Friday, February 12, 2010
A little swimming and a little dinner
Back when I was a kid, a trip to the beach always included a packed lunch. My mother went through great pains to make sure we would have a fabulous feast at the seashore: hamburgers ready for grilling (plus all the fixings like perfectly cut, juicy tomato slices, lettuce, pickle relish, and cheese slices), potato salad and cole slaw, potato chips, fruit salad, and a whole cooler full of fresh lemonade. These days the closest I come to a packed lunch at the beach is a picnic meal at our neighborhood pool during the warmer days of summer. We arrive in the afternoon, past the time when the sun is at its peak in order to avoid sunburn. Around 5 or 6, it's clear we all are ready to refill. It's at that point that we open up the picnic.
I may have mentioned in previous posts that I'm not someone who likes to plan meals out. You can imagine then, a picnic lunch has the potential to torture me. I think I'm able to manage because it means that I'll get to relax at the pool during dinner and that I don't have to clean up the dishes after dinner. I can't believe I'm the only woman out there who has this same kind of disposition. Very well then, it seems I should share my formula so that like-minded women may benefit from my toils ;-)
- Get the medium-sized cooler you use as a family. Fill two quart-size freezer ziploc bags with ice cubes. Put them on the bottom of the cooler. In most midwest towns, this should be enough to keep your food cool enough for 2-3 hours.
- As for a menu, I keep it simple.
whole fruit (I've found apples & grapes work best for packing and surviving the cooler storage)
crackers or chips (just grab a whole box or other container to cut down on packing effort expended)
cheese cubes (we have these on hand in the fridge all summer long; I just grab a bunch while packing, enough to fill one ziploc bag)
some kind of sandwich (ham & cheese, turkey & swiss, or veggie wraps)
- For something to drink, bring along a water bottle for each family member. Sure, pop or some other sugary drink would be a bigger hit with the kids, but the water will keep them hydrated better. The bottles can also be refilled and encourage them to keep drinking water while playing.
- If you really want to get fancy, get yourself one of those "hot/cold" bags, the kind that are insulated and can keep things hot or cold. Unlike the beach, there are no grills at the pool. If you have one of these bags, you can bring something hot and it'll stay hot until you're ready to eat. I've grilled hot dogs and toasted buns in the toaster oven at home, assembled them and then wrapped them individually in foil before putting them in the insulated bag.
- I keep diner-style dispensers of ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise in the fridge for easy use at meals. A nice side benefit is that the containers quickly and easily pack for a picnic.
- Lastly, and I think most importantly, include something that you crave. Something that you think is a decadent delight. Like chocolate truffles or creme puffs. Or maybe instead of sweets, you go for the savory treats like brie or caviar. Whatever your Achilles' heel is, make sure you remember to pack it, because I find that I enjoy it all the more when I have it relaxing at the poolside in the summer evening sunlight.
After these last couple weeks of snow, I can't wait until we get the chance for another picnic dinner.