If you know me, you know how much of a picnic fan I am.
When I was newly married, my mom gave me one of those 1950s picnic baskets which is as beautiful as it is ridiculously unusable. I love the classic old-fashioned wicker baskets that are so lovely but highly impractical with their bulky style. Still, there remains something beautiful about the old-school ways, even though they aren't convenient or easy.
The same goes with picnics - which make no real sense when you think about it. Why travel outdoors, carrying food and utensils to face the elements, bugs, and discomfort when a perfectly good indoor kitchen table will do just fine thank you very much. For me, it's the change of scenery that works its magic, inviting me to be present to nature, the meal, and the company. An ordinary sandwich eaten in a grassy patch takes on something more in the great outdoors.
At the beginning of every summer, I put out a book on my kitchen counter called "The Summer Book" by Susan Branch. My friend Beth introduced it to me the same year I was married in 1996 and for that reason, it holds a special place in my heart. It's about as old-school and picnic-inviting as it gets. The recipes are neither cutting-edge nor fancy, but they are classic, simple, and perfect. With the handwritten lettering, personal drawings, and traditional summer recipes, it reminds me that sometimes the best things are the ones that don't require much fuss.
Lately, I was thinking it would be so neat to create my own "Summer's End Picnic Menu." Truly, I love Susan's "Recipes for Summer" and also her Old Fashioned Picnic Menu (pictured above). But if I were to design my own, here's my Summer End Picnic Menu.
My Summer's End Picnic Menu (with links for recipes)
-Deviled Eggs dusted with Smoky Paprika
-Fresh Peaches and blackberries drizzled with local wildflower honey and mint sprigs
-Homemade lemonade with lavender sprigs in individual mason jars
-Carolina Kettle Chips -- Southern Twang Salt & Vinegar (a local favorite from Raleigh, NC - all their chips are amazing!)
-My Brother in Law Ray's Cookies - the easiest cookie ever inspired by Ina Garten's Three ingredient peanut butter cookies. He adds some chocolate chips and 1/2 cup of rolled oats to make them even tastier.
What about you? What would be on your summer's end picnic menu?
Whether you are a picnic-lover or picnic-hater (said no one ever), here's what I know is true: Food eaten in the outdoors in a beautiful setting with people you love takes on next-level greatness. This summer I ate a fresh baguette loaded with roasted vegetables and cheese slices on a beach in Puerto Rico with an ice-cold beer in the blazing hot sun. It might have been the best sandwich I have ever eaten. I will never forget it because I ate it with my brothers and their kids while visiting my dad's homeland. Even though it was just a sandwich at the beach, that memory will stay with me long after this summer is over. Picnics are a lovely way to be present to the people we love in the places we love.
Celebrate the close of summer with a sweet picnic and the people you love.