In praise of the summer picnic

It’s so easy not to go on a picnic.

At the beginning of summer, the weeks seem to stretch endlessly before us, holding such promise of idle hours in hammocks and exquisite al fresco meals, chief among them, the glorious picnic.

But far too many times in the past I’ve let a summer fill up with work and chores and obligatory gatherings and not enough of the iconic moments we think of when we think about summer. Somehow Labour Day arrives and it dawns on me that I haven’t been on a single damn picnic. Having kids helps with that. I’m not saying that we’ve always gone on tonnes of quality-family-time picnics (or enough trips to the beach or camping trips, for that matter). But seeing how much enjoyment they get from the very notion of eating on a blanket helps me to make it happen.

This summer we’re doing well in the picnic department. Our first was a lunch in Stanley Park on a trip to Vancouver to visit family. The second came just a few days later on B.C.’s gorgeous Galiano Island. There we had an enormous expanse of moss-covered rock all to ourselves and could watch the ferries squeeze through Active Pass as we dined. We were spending the day on Galiano to celebrate my son’s 11th birthday, so the usual sandwiches and potato salad were accompanied by decadent birthday cupcakes. It was divine.

And today we managed a picnic in High Park, which is close to our Toronto home. Carrying a picnic basket loaded with buns, smoked salmon, pickles, various cheeses and a couple of salads, we tromped along our favourite trails until we reached a stretch of lovely grass just right for a summer picnic. We spread out our old reliable picnic quilt (a St. Lawrence Market find) and a gingham table cloth my mom made in home ec when she was a girl. Everything was extra delicious the way it always is when you’re outdoors. The bugs weren’t even that bad.

Here’s the thing. If you want to go on more picnics, you’ve got to stop thinking of the picnic as a big production.  It’s not a thing that needs a plan, an email thread and a shared potluck spreadsheet. You don’t need the perfect menu. Hell, you don’t even need to cook. If it gets you eating on a blanket in the park, pick up some sandwiches at the deli and go enjoy yourself. I’ve purchased take-out sushi and had it in the park for a weeknight dinner, and I expect I’ll do so again.

When everyone has had their full of whatever it is you’re dining on that day, stretch out on your blanket together and just be. That just might be the most delicious part of all.

in praise of summer picnics

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Brandie Weikle

About Brandie Weikle

Brandie is a long-time parenting editor, writer and spokesperson. Most recently editor-in-chief of Canadian Family magazine, Brandie has also been the parenting and relationships editor for the Toronto Star, founding editor of two Toronto Star websites, and an editor for Today's Parent. Brandie is a single mother of two in Toronto and a frequent television and radio guest on parenting topics. A former digital director at House & Home Media, she also consults on digital audience engagement. Contact her here. View all posts by

'In praise of the summer picnic' have 2 comments

  1. August 6, 2014 @ 1:38 am Leslee

    I love the idea of picnics but for some reason I just never seem to be able to get my act together. You’ve inspired me. This upcoming Sunday is now officially “Family Picnic Day”!


    • Brandie Weikle

      August 6, 2014 @ 3:26 am Brandie Weikle

      So glad to hear it! I think it’s about just deciding to go and about lowering the bar, particularly if there’s no time to shop for fancy cheese and stuff. For the picnic above, I had my lovely mom visiting. She made the delish potato salad and helped us get organized, but a picnic with just some sandwiches would have been fun, too.


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