How to Live like the French--Part V: Picnic Anywhere

Photo credit: Rubber Slippers in Italy, via Flickr

This is part five of five of my series, “Live like the French—Wherever You Live.” And it’s perhaps the easiest. All you need to is pack a picnic blanket in the trunk of your car. And maybe a little basket of utensils–cutlery, plates, wine glasses. Next time you’re driving around and ready to grab a sandwich at a deli, do so, but go to a park to eat it.

The French dine outdoors for many reasons; perhaps the temperate climate and curious lack of bugs tops the list. Also, for the most part, their homes are not nearly as expansive as the average American house–cramped quarters makes one yearn to get outside. Too, the French are voyeurs—they enjoy people-watching perhaps more than any culture I know. And so their city parks and autoroute “aires” (commercial rest stops), campgrounds and tiny road-side stops are filled with picnickers quietly enjoying their pâté, charcuterie, bread, salads, tarts, and wine, while keeping a casual eye on anyone who passes by.

So, whats to eat? There’s nothing un-French about just picking up a sandwich, spreading a blanket on a picnic table in some park, opening a bottle of mineral water, and enjoying the open air. Finish with a couple of your favorite commercial cookies. I’ve seen French couples and families do this all the time, and they always look like they’re having the time of their lives when they’re doing it.

Gather Tabbouli, Charcuterie, Cheese, Olives, and call it a picnic.

But many pique-niques—especially when on vacation—go well beyond that. Common, easy-to-enjoy food in France is charcuterie—cured meats such as salami, prosciutto, and pâtés—along with cheeses, deli salads (such as roasted beet salad, celeri remoulade, and carottes râpes). Mini-tarts, brought from the bakery, would be brought out for dessert. And a bottle of wine generally graces the table, as do plenty of bottles of cool mineral water. It’s a no-cook-needed picnic (if you live in France). And it can stretch for hours into a lazy afternoon somewhere beautiful.

In the U.S., you can do much the same. Most mid-sized cities (even here in Amerique Profonde) have delis that offer charcuterie and some decent salads; if not, make a few of mine….The important thing is to just get outside, spread that blanket, and have the time of your life. Starting today, perhaps?

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