Picnics: a tradition worth saving.
The secret to making a picnic happen is to be ready for one. I collect vintage picnic baskets and keep them near the back door. One basket is filled with vintage tablecloths, a set of yellow Bakelite silverware and colorful 1950s plastic plates and cups. Another basket is empty, ready to pack the lunch food. A white pie basket carries two pies. I also collect old insulated, colorful jugs that hold hot or cold liquids. Fill glass gallon jars with lemonade and lots of ice. Bring a ladle, and kids will love ladling their beverage from the jar. If you are using paper cups be sure to bring a marking pen along to write names on the cups. A vintage Coleman cooler holds ice and the perishables. The cooler is all metal inside, weighs a ton and gets lots of comments from other picnickers. I keep a couple of quilts nearby.
What is a picnic without fried chicken? I do it the easy way by cutting boneless chicken breasts into strips, dipping them into flour, then beaten eggs, then cracker crumbs. I season them while frying them. These can be done the night before. Wrap them in foil so they are ready to place in the picnic basket the next day.
In my family, they rebel if I don't serve our traditional potato salad made with potatoes, hard-boiled eggs, dill pickles, celery, onion, mayonnaise, yellow mustard, salt, pepper and lots of paprika on top. Another great potato salad recipe is red potatoes, green olives, green onions, mayonnaise, sour cream, parsley, salt and pepper.
Skewering fruit onto wooden skewers makes it easier to pack and serve for a picnic. You can also skewer chunks of summer sausage, dill pickles and cheeses. Kids love these.
My signature picnic dessert is usually homemade fruit pies. When I don't have time to bake, I bring a frozen jar of strawberries and serve that over the pound cake that I always seem to have in the freezer. Bringing things still frozen to picnics works well. Don't forget to bring water. Freezing jugs of water ahead is a time saver.
Here is a recipe for make-ahead picnic salad. Place the following ingredients into an antique canning jar:
Dressing: 3/4 cup salsa 1/4 cup olive oil 1/4 cup lime juice 1-1/2 teaspoons chili powder 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon cumin Add together and shake well, then add: 1 can each kidney, black and garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained 2 celery ribs, sliced 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced into rings 1 large tomato, chopped 1 cup frozen corn Refrigerate overnight. Be sure to shake the jar well before serving.
The next subject we need to talk about is how to slow down and make time for picnics. Growing up in the 1950s, I remember city parks full of families gathered around picnic tables. Good food, fun and the friendship of generations are what a picnic is all about. Let's make it our goal to bring back the tradition of picnics this summer.