From food trucks to patios, a sure sign that summer has arrived in the city is the return of outdoor dining. So during this first weekend of summer, may I put in a good word for my favourite outdoor meal - the picnic?
I have fond memories of childhood picnics. There were no wicker baskets, baguettes or blankets spread on manicured lawns. Instead, we sat at sticky picnic tables at roadside rest stops and washed down our soggy sandwiches with warm drinks because the ice in the cooler had long since melted. Our "picnics" were quick pit stops on a long annual road trip and they've become part of our family lore; experiences I look back on with affection despite their shortcomings.
Maybe that's why I've idealized picnics in the years since. I now have a wicker basket, and a few times every summer I pack a meal to be shared in a beautiful outdoor setting. I've taken it to beaches and on canoe trips; once I even packed it in my luggage and used it almost daily on a driving trip through France.
Food historians trace the origins of picnics to medieval hunting feasts, and say that for centuries dining outdoors was an activity for the wealthy.
Today most of us think of picnics as simple meals eaten at a beach or in a park rather than banquets that just happen to be served outdoors.
Whatever the location or menu, following a few simple rules will ensure that you enjoy your picnic safely.
Food Safety for Picnics
Summer temperatures can make outdoor food handling and storage a challenge. Follow these food safety rules to ensure a safe picnic:
- use a cooler and ice packs to keep cold foods cold (below 4 degrees C or 40 degrees F)
- keep the cooler out of direct sunlight and try not to open it any more than necessary
- don't leave food out for more than one hour in hot weather
- wash your hands, utensils and work surfaces to prevent cross-contamination
For more information about how to ensure your picnic is safe, have a look at the following:
It's Good for You
Whether you pack an elaborate meal in a basket or just take your brown-bag lunch outside for a change, I suggest you enjoy some picnics this summer. Studies show spending time outdoors improves health and many people also believe that food tastes better when eaten outdoors - the theory being that all of our senses are heightened when we're outside.
We have books to help you plan and prepare the perfect picnic: