Memorial Day: Picnics!

When I was growing up, my parents would buy four carnations at a grocery store on Memorial Day, and then we would find some old cemetery, and put the carnations on graves that were clearly forgotten – headstones overgrown, tilting, sometimes unreadable. It was a quiet, contemplative way to spend an afternoon, and we would talk about the people we had remembered without knowing.

I’m hoping that where you’re at, you can enjoy a picnic or a walk in someplace green. I think people tend to overplan picnic food and try to make it a Thanksgiving-type pile of bounty, when on an almost-summer day you don’t need anything fancy. For a family of four, a great picnic doesn’t have to be a big huge thing that takes 10 people to carry and set up. Avoid fiddly, messy foods and stuff you don't really need. I know this is late for Memorial Day, but we've got all summer!

• A loaf of crusty bread makes anything feel more special. Crusty rolls, a baguette, an uncut loaf from the grocery store – each of these is different enough to make a meal feel festive.

• One cheese and one meat is fine for a picnic. You don’t need tons of variety. Havarti and roast beef is a good combo (and havarti alone is divine if someone doesn’t eat meat), or cheddar and ham or turkey. Condiments add fuss, so I don’t bring them.

• One fruit, one vegetable. Apples, bananas, oranges and grapes travel well, don’t take a lot of prep, and the leavings (peels, cores, rinds) can be buried with a clear conscience, or brought home to compost. Sugar snap peas and grape tomatoes are a fun veggie option and are good plain. Carrots, peppers, and broccoli are good too, but need a little prep before you go. Fruit or vegetable juices can do double duty here, too.

• A dessert. I usually buy a large bar of gourmet chocolate for a sweet finish. Chocolate is a little fussy – it’s messy when it melts – but we must soldier on.

• A drink. If you’re not in a place with drinking fountains, bring a thermos of cool water.

• Napkins, wet wipes, and an empty plastic bag for trash.

You’re set! I hope your holiday weekend was a good one.

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