Rachel and I enjoy picnicking. It combines two things we love; good food and being outside. At different stages of our lives and relationship, we’ve gone on a number of memorable picnics together. When we were dating, one of our favorite picnic spots was at Bear Mountain. For those who’ve never been, Bear Mountain is a state park overlooking the Hudson River in New York, not far from where I grew up.
On picnic days, Rachel would come collect me from my parents’ house and we would head out for lunch in the great wide open. But first, we would stop at this little Italian deli on the way and pick up a sandwich to split, a bag of chips, and a bottled iced tea. We’d drive to a spot at the top of the mountain, park, and walk down to this rock ledge where we laid out our blanket and munched on our lunch overlooking the valley below. Sometimes we would get into those deep philosophical conversations that young people in love get into, other times we’d just sit in silence enjoying each other’s company and the sounds of nature around us.
After college I lived in Japan for a year teaching English. Rachel came and visited me for a wonderful week that March. One day, we took the bullet train from the little countryside town I was living in to the busy, ancient city of Kyoto. We visited the sights, including the gold temple Kinkakuji, and even saw a geisha walking in full traditional dress down a cobblestone street (and tried to take a discreet picture so as to not look like “tourists.” HA!). Taking a break from the sightseeing, we stopped for lunch. From a street vendor we bought onigiri – rice balls wrapped in seaweed, and for dessert mochi - rice that had been pounded and then shaped into balls and flavored. We had 3 mochi flavors, regular (white), sakura - cherry blossom – (pink), and green tea (green). We sat on the banks of a small river flowing through Kyoto, marveling at the sights we had seen, but more so, marveling that there we were there together, after months – and thousands of miles – apart.
Fast forward a few years, and now we’re married and moved into our little UP reminiscent fixer-upper house. The next town over hosts the largest private iris collection in the United States, open to the public during those few gorgeous weeks in the Spring when the irises are in full bloom. It became a tradition for us to go at least once during the blooming season to soak in the sights of these magnificent flowers. The gardens back up to a little park and path that has benches for visitors to sit on and relax. We would pack up fresh tomato and mozzarella bruschetta sandwiches, chips, and drinks, and head out for our picnic lunch.
Having little ones in tow makes picnicking difficult – but even more memorable. Last year, when Rachel was pregnant with Baby Boy #2, we went on a big family vacation to the Outer Banks in North Carolina. It was the first time at the beach for Toddler Boy. He liked it-for about 30 minutes . Then he was ready to go back to the house to play in the pool. In the mornings me or my Dad would pick up cold cuts and fresh rolls from a nearby deli. I had grand aspirations at the start of that vacation to have picnics on the beach with Rachel and our little boy; the ocean, the sand, the seagulls. Whatever was I thinking?! Ah - naivety of a new Dad. That turned out to be far too messy and logistically difficult with a pregnant wife and 16 month old to make the trek to the beach with lunch. But we still got our picnic in, of sorts. After an early morning walking the beach looking for shells, playing, and digging in the sand, we would head back to the house with Toddler Boy. We made our sandwiches and ate at the kitchen table with the windows wide open, chatting with brothers, sisters, in-laws, and parents as they came and went from the beach. Now that we have two little boys, our picnics are closer to home these days. While it is hard to pack everybody up to get up to Bear Mountain or the beach, we can pack up and walk a few blocks to the park – or even just sit outside in the backyard (convenient in case a certain toddler makes a big mess and needs washing).
And you can bet the one thing we are always guaranteed to bring on our picnics is a big bag of Kettle Brand Chips. These are best paired with homemade dip. My favorite dip is Spinach Artichoke [recipe below] paired with your favorite flavor of Kettle Brand Chips, my recommendation would be Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper. Even the little guy is dipping his hand into the chips bag these days. The reason why I love Kettle Brand Chips is because they are committed to creating delicious chips using all natural ingredients, non-GMO oil and potatoes, without trans fats, MSG or preservatives. Real potatoes, cooked and seasoned with real ingredients, made by real people. You can feel good crunching on that.
Want something else to feel good about? We’re giving away a $100 Visa Gift Card giveaway to one lucky The Keenan Cookbook reader. How do you enter? Just leave a comment below answering this question. What do you include in your picnic basket? Now go make some picnic memories of your own
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*Recipe adapted from Everyday Food Magazine