ordinary people were able to visit and mingle in the royal parks.
How to host a Picnic
Think about the picnic you want to have. Ask yourself what kind of meal you have in mind: simple or fancy? Who’s the crowd- family-friendly, or all adults? Casual, crowd pleaser, or a sophisticated dinner? Are you hosting it all or coordinating a potluck?
After you’ve identified your guests and style, consider the format.
Feast in the fields
A trendy concept is a long-table feast in the fields, though I love this idea for a backyard picnic because you can go all out with lights, and table decorations. You can have a gourmet dinner party style picnic, or you can go with shared charcuterie platters for a more casually elegant affair.
Light up your chosen area with twinkle lights, solar lanterns or candles and dress the table with… well, whatever feels right and you have a great night (or afternoon) ahead of you!
My personal favourite is the beach picnic. Pick a beachy theme- seafood, BBQ, Caribbean, Polynesian, Greek- and lay out a blanket and put up some shade umbrellas.
Be sure to have a couple of coolers on hand- one for food, and one for drinks that can be opened and shut all day without putting your food at risk.
Think cool and refreshing with your menu and choose foods that are easy to eat with your fingers and don’t require silverware (one less thing to worry about!). Break out the melamine serving ware, which is light, colourful and hard to break.
Picnic for Two
A romantic picnic for two in a field or park somewhere is a classic. Pull out all stops; picnic blanket, wicker basket, real silverware, cloth napkins and wine glasses. Fill your basket with your fave gourmet delicacies like crusty bread, fancy cheeses, olives, grapes, apples, tomatoes and something decadent for dessert. Bring a bottle of sparkling water and sparkling wine of your choice, and perhaps a book to read to your significant other.
The casual backyard picnic is a favourite for a good reason- no mess, few dishes, and no worries about breaks or spills. Eating in the backyard is super chill, thanks to the outdoors, laidback vibe, and casual menu. Serve the usual picnic standards or cook something unusual on the barbecue.
Backyard picnics are fantastic for buffet-style meals; your guests can eat around the patio picnic table, while standing around socialising, or around the yard on lawn chairs. You can leave the décor to patio lights and a beautiful tablecloth or go all out with a unique theme.
If hosting stresses you out, a back-yard picnic is your chance to host without the pressure. You can make absolutely everything in advance, set up, sit back and enjoy. Or, if the meat is taking too long on the barbeque, break out the quoits, tetherball or round up a game of cricket, and no one will even notice!
Choosing the best spot
Your theme and your guests will determine the best spot for your picnic. For example, if you’re hosting a cup day picnic in the carpark, toasting dad with a backyard BBQ or celebrating Great Aunt Mildred’s 70th with a seafood feast at the beach.
Parks are great because they have a range of environments, if there are littles in your party, they can run around on the playground, while the olds relax on the lawn.
If you’re hosting a simple picnic, make a list of the menu, guests, ingredients and gear, and go. If you’re putting on something elaborate, take your time planning. Make a to-do list for the week before, the day before, and day of. If big events make you feel exhausted, make it a potluck, and include outsourcing even the cutlery and plates.
For bigger picnics, be sure to check if you need a reservation, and that you have a rainy-day location lined up.
For any picnic, including backyard, consider things like bugs (Do you need bug spray?), how you’re going to keep your food cold, wind (will you need clip-on weights for your tablecloth?), transporting food and equipment, seating and clean up/trash.
For your menu, consider the location, time of day, guests and theme, then put together a list of dishes to match. Keep it relatively simple; you’ll want a protein, starch and vegetable or fruit, plus dessert and drinks.
Consider the format, too. Fun and modern, (and kinda hipster) are salads in portable jars and colourful kebabs or skewers. Cold chicken is a crowd pleaser along with, watermelon, wraps, and for dessert, chocolate chip cookies and brownies.
A spontaneous picnic keeps the focus on the folks, rather than the food, which is great because it adds zero stress and planning time.
In just a few minutes, you should be able to gather your food, drinks, basket (cooler or bag), blanket, plates, cups and silverware. (Pro-tip: Have a cute picnic to-go bag at the ready, with your plates, cups, cutlery, and blanket inside. This makes it much easier to be spontaneously picnic-y)
Keep the menu super, super, super simple. Sandwiches, leftovers, pizza or BBQ wings, or just a bunch of snacks from the pantry and fridge. Pick a beautiful spot, and head out!