Seating themselves on the greensward, they eat while the corks fly and there is talk, laughter and merriment, and perfect freedom, for the universe is their drawing room and the sun their lamp.
- Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin
As children, we always seemed to be reading about picnics. We were thrilled by Nancy Drew's lakeside picnic lunches with Ned, replete with devilled eggs and a healthy dollop of adventure. And we were charmed by Laura Ingalls Wilder's prairie picnics of bread, butter, cheese, hard-boiled eggs, and cookies. But it was Frances, the sassy badger, who truly won us over to picnics in Best Friends for Frances. We can still remember Frances's attempt to get even with lunch-box gourmand Albert by bragging about the contents of her picnic hamper:
Nothing much. Hard-boiled eggs and whole fresh tomatoes. Carrot and celery sticks. There are some cream cheese-and-chives sandwiches, I think, and cream cheese-and-jelly sandwiches too, and salami-and-egg and pepper-and-egg sandwiches. Cole slaw and potato chips, of course. Ice-cold root beer packed in ice, and watermelon and strawberries and cream for dessert. And there are things I forget, like black and green olives and pickles and Popsicles and probably some pretzels and things like that. And there are salt and pepper shakers and napkins and a checked tablecloth, which is the way girls do it.Checked table cloths, tiny salt and pepper shakers: no wonder Herman Melville described picnics as "that faint semblance of Eden."
Aesthetically, we prefer our picnics to be packed in a wicker baskets. If one is picnicking outside on a hot day, however, insulation is a neccessity (food poisoning is never in fashion.) And while we love the idea of packing bone china, silver, and crystal, we realize that materials like melamine and enamelware are a lot more practical. We love the insulated Picnic & Beyond backpack that we've had for years to keep our devilled eggs on ice. It's both pretty and practical.
While picnic fare is a personal choice, we love tea sandwiches, pasta salad, fresh fruit, and a big thermos full of iced tea (Rishi Tea's Blueberry Hibiscus is always delish.) Remember to throw in a blanket to sit on (we have a plaid LL Bean number, but wouldn't kick this Hermès Avalon out of bed for eating crackers.)
Personally, we think that a picnic without chocolate chip cookies is simply uncivilized, so we wanted to share our recipe for Possibly the Best Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever.
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs (we use egg substitute)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat butter and sugars together with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.
Blend in eggs (or egg substitute.)
Gradually add flour mix, beating until smooth.
Beat in vanilla extract.
Stir in chocolate chips.
Drop batter by tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet, 3 inches apart.
Bake 10-12 minutes until golden brown.
Makes four dozen (meaning three dozen for the picnic and a dozen for the cook!)
Toss them into a bag or a vintage cookie tin and you're good to go -- even if you only travel as far as your living room floor.