Well, here we are at the halfway point of summer. Even so, all of us know there are plenty of days to do what we love best — hike, camp, spend time at the cabin, golf, visit the beach, barbecue.
There's another activity involving the outdoors and food — an old-fashioned picnic, and this might be a good weekend to do just that. There is something exciting, even innocent, about a picnic, even if you are just packing a few sandwiches and heading to the park down the street.
A picnic also gives you lots of options. You can head to a park, of which our area has many. Think about parks in Lanesboro, Byron and Chatfield. Think about Silver Lake Park, Whitewater State Park, and many others.
Or what about playgrounds, the beach — even your own backyard? There are no rules — you can make the activity as simple or elaborate as you want. Sandwiches? Quiche? Your choice.
A classic picnic food is fried chicken, whether you fry your own or visit Colonel Sanders. Especially appealing is that it is good hot or cold, and it travels well. To keep the crispiness from becoming soggy, try wrapping the chicken loosely in a paper bag. This will soak up extra grease and keep air circulating.
Add your favorite potato salad (or buy some Mrs. Gerry's, a favorite of mine). Pasta salads and cole slaw make great picnic fare.
Something light and crunchy is easy — slices of cucumber, carrots, celery sticks, cherry tomatoes with some hummus for dipping. Deviled eggs? A must. Chips are mandatory. Dessert can be brownies.
Some picnickers choose to be more upscale. The basket or cooler might include pates, quiches, cold soups like gazpacho or vichyssoise, assortments of cheeses and sausages, baquettes made into elaborate sandwiches with beef, pork, chicken or lamb.
What to drink? For adults, wines, both red and white, maybe something sparking like proseco. Rosés add a light, summery touch. Beers are invited, too. Lemonade is fairly standard for the kids.
A picnic basket is a charming accessory but if you are going a distance take a cooler with ice. It's also good to freeze water bottles. This serves two purposes: It keeps the food cold, and as the water melts, it gives you cold water to drink.
Mason jars make great containers for drinks as well as for holding salad dressings. Their shape helps them stay upright.
Other picnic essentials to pack include a big blanket or two, unless you know there are tables, a cutting board, knife, serving spoons, reusable plates (either plastic or sturdy paper plates), garbage bags, a roll of paper towels, a corkscrew and bottle opener (easy to forget), salt and pepper, and hand wipes. Have you included sunscreen and insect repellent?
Just as important as where you go and what you take is practicing food safety. Do you still need to be reminded to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold? And please don't let anything sit out for more than two hours.
With all that said, choose a spot and enjoy your Independence Day.