Together, writer Marnie Hanel, Kinfolk recipe editor Andrea Slonecker, and Under the Table with Jen blogger Jen Stevenson founded the Portland Picnic Society, a group dedicated to the art of picnicking. They share an excerpt from their new book, The Picnic (Artisan Books), below, now that picnic season is afoot.
Illustration: Emily Isabella
Sometimes even the most well-planned party goes pear-shaped. Picnic problem-free with this guide to outwitting catastrophes.
1. Permits, Please. Picnics thrive on spontaneity, but it can be a good idea to ask for permission. If you’re gathering a large group in a public park, apply for a permit through your city’s Department of Parks and Recreation. You can book a baseball diamond or bocce court for an after-meal activity. And if your athleticism is limited to lifting your picnic basket, many parks will allow you to purchase an alcohol permit, too.
2. Cop Stop. On the off chance you forgot to get a permit for alcohol consumption, be sure to sip discreetly. Premix your cocktails in bottles, avoid drinking out of stemware, and, should those methods fail, offer the friendly officer a sincere apology and a bite to eat.
3. In Case of Rain. On picnic’s eve: Should a summer thunderstorm render your picnic site soggy, implore your friends to tote their yoga mats to the park—unfurl them on the lawn and cover them with the blanket to keep bottoms dry. Or buy a vinyl tablecloth or camping tarp to tuck beneath your blanket.
On picnic day: Relocate to a covered outdoor space: a gazebo, picnic shelter, yurt, tepee, or enormous tent. If all else fails, head for the living room.
During the picnic: Drop that lightning-loving metal fork, grab the food, and run for cover.
4. Bathroom Break. Nothing ruins a picnic like having to go, with no relief in sight. Scout the state of your picnic site’s restrooms upon arrival. If they’re locked or loathsome, search for the nearest coffeehouse and inform your friends of its location.
5. First-Aid Fortifications. When badminton rackets and croquet mallets start flying, anything can happen. Fill a resealable bag with Band-Aids, aspirin, tampons, sunscreen, anti-itch cream, dental floss, antacids, an EpiPen, and $20 in case the ice cream man scoots past in his truck.
6. Beat the Heat. If it’s a real sizzler of a day, surprise your fellow guests with a Mediterranean-scented cooldown: add a few drops of rose, citrus, or lavender oil to chilled miniature spray bottles of water and distribute them to the crowd. (Paper fans work, too.)
7. All Choked Up. In the rare, unfortunate case of a quail-egg-clogged esophagus, use the following protocol: Ask, “Are you choking, or are you joking?” Then command the victim to stand and thump him squarely between his shoulder blades; clasp him around his midsection, make a fist and place your other hand over it, and thrust suddenly. The offending article should present itself.
8. Pernicious Plants. Should you find yourself lounging in a verdant field that you suddenly realize is the mean kind of green — poison ivy, poison oak, or sumac — do not panic. Disinfect as quickly as possible with rubbing alcohol and paper towels, followed by soap and water.
9. Battle of the Bugs. Summer bugs are a picnic plague. Bring an arsenal of citronella votives and bug spray. To keep unwelcome sweet-tea swimmers at bay, try this easy trick for transforming a Mason jar: Remove the lid and set it aside. Take a square of decorative paper, punch a hole in it, lay it over the lip of your jar, replace the ring, and poke a straw through the hole. Drink elsewhere, bugs.
10. Extras! Extras! In anticipation of tomorrow night’s disaster, when you’ll be staring at your empty refrigerator longing for picnic fare, invest in a stack of takeout boxes, and end the evening by trading leftovers.
Try these recipes built for picnics: