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have food, will travel how to have a picnic 
by Yee-Fan Sun
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Like any true-blue New Englander, I've always loved complaining about the weather. Dreary days and unpredictable forecasts: they're a pain in the behind, no doubt. But bad weather, I'm convinced, is kind of a good thing too. See, it makes you appreciate the beautiful days all that much more.

Here in Scotland now -- a country whose finicky bad weather makes my native New England's look downright boring -- we've been enjoying an unusual bout of warm temps and clear skies. Paired with the long, long days, where the sun doesn't go down until close to ten, it's no wonder I'm having a hard time concentrating on work. It's summer, and the days seem endless, and I want to be outdoors enjoying it all. So what better way to take advantage of the glorious weather than with a picnic at the park?

Yes, for those of us living in climates where the weather has a tendency to be, shall we say, temperamental, it's especially important to grab those picnicking opportunities whenever they present themselves. A little spontaneity is in order, because you never know when the next perfect not too hot, not too cool, not too windy bright sunshine day will present itself. When the blue skies and balmy temps are a-calling, don't hesitate. Cut out a smidge early from work; blow off your Sunday afternoon date at the local Laundromat; postpone your movie night get-together to the next weekend. Just get yourself outside while the getting's good -- to the park, to the beach, wherever -- and call up a few pals to join you, no worries if it's last minute notice. Meanwhile, here's how to get prepped for that perfect picnic in the great outdoors…

good eatin'
The best picnic foods are sturdy, low-fuss affairs -- foods that don't need any last-minute primping to be presentable, and that can survive a bumpy car ride/long walk along with a couple of hours of sitting around -- and still be tasty of course. Simple eats are key, making this the perfect entertaining option for kitchen-phobes; the picnic is one party where culinary skills aren't a prerequisite at all. A quick stop at a good supermarket or (better yet) deli or farmer's market will yield plenty of yummy options that require no actual cooking on your part at all. Good bread is, of course, a must. Pair it with some nice olives, fresh mozzarella (the bite-size bocconcini are ideal), marinated artichokes and sundried tomatoes or roasted peppers; add in some salami or prosciutto and you have a rustic but thoroughly gourmet Italian picnic ready to go. Get olives along with some pita, hummus, baba ghanoush, crisp summery cucumbers and ripe juicy tomatoes for a Middle Eastern-inspired meal; go French with some deli-prepped tapenade, pate, brie and goat's cheese. Of course, good old-fashioned deli-meat-and-cheese sandwiches make a fine low-prep picnic option as well. Keep it from being just a boring bag lunch by choosing the good stuff when you're buying your ingredients, and getting a little creative with the condiments -- a little pesto or tapenade in place of the mayo, some creamy avocado instead of just lettuce. And if you're planning to include any accoutrements that have a high water content -- ripe tomatoes, for example -- it's a good idea to bring the ingredients to your picnic and assemble on the spot, to avoid the potential of soggy, squashy, unappetizing sandwiches. (And besides, having everyone go the DIY route with their meal is more fun!)

frolic this way...

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