Monday, July 23, 2012

Do It Right: The Perfect Picnic

It's finally, officially here: proper picnic season. With the emergence of the sun and glitteringly warm, long days, now is the perfect time to get yourself to a patch of grass with some good eats, good drinks and good friends. But before you grab a sandwich at a boulangerie and head to any old park nearby, take a moment to think about it. Because, like everything else in Paris, there is an art to le pique-nique. Luckily, I have way too much experience and have become an expert in how to achieve the Perfect Picnic.

(photo via Swing Fashionista)

1) The Look. In my beginner days of picnicking, I admit I've made the mistake of wearing... oh lord... rolled-up jeans to a picnic. This will not fly. Ladies, pick out your flounciest dress and sandals. Put your hair into a sleek ponytail. Gentlemen, drag out those long shorts you're afraid to wear and sport some boating shoes. Everybody get a hat, a cheap vintage picnic basket, and don't forget the sunscreen.

2) The Goods. This is, of course, by far the most important element in perfecting your picnic. Bring an array of foods and give your taste buds an adventure. The more people you have at your picnic, the cheaper it will be. Assign each person to bring their favorite cheese, or a cured meat (I'm partial to camembert and thinly sliced prosciutto), a dessert, baguette or wine. Fruit salads! Spicy olives! Go ahead and make that gazpacho recipe you've been dying to try! Bring whatever is refreshing on a hot summer day.
    * Red wine is not recommended on a picnic, for two reasons: a) it's too easy to spill and stain any fabric nearby, including your clothes and whatever you're laying on, and b) Dude, it's summer. Bring something refreshing like a chilled rosé or riesling.
    * Don't forget the cutlery! I somehow always miss this step and have to pop into a nearby alimentation generale for forgotten goods. Be sure to bring plastic knives and forks, paper plates and plastic glasses, and, naturally, a wine bottle opener. There's nothing more frustrating than getting to the park and realizing you don't have anything to eat with. Also be sure to bring an old blanket, bedsheet, or something to lay around on.

3) The Spot. Some people think you can just go to any park and make a great picnic. Not so! The French have this funny idea about parks, that it's somehow fun to sit on a bench and look out across a field of grass where no one's allowed to walk. I disagree. Be sure to go to a park that allows grass-treading. Parc de la Villette, Parc Monceau and Parc Buttes Chaumont are all sure bets.

4) The Tunes. Fill up your iPod, iPhone or Discman (I don't judge) with chillaxing summer music. Recommended artists include Grant Green, Living Sisters, and the summer-appropriate-only Poolside.

5) The Action. If you have it, throw a deck of cards or (as I prefer) Phase-10 into your picnic basket. Grab a frisbee. Play a round of Hangman on a notebook. Find shapes in the clouds. Read poetry aloud, if you want to get sneered at. The point is to be absolutely unproductive, and simply idle, doing whatever would drive your boss crazy if they caught you ditching work to be there. I've seen people doing yoga after their picnics; once I saw a dude practicing tight-rope walking between two trees; and just yesterday I caught one old lady plucking another old lady's eyebrows as they gossiped on the grass. Hey, whatever makes you relaxed.

Of course, be good to your earth and clean up your mess; leave the spot as you found it so the next person can enjoy it just as much.

So there you have it, five key steps to perfecting your summer picnic. I highly suggest you get out there and start practicing today; by the end of the summer you can be an expert at idling like me. What are your favorite things to do/eat/wear at a picnic? Where do you like to go? Let me know in the comments!

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