Tuesday, June 2, 2020
June 2, 2020

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Socially distanced picnics made easy

Make two sets of carefully prepared foods for safe outing

2 Photos
Two sets of prepared meals set to be packed up for a socially distanced picnic in New Milford, Conn.
Two sets of prepared meals set to be packed up for a socially distanced picnic in New Milford, Conn. (Katie Workman) Photo Gallery

Every milestone or holiday that comes and goes in quarantine feels like a pinch. We Zoom, we FaceTime, we wish each other well on social media, we send cards and gifts.

So this year, I’ll be packing two “baskets” for one socially distanced picnic.

For example, I’ll leave a pre-packed picnic on my mom’s doorstep, having prepared it with gloves and mask and wiping it down according to CDC guidelines. Then later, we’ll meet her around back. She can bring her food out, and we can bring ours.

Some tips for a socially distanced picnic:

Be considerate when arranging seating. When we all visit my mom outside, we make sure we’re not sitting in our group of four as she sits 6 feet off to the side; we all sit 6-plus feet apart, so everyone feels included.

Keep the food simple. You are there to see each other, and that’s the essential thing.

There are no “right foods” to bring to a picnic, but there are things to avoid. You want sturdy food that requires little preparation at the picnic itself. Pack items that are perfect at room temperature, and are either finger or fork foods.

Some of my favorite picnic foods are salads: bean salads; grain salads; green salads; pasta salads; egg salads; chicken salads; or tinned fish salads, like salmon salads or tuna fish. Or sandwiches, from a BLT to pulled-pork sandwiches to a vegetarian sub.

Other good portable foods include quiches, cold chicken and poached salmon. Wedges of frittata are nice if you can pick them up by hand.

More side options are mixed vegetable salads and slaws. Potato salad is a classic.

And there’s nothing wrong with packaged snacks — my Mom has a deep, abiding love for potato chips, and if I packed a bag of those and a little stack of oatmeal cookies with a thermos of hot coffee, she would be a happy camper.

Pack drinks, too. You can stick with water, juice or soda, or put together a mocktail or cocktail; fill a bottle for you and a bottle for her. Don’t forget dessert: Skip the messier layer cake and fruit pie and go instead with brownies, bar cookies or drop cookies.

Put the appropriate number of disposable plates, utensils, serving utensils, napkins, cups, etc., in each picnic container, all sealed in another plastic bag. Add a garbage bag to each container too.

Emphasize safety: Make sure everybody keeps their distance ALL the time, and doesn’t touch the same items.