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Lunch Al Fresco, with a Side of Sunshine and a Few Life Lessons

by Elyse Glickman

Oct 25, 2019

Sandy Noto


Barbeque season may be over in much of the United States, but fall just may be the best time to head out for a picnic, whether it’s on a family weekend getaway to a state or national park or around the corner at your neighborhood park or forest preserve. The temperatures are pleasantly cool, the leaves are bright and annoyances such as insects are fewer and further between.


Furthermore, an impromptu picnic presents you and the kids opportunities to learn about good, healthy things to eat during fall harvests and some good common-sense environmental practices. According to Amanda Torres and Managing Partner Phil Baber of Paulette’s Public Market in Chicago, having the kids get involved in the picnic prep process is part of the fun.

Paulette’s. Photo: Sandy Noto


“A good picnic should be well-balanced,” says Torres. “Kids can help you choose a few pieces of seasonally appropriate fruit (a must), along with a small selection of cheeses and charcuterie. Our favorites at Paulette’s are Manchego, Brie, a hard salami or bresaola. Have your local deli wrap up your meats and cheeses in paper or plastic bags to ensure that they make it to the site intact. Items like rotisserie chicken or prepared salads also work well for picnics. Greek vegetable and marinated beet salads are go-to’s. With dessert, portion-controlled lemon bars, cookies, brownies and fruit tarts will definitely be a hit.”


Torres notes kids observing the shop’s picnic packing practices can be informative and reinforce good everyday eating and school lunch packing habits that will serve them well down the road. Plus, when kids observe the selection of all the components of the dishes during the shopping processes, it will ensure no one will experience allergic reactions and everybody will eat well.


In terms of helping keeping the park or forest litter-free, containers for food and cups for beverages should either be reusable or recyclable. Cute cloth napkins class up any picnic, and makes for less waste as they can be tossed in with the rest of your laundry. If you’re worried about keeping anything cold, good old-fashioned ice packs always work.


Picnic with the family. Photo: Andor Bujdoso | Dreamstime.com


We like the ability to personalize your picnic, so we steer away from pre-packed baskets,” she said. “This way you can choose specific items for each member of your family, based on their personal tastes and dietary needs. People are becoming more conscious of packaging, which is great. We love seeing people use reusable glass containers and washable cloth napkins at their picnics. Here at Paulette’s we allow guests to bring in their own containers for our prepared salads which definitely helps eliminate waste.”


Baber noted the process of buying picnic items and dishes is more fun when shopping locally at small businesses or farmers markets and supporting the local economy — a small civics lesson. Furthermore, if you’re in another part of the country, there’s an opportunity to get kids to try something new when buying locally crafted sides and sauces not available at a large grocer or at markets in your own neighborhood.


Roast Beef at Paulette’s. Photo: Sandy Noto


“The best thing about planning and executing your own picnic experience is that it’s personally yours,” affirmed Baber. “You can mix and match dishes to fit your mood and, best of all, you have full control over what you are serving.”


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