The Friday-Evening Picnic Is the Perfect Spring ActivityPhoto by Mason Dahl/Unsplash Food Features Spring
It’s April; I’ve barely left my apartment for months. Or, at least, when I have, it’s begrudgingly, and I’m left counting the seconds until I can get back in front of my space heater, cup of tea in hand and no plans to leave again for the night. I live in Boston, and even though we’ve had a mild winter, something inside of me shrivels and dies once the sun starts setting at 4 p.m. But things are finally changing. The sun is staying out for longer, and we’re getting those random warm days that promise better, brighter, more exciting days on the horizon.
That’s why now is the perfect time to start planning for the Friday Evening Picnic, which is unequivocally the best way to start the weekend (unless, of course, you’re younger and more fun than me—I don’t know what to tell you, go take a shot or something).
Anatomy of the Friday Evening Picnic
Just imagine: It’s been a long day at work, but you leave the office or log off at 5 p.m. sharp. Working late is not an option; you have somewhere to be. It’s Friday. It’s warm out, but it’s not boiling. The sun is still shining—it’s got that early spring, full-of-potential sheen to it. The weekend is unwritten, splayed out before you like you hope to be at the beach in a matter of months. But for now, it’s time to prep for your picnic.
Preferably, the food will be in the fridge and ready to go by this time. You grab a blanket, some drinks and maybe some supplies for a fun activity: a soccer ball, some watercolors, a book. You are at the park by 6 or 6:30. Your friends are waiting there for you, and you snack and drink and talk about your weeks. You muse on the weekend plans you’ve already made and fantasize about how, the next morning, you’ll stay in bed until 10 a.m. with a cup of coffee, reading a book just for fun.
By the time the sun sets, you have two options. First, you could go home. You’ve done it; you went out on Friday night. But now, you still have the opportunity to get back early, get ready for bed and veg out watching HBO until you’re ready to tuck in for the night. Alternatively, if the picnic drinks imbue you with a burst of energy, you can go out to a restaurant or a brewery or a show. You’re already out, after all. This moment is all about potential without obligation, which is everything a Friday evening should be about.
The benefits? You’ll get to enjoy being outside, you’ll laugh with your friends, you’ll eat delicious food and you won’t be stuck with a $100 bar tab at the end of the night. You’ll fully embrace your Friday evening as it was meant to be embraced; you’ll be refreshed, rejuvenated and fully ready for the weekend. The drawbacks? None, unless your allergies are bad and you forgot to take your Zyrtec.
The Friday Evening Picnic Menu
The most essential part of any picnic, of course, is the spread, and I suggest having everything ready to go on Friday morning so you can get home and just pull everything out of the fridge at the last minute. First of all, the drinks: This is the perfect chance to try out those canned wines or canned cocktails you’ve been holding onto. A bottle of wine, preferably something funky and bubbly, is also a solid move. Beer is also an option, and it’s even better if you have a wide variety to choose from.
When it comes to your main dish, it’s important to keep things simple and easy to serve. Pasta salad is always my go-to because it’s easy to make ahead of time, and you can add pretty much anything you have on hand. I particularly like making a tortellini salad with some raw cruciferous veggies, pickled onions and some sliced deli meats in the mix. Sandwiches can also work here, or you can just pick up some charcuterie supplies so you don’t have to do any prep work at all. Ultimately, the goal is to serve something as simple and as un-fussy as possible.
Side dishes can come in many forms. Having a bag of chips or pretzels on hand is a great way to ensure you get your fix of the salty crunchiness you crave. Pre-made baked goods are always a smart option when you’re craving something that’s on the sweeter side. And in my mind, it wouldn’t be a picnic without a generous serving of fresh fruit.
Whether you’re looking for a more affordable alternative to going out on Friday night, or you just want the opportunity to build community over food, the Friday Evening Picnic is the perfect way to do it.
Samantha Maxwell is a food writer and editor based in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @samseating.