Picnics are a fun way to spend time with your family and friends! They are also a great way to spend time outdoors and relax doing activities you enjoy! There are no strict rules for what a picnic is: generally speaking, as long as there is food and drinks that you eat, it can be classed as a picnic! The vast majority of picnics happen outside, but in cases of bad weather (or if it is too hot to be out), picnics can also happen inside. These indoor-picnics usually involve eating off a blanket on the floor and often in a room/place you wouldn’t usually eat in, for example, on the floor of the living room, playroom, or even the attic if you are feeling adventurous!
Picnics are a cost-effective way to eat out - you decide what you prepare and therefore how much money you will spend! No wonder they are popular all over the world! In fact, in 2009, the people of Lisbon in Portugal set the world record for the biggest picnic, with more than 20000 people joining in!
So, what is it that makes picnicking so special?
The Culture of Picnicking
Let's start at the very beginning. It is believed that picnics began in the middle nineteenth century. After the French Revolution, people began to have informal outdoor meals in the many beautiful outdoor parks and gardens around the county. In fact, the word “picnic” is thought to have come from the French word “pique-nique.” However, the British will tell you that they invented the concept of the “picnic” - they say it started when baskets of food would be delivered to the men hunting on the estate. The food would then be unpacked and eaten in the woods of wherever the hunt was stopped.
We know from art and stories from the 1800s and 1900s that picnics were soon enjoyed by people all over Europe. Wherever there was a garden or park, there were people picnicking in it! In England, official picnics were something the aristocracy would do. Many of these outdoor events needed days to prepare for. It was also around this time that it became common to include outdoor activities in the picnic program, such as croquet and other lawn games.
Picnics are a very accessible activity, and it wasn’t long before they became a pastime for everyone and anyone who wanted to enjoy the outdoors.
Picnics are very popular all over North America but particularly in the United States. However, there are differences in what a traditional picnic looks like. For example, a Southern picnic focuses on barbecuing - a tradition that can be traced back to before the Civil War. A typical southern barbecue includes dishes such as fried chicken, ribs, biscuits, sweet potato pie, and cornbread.
In other parts of the US, BBQ picnics do exist, but you are most likely to find hotdogs and burgers on the grill.
Generally speaking, grills are not necessary to have a great time. Picnic food can be anything at all - from leftovers to cold pies and sandwiches. Everything goes!
International Picnic Day
Each year on June 18 we celebrate International Picnic Day. This is an unofficial international day to celebrate the joys of picnicking. Thanks to the low cost of picnicking, it is a holiday everyone can enjoy regardless of their economic status or background! Although it is not well-known, each year it becomes more famous, with many communities choosing to host large-scale events on this day. Picnicking is such a big deal that in the United States, there is an additional holiday dedicated to the picnic! April 23rd is National Picnic Day. Many other countries also have a separate day to celebrate. For example, countries in the Southern Hemisphere often select a day in their summer when the weather is better (and drier).
Keep food safe
Although picnics are great fun, there are a few things we need to watch out for in order to stay safe and avoid getting food poisoning. If you’re planning a picnic, make sure you keep in mind simple food safety tips like the ones below:
Pack “Safe Food”
Safe foods are foods that can be stored in your backpack or basket without being refrigerated. This includes things like bread and toppings like peanut butter and jams, packaged snacks, chips, as well as fruit and nuts. Water and unopened juices are also safe to pack.
If you are packing food that needs to be kept cold, then you should take a cooler and/or cold packs. Most of these foods risk becoming dangerous to eat when they start to slowly get warm. If the outdoor temperature is above 90°F, food can become dangerous very quickly! Pay careful attention to grilling meats and cold cuts.
Use the Four steps of Food Safety
Clean: Make sure to pack some clean paper towels, water, and disinfectant wipes or spray for cleaning surfaces like public picnic tables.
Separate: Do not put foods eaten raw on the same plate or surface as raw meat of any kind. Any harmful bacteria in the raw meat juices could contaminate them and make you sick.
Cook: Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of burgers, steaks, chicken, etc. If you don’t have one, cut it into meat to check before serving.
Chill: Place leftovers in your cooler immediately. Bacteria grow most rapidly in the range of40°F – 140°F. Discard food left out for more than two hours.
Preparing for the ultimate picnic
As we mentioned before, these days there is no strict rule on what picnic food may be. However, it is often said that sandwiches are the perfect picnic food! They are easy to make and carry and often do not require extra cooling. Fruit is another good choice! Things like apples, oranges, bananas, or even watermelons are great to enjoy outdoors – especially when the weather is hot! Other things you often find at a picnic include salads (green, potato, pasta), potato chips, or even chopped- up veggies with dip.
Whatever you decide to make, make sure you have a cooler (if needed) and enough drinks to keep you hydrated!
Aside from food, think about what activities you might want to do. Why not take a frisbee or a football? You will also need sunblock and maybe even a large sun-umbrella if you have one. A blanket to sit on is another great idea, especially if you are unsure if your location has public tables.
For very little cost and preparation, picnics give you the chance to create lasting memories with family, friends, or even your classmates! If you are not in a social mood, a solo picnic is a nice way to chill out and find your Zen.
Some great spots for picnics
There are some great spots for picnics near Zoni campuses! Here are a few of our favorites:
Central Park: Of course, Central Park is a great spot for picnics - everyone thinks so and because of this, it can be a little crowded. But, if you are short on time, it is really the best place to sit and enjoy!
Prospect Park: One of the best spots in Brooklyn for a picnic is the Long Meadow in Prospect Park, which holds the title of “longest stretch of unbroken meadow in any US urban park.”
Four Freedoms State Park: Located on Roosevelt Island, Four Freedoms State Park is little known to tourists, making it the perfect picnic spot. Take the iconic red Roosevelt Island Tram over the East River to reach the island. You can also catch the train F or drive from Queens if you are afraid of heights!
Domino Park: Domino Park is located along the waterfront just north of the Williamsburg Bridge in Brooklyn. It is a great place to go for views across the river to Manhattan. The park is especially good for hot days as it has two water features that you can cool off in. There is also a cool park for kids, beach volleyball courts, and bocce.
Duke Farm: A hidden gem in Hillsborough, New Jersey! It takes about an hour from New York City to reach this farm. However, it is well worth it! It offers amazing themed flower gardens, hiking trails, a waterfall, and stunning meadows perfect for your picnic! The farm is also free to visit!
Beaches: Miami’s amazing beaches are the perfect spot for a picnic on the sand. Please be mindful of your trash and make sure you pick it up after yourself.
Parks and Gardens: Again, Miami has a number of options for people who don’t want to risk sand in their sandwiches! The city is covered in green spaces - all providing amazing locations for a relaxing picnic. Other larger gardens such as the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens or Biscayne Key offer wonderful picnic spots, however, you need to buy a ticket to access them.
It is undeniable that picnics are a wonderful way to spend time. Whether you pair it with a round of tag football or simply read a book while you snack - the point of a picnic is to enjoy being outside! There is no right or wrong way to do it - you should only take care of your food safety and pick up your trash when you are done!
If you would like to know more about Zoni courses and also find out our favorite spots for picnicking, you can visit our website www.zoni.edu or call us at +1 (212) 736 9000. We’d be very happy to help you!
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