I’m pondering picnics. Always happens this time of year which makes perfect sense. Picnics are the perfect way to celebrate Summer, especially in July–National Picnic Month!
Such pondering has led to the inevitable stroll down memory lane to picnic turning points in my life. As a kid, I picnicked across these 50 states (plus Canada) during vacation camp-outs. Family reunions? Beneath big shade trees were tables laden with fried chicken, potato salad and frosty pitchers of iced tea. The ultimate midwest picnic!
Then, I grew up and began to travel far, far away. Surely my picnic days were now behind me…
Clearly not, as you can see from this photo of a picnic friends and I had by a rippling stream in Giverny, France, during our trek to photograph flowers in Monet’s garden. This was my introduction to European picnic style and, ooh-lah-lah, was I ever hooked. In mere minutes, I watched as they transformed a casual lunch into an al fresco dining moment to savor with a few special touches that most of us have in our cupboards–a white linen tablecloth, china and silver flatware (what, no plastic forks?!). Oh yeah…and really good French cheese and bread.
Think the French have cornered the market on fancy picnics? Armchair travel across the pond with me for the poshest picnic of them all!
When strolling through London’s St. James’s Park on the afternoon of William and Kate’s wedding, I came across this hautely-hatted woman. She invited me (and a few others) to join her and her daughters (see below) for the last course of their “Ode to the Royal Wedding” picnic.
Despite having camped out in pup tents overnight to secure a prime spot along the procession route, these Brits were anything but too pooped to picnic properly.
Their festive table–filled with homemade scones, cakes, jams, mini quiche and Earl Grey tea–was so fabulous it was photographed by major media from around the world and made those of us who stopped to sip a cuppa feel royally welcomed to their picnic on that day.
Whether your picnic is an over-the-top feast or a simple sit-down, here are four ways to make it the most stylish gathering around:
1–Put a special spin on a simple menu.
Trim crust off sandwiches, then slice into quarters instead of leaving them whole. Forego plain potato chips–opt, instead, for rustic flatbread or artisan crackers. Instead of potato salad (and potential salmonella), pack a fresh green salad with plump tomatoes, almonds and dried cranberries mixed in. Sparkling beverages are fizzy fun and run the gamut from mineral water to fruit drinks. And, remember the dessert! Petits fours pack easier than a full-sized cake, look so festive and are perfect indulgences for anyone (ok, me) trying to resist eating everything sweet in sight.
2–Set the table right! If you want guests to feel special, treat them special. Look how elegant this picnic table looks with its white cloth table runner. By bringing comfy patio seating to the table (and tossing cushions on the nearby ground), guests are enticed to linger. Break out real dinnerware and flatware as these picnickers have done. Everything will go in the dishwasher for easy clean-up and it’s better for the environment than sending a bag filled with paper plates and plastic to a landfill.
3–Top the table. Try a fresh floral or edible fruit centerpiece and light some candles (even in the daylight!).
4–Go red, white and blue. Here in America (as well as abroad), patriotic colors somehow always shape up a tad posh. Celebrations stoneware adds a pop of vibrant red to this picnic table and is salute-worthy, alongside twine-cinched blue & white bandanas and a hand-sewn denim runner.