Wednesday is International Picnic Day. Where are Yogi and Boo-Boo? They should be here for the feast, or we should all head to Jellystone Park for the party.
I love going on picnics. They can be simple, fun, or romantic; large family gatherings or small intimate dates; playful or peaceful ... it’s up to you. You can pack your food in a charming picnic basket, or you can grab some take-out and carry it in a paper bag. If the weather is bad and you can’t go outside, just spread a blanket on the floor and host it indoors. There aren’t any rules when it comes to picnics.
Now, I wish I could say the food doesn’t matter, that what’s important is the company. But while that’s very true, you also know I would never discount the eating part of the equation.
There is nothing — absolutely nothing — wrong with traditional picnic foods, such as fried chicken, potato salad, and brownies. But since Wednesday is an international celebration, why not try having a picnic with some dishes inspired by other countries’ cuisines?
As a main dish, perhaps you could try South African bobotie, a meatloaf of sorts with raisins that is topped with cooked eggs and a spicy sauce. A French Canadian tourtiere, a rich flaky pie stuffed with spiced pork, would be good served warm or cool; either would make a substantial entree.
Salads could represent several different continents. Why not try Asian-style noodle salads with slivers of carrots and strips of cucumber, a peanut-coconut sauce, and some chopped peanuts for extra crunch? Or Mediterranean-inspired ones with lots of beautiful, colorful grilled vegetables, good green olive oil, some spice, maybe some chickpeas or Feta or luscious black Kalamata olives, or all of the above?
A fresh baguette would make the French contingent very happy, with its tender crumb and its crisp, crackling crust. Bread is de rigueur, after all, and goes with everything. Or you could try Brazilian Pao de Queso: light, fluffy, cheesy rolls made with tapioca flour.
A different twist on the potato salad, a German vinegar-based one with green onions, would provide a bit of zest to the menu and also offer a mayonnaise-less dish that won’t spoil in the summer heat as readily. Or, since potatoes are essential in Peru, why not try Papas a la Huancaina: cold sliced potatoes in a creamy, spicy sauce of pureed queso fresco with garlic, a squeeze of lime juice, and hot peppers (jalapeno to habanero, according to taste)?
Sweden is noted for its beautiful open-faced sandwiches. Bring along some good dark bread, a schmear of softened butter mixed with a pinch of dill, and some thinly sliced eggs and vegetables (cucumbers or radishes, for example); then, once you’ve spread out the picnic blanket, you can make your own individual masterpieces to taste.
Hand-held pies are easily transported, and can be sweet or savory, baked or fried. Mexican empanadas could be stuffed with meat or with pumpkin. Russian piroshki could showcase mushrooms or cabbage.
Brined and fermented foods are all the rage right now. Why not serve some kimchi, the pride of Korea, or some crisp Hungarian pickles?
To drink, a simple but refreshing Jamaican hibiscus iced tea would be lovely. Drink a toast to Italy either with a hearty red wine or a fruity, fizzy, festive soda.
Middle Eastern-style rose- or orange-infused rice pudding would make a wonderful dessert. Serve it with any (or all) of the following: rich, buttery Scottish shortbread or Australia’s iconic coconut-oat ANZAC biscuits or triangular Iraqi cardamom-scented tea cookies. This would be a nice, light way to end the meal, along with fruit.
So, now that you’re good and hungry after reading about all of these dishes, go make plans for Wednesday’s pic-a-nic basket and invite some friends to join you for the meal.
But no, ants are not welcome.