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The Aesthetics of a Great Picnic

By Andrew Burgon / phoenix@projectfellowship.com
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May 16, 2014

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Paying Attention to the Aesthetics of a Great Picnic Will Make Picnicking even More Enjoyable

After a hectic week at work a picnic is a great way to unwind and relax. Enjoying the beautiful scenery of a park where many flowers are blooming or by a lake that has a backdrop of mountains and trees. Eating delicious food while breathing in the fresh air of the outdoors. Add to this the company of friends and fun games and activities and it’s easy to see that picnics truly are a special event. I’m going to be talking about a few aspects of picnicking with an emphasis on aesthetics. They are location and time of year, setting up a visually pleasing picnic area and food and drinks.

Picnic Location & Time of Year

Sure, the picnic table at the local park surrounded by a dull and bleak environment is an option. Think how much nicer it would be though to have a picnic by a stream, pond, waterfall, lake or the sea.

To have it on a mountainside where mother nature surrounds you.

To put your blanket under a big tree with sprawling branches.

As wonderful as these locations sound we can still take it up a level. Have you ever had a picnic under a Jacaranda tree in full bloom. It’s dazzling purple flowers not only covering the tree but creating a purple blanket of fallen flowers on the ground.  How about Cherry Blossom trees?

Choosing the right time of year and the right place can make your picnic that much more special.

It’s not just the immediate area around the picnic table that you should give thought to either. What is the vicinity like? Anything interesting to see? Is there the potential to go for a short walk where the beauty of Mother Nature resides? Is there a playground for the children to play in?   Is there a nice stretch of beach for a pleasant stroll? Is there a place where you can rent bicycles, surfboards or jet skis?

So ask your friends and family if they know of any great picnic spots.

Setting Up the Picnic Area

Have you ever noticed that aesthetics can play a part in your enjoyment of something? That they can make the visuals pop or make something a visceral pleasure to hold, touch or taste?

Imagine a grey picnic blanket spread out on the grass. Now think of a bright blue one. Take it up a notch with a blue blanket that has white floral patterns on it or that is checkered. Doesn’t that look so much better? Alternatively, a brown and green picnic blanket seems to blend in nicely with not only the grass but the trees around it.

You may wish to consider sticking to a color theme. For example, a red and blue picnic basket. A set of red and blue plastic plates with matching cutlery. A red and white striped cloth that covers the top of a jar of strawberry jam and is kept in place with a polka dot red bow.

I prefer stylish, closed picnic baskets that don’t look awkward and clunky. Some of them store cutlery on the inside flaps that cover the top of the picnic basket.

Let’s take a wooden picnic table and see what we can do with it.

First, let’s cover it with a classic red and white checkered table cloth.

Next, furnish it with white quality China plates and a nice set of cutlery to give your picnic a touch of sophistication and refinement.

Place red, blue, yellow or green napkins under everyone’s cutlery.

A black thermos with gold stripes on stands-by for a round of coffee.

A beautiful glass bottle that has wine in it and a glass image of grapes on it’s side.

A brown wooden cutting board with an assortment of cheese on top.

An attractive wooden bowl filled with fruit.

Flowers, too, can be used  for decoration. Perhaps an assortment of delicate flowers or small colorful roses in a glass jar. Small flowers placed in the middle of the picnic table lying on small, narrow wooden trays. Two small daisy flowers placed on top of a peach and blueberry summer pie.

While it nearly always gets overlooked a piece of fruit art like a cute little apple robot or a mini-watermelon rose would add a distinctive touch to the table.

If kids are along for a picnic you might like to go for some colorful balloons. Perhaps one on each end of the picnic table.

Food & Drinks

It’s not just the colors of the table cloth, napkins, plates and cutlery that make a picnic appear festive. It’s also the colors of the food and drinks.

Salami with it’s mottled red and white color is a real table showoff begging for attention.  Put it on slices of bread with cheese, tomato and dill. Alternatively, accompany it with tomato, black olives and green arugula.

Then there’s delicious salmon. Toast some bread and make a salmon and cucumber sandwich. Cut it into quarters and put a skewer through it. On each end of the skewer put a black or green olive.

Grilled chicken legs covered in red pepper with some green herbs nestled between them make for a distinctive addition.

A grilled Cuban sandwich can’t help but rivet your attention. Ham, roast pork, Swiss cheese, dill pickles and mustard. This colorful combination of food screams eat me!

Egg stuffed bread. Thick slices of bread with the center cut-out and a slice of egg placed in the middle.

Potato salad with it’s yummy mayonnaise goodness and chopped spring onions.

Cheese, figs and dates along with brown bread is another showstopper especially if they are displayed well.

Glazed donuts with or without sprinkles also add some color to the table.

As for drinks, there’s no doubt a carafe of orange juice and glasses filled with this sun juice makes a bold addition to the picnic table. There are other options though.

Strawberry and basil lemonade with a generous amount of cut strawberries and basil at the top of the carafe or glasses.

A fresh fruit punch drink that has lots of pieces of fruit in it.

Berries have there own irresistible presence particularly when they’re embedded in cream on top of a cake. A combination of dark and bright red cherries looks best.

Coffee is a wonderful drink but lacking visually. Partner it up with a flamboyant companion. Sconces with cream and strawberry jam.

Well, I hope you came across some ideas that you’re looking forward to incorporating into your next picnic.

Can you think of anything to add to “The Aesthetics of a Great Picnic?”

Photo taken by Billy Hathorn. Painting by Thomas Cole.

Photo taken by Billy Hathorn. Painting by Thomas Cole.

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