A few packets of chips and soggy sandwiches served on paper plates no longer cut it. Follow my checklist
for hosting an outdoor feast to go down in history
THE name might be French and the British might think they own it, but it’s the Aussies who do picnics with pizzazz.
We have a long history of outdoor feasting. The first royal visit to Australia in 1865 was celebrated with grand public picnics. The Melbourne picnic ended in disaster, though, when the crowd rioted after the royal failed to show.
The Sydney picnic was worse. The Duke of Edinburgh was tragically shot by an Irish republican.
To avoid your own disaster, here are my 25 essential picnic questions to ask yourself before grabbing that Esky and heading off to the park.
1 Where’s the perfect site for your picnic? 2 Who will make the best mix of guests? Does everyone have a buddy? 3 How close is the parking? This will impact on how much stuff you can take. 4 Can you book the local public barbecue, or do you need to claim it early? 5 What will guests sit on? A sturdy chair for Great Aunt Flossie?
6 Plan the menu around what won’t spoil in the heat or in transit. 7 What can you delegate for others to bring to lessen the load on you? 8 Keep salad and dressing separate unless it’s a “hard” salad like a slaw or potatoes. With these, keep the crunchy toppings to finish them off like crisped bacon or crispy shallots in zip-lock bags. 9 I put everything into jars and zip-lock bags to keep things fresh, separate and easy to find but minimise assembly. 10 What needs to be kept cold? I freeze water bottles to use to keep food cold, and it means you’ve got plenty of cold water on hand during the day as they melt. 11 Avoid the picnic loaf! Dreadful sludgy aberration that it is. 12 Take fresh herbs and lemon wedges to garnish food and drinks. 13 Dips, vegie sticks and crackers are great to keep the kids fed while you are setting up or cooking. 14 Bake something but make sure it will travel well, like a slice rather than a delicate sponge. 15 Keep the food real – filled rolls, artisan sausages, tandoori chicken skewers, creative salads. So, no more than one packet of chips, please!
16 Don’t just keep it real with the food. Let that stretch to enamel or melamine plates rather than cardboard. 17 You will always be thankful if you take a sharp knife and a chopping board. 18 If you are barbecuing, don’t forget the foil, tongs, baking paper, a couple of foil baking trays and matches (just in case).
19 Have you packed the bottle opener, stubby holders and enough glasses? Will the glasses stand up on the grass as you lean across for another sausage roll? 20 You can never have enough ice, so take ice cubes in a thermos or in zip-lock bags chilling your drinks and food. 21 Serve a mixed drink. Make a cocktail base like sangria, Pimms-soaked fruit or fruit punch and finish at the picnic with ice, a slice and a spritz of soda.
22 What will you do when not eating? Kick the footie? Play picnic cricket? 23 Have you packed insect repellent, sunscreen, bin liners for rubbish, paper towels or wet wipes and hand sanitiser? 24 Have you packed your sense of humour? This may need to be deployed in the face of bad weather. 25 Have you packed an eye to keep on the children? Children running in a pack can get into so much trouble.
And finally, think hard about whether you need to invite that visiting royal to your picnic. It never seems to end well.