Keeping Cool: Have a Picnic by the Water

Welcome to August, the most abundant time of year. The produce is fresh and (very possibly) home grown, and as varied as you're ever going to see it. Tomatoes! Peaches! Zucchini! Paradise! Except for the heat, of course. For August is also the hottest month of the year for most Northern hemisphere dwellers, and the last thing we want to do is linger in a hot kitchen. How can these two truths reconcile? A picnic, of course. Preferably by the water.

Because I live in San Francisco, I actually don't get too much of the summer's heat. Mostly that's fine with me. But I do miss those summer picnic dinners of my youth (I grew up next to Lake Michigan) where it was always cooler by the lake and people would flock to the shore with blankets and coolers in tow. Food does taste better outdoors.

International photographer and wine enthusiast Bertrand Celce has written a wonderful piece on his blog about picnic dinners along the Seine. He explains that in France, many young people are working as interns and cannot afford a restaurant meal, so a picnic along the Seine, with a nice bottle of crisp, chilled wine is gaining popularity.

Good picnic foods are simple and easy to throw together. Look for things that don't need to be cooked like a baguette, a few cheeses, a sausage, those fresh tomatoes from the garden, marinated vegetables, a small bag of nuts, maybe a few containers of leftovers, and fruits like peaches and figs. Consider finger foods that everyone can share to avoid plates and cutlery.

If you don't have a river or lake or ocean nearby to cool you off, poolside dining is fun, too. Or you can put your sprinkler on low and pull up a lawn chair. As for deep city dwellers, well, hopefully there's a terrace or rooftop or fire escape you can climb on to search out a cooling breeze.

(Images: Dana Velden)

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Dana Velden is a freelance food writer. She lives, eats, plays, and gets lost in Oakland, California where she is in the throes of raising her first tomato plant.