Picnics bring to mind two images: The first is a romanticised version: horse-drawn carriages in the countryside. Men in long coats and women in long skirts carrying big picnic hampers. And elaborate meals complete with china and silver spread out on the lawn on large white, pressed tablecloths. 

The second is my real-life experience taking small children on a picnic, sweating in the summer sun while packing the food together very carefully. Arriving at the park and carefully unpacking everything, only to have my toddler step in the cake after I set it on the ground.  

The reality is that a good picnic is a little bit romantic and a little bit humorous. With some planning and a little work, the picnic is a wellbeing luxury that everyone can add to their lives.

The best picnics I’ve been on were reasonably planned, potluck and, of course, elegant. Someone brings a big sheet, blanket or tablecloth for the ground and sets it with a real picnic basket or backpack with real plates, silverware and cloth napkins (although I always pack wipes and paper towels for spills). 

I usually bring several wood cutting boards to set up a selection of cheese and charcuterie, at least one baguette, and maybe a special salad or two.  Add a bowl of olives, some hummus, tzatziki, and carrot sticks and slices of green and red pepper for dipping. And, don’t forget watermelon, grapes, cherries, and strawberries for a sweet dessert. I’m big on bringing some fizz – either prosecco or champagne; a crisp white wine or rose, and sparkling water. Now, that’s a picnic! 

But that’s just the spread. 

A mindful picnic can be a mood-altering experience.  A picnic is about allowing time to stop and then being fully present. 

– Janine Mathó, @simply_eau_de_vie

Picnics offer time to be with nature: to sit or lay on the ground, to absorb your surroundings, notice the light, the air and how the clouds are moving – ripe moments for mindfulness. 

They present time to play: be it cards, a game of frisbee or catch, or maybe even fly a kite. Or time to be quiet, if you wish: to read a book or put your headphones on and listen to your favourite music. And picnics provide opportunities to laugh or to cry, to change your scenery.

A mindful picnic is a wonderful experience you’ll want to live fully and cherish.

One of my favourite picnics took place with very close friends when the initial COVID-19 lockdown restrictions in London had lifted, and it was all of the above. 

We struggled to find parking, carried our belongings in baskets and totes much further than we’d planned.  And, yes, a toddler did put his foot in the brie, but we quickly removed it and had a good laugh! 

A mindful picnic, I remember it clearly: just a moment in an otherwise long day, an evening in a park, in the long grass, in the sunset, distancing from others yet trying to pull them in close via smiles, laughter, empathy. It was the first step back to any form of normalcy, the first intimate glow of friendship we’d each experienced in roughly three months. 

We were all uplifted, breathing in each other’s company like oxygen, and enjoying our drinks and nibbles. I wished then that the evening wouldn’t end. The joy of that evening, of that single picnic, is forever imprinted on my heart. 

So, I encourage you to bring a little luxury into your life: the mindful picnic. 

Make a simple lunch or dinner and put it into a portable container. Pack up some plates, silverware, napkins and a blanket.  Select a destination, decide whether you’ll go it alone or with friends. 

Then, set a positive intention and turn an ordinary meal into an extraordinary memory.

That’s Simply Eau-de-Vie!

Note: Original article featured on Simply Eau-de-Vie, a blog which encourages well-being through a life made simple. We write about food & wine, house & garden, and mindful moments. Follow us on Instagram or Facebook for regular updates.