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From the Casual to the Chic
By Wendy Greenberg
“There are few things so pleasant as a picnic eaten in perfect comfort.”
– W. Somerset Maugham, The Razor’s Edge, 1943
When cookbook author Mary Abitanto eats al fresco, she appreciates both the landscape and the escape.
“A picnic to me is a chance to become grounded in the literal and figurative sense,” she says. “You become engulfed by the beauty of nature’s landscape and awaken your sense of smell (fragrant flowers, ocean breezes), sense of sound (birds chirping, ocean waves crashing), and taste (yummy picnic food).”
Abitanto calls it an “awe-inspiring backdrop that we cannot find anywhere else except in nature’s midst.”
Think Monet’s Luncheon on the Grass or The Picnic, or Georges Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. Eating outdoors enjoyed a renaissance during the pandemic as socializing moved mostly outside. Even now, shared outdoor meals remain a go-to social event, an experience that can be casual or upscale.
The modern picnic is accessible to all levels of merriment and communing, keeping in mind food safety and environmental responsibility, along with a great culinary experience, and a delightful view. (It has also become a popular Instagram opportunity.)
“Picnicking has become a popular trend,” says Suzette Louis-Jacques, a luxury picnic planner at La TAS Events in Somerset County. She said it started before the pandemic in the U.S. South and on the West Coast, and had been pivoting to the Northeast.
Louis-Jacques adds that “picnics are not for everyone,” so she discusses personal taste with the picnic-goer. “You want to plan it out,” she says.
Whether the emphasis is on the food or the mood, there are choices to be made: what food to bring, how complex a meal, and location. Additionally, we might think about how to reduce food waste, and, perhaps just for fun, step up our accoutrements: there are some pretty amazing backpacks that include glasses, utensils, blankets, and much more. more