As my fellow coworker and hula hoop instructor put it rather matter-of-factly, “It’s miniskirt weather, who’s ready?” Indeed, it’s the time of year when men and women of all shapes and sizes prematurely squeeze into last year’s summer clothing, even if NY 1’s “Weather on the 1” advises lingering lows. Warm weather means many things: outdoor seating, rooftop barbeques and the most adorable tradition of all… picnics.
On an oddly balmy day in April, I made my way to Strawberry Fields in Central Park and found an assortment of humankind picnicking on the city’s green lawns. Families stretched out on blankets, equipped with plastic plates, cutlery and coolers full of store-bought potato salad and cold cuts. A man in a suit sat alone, plowing through a deli sandwich, the knot of his tie at half-mast. A beautiful olive-skinned woman in a black bikini lay stomach-down, one hand gripping a pack of Camels, the other fidgeting with an iPod. Unbathed adolescents in torn shorts flipped hacky sacks from head to toe. A group of freshly shaven frat boys put down cans of Miller High Life while tossing a hyper-colored football to and fro. Dogs wearing cute shorts and sun hats wove though the maze of picnic blankets in search of lunch-hour scraps. It was the first of the summer-like days, an advertisement of what’s to come.
Instead of buying an overpriced concession stand hot dog, visit a good Italian deli and buy some fine meat and cheeses. Then head over to the bakery and pick up a nice loaf of bread. Lastly, swing by the liquor store and get a bottle of red or a cool wine to wash down your Italian submarine sandwich. Grab a blanket and join the zoo; it’s time to show some skin.
The Perfect Picnic Sandwich Serves 2
1 French baguette
1/4 pound mortadella
1/4 pound capicola
1/4 pound hard salami
1 ball of fresh mozzarella, sliced thinly
1/2 cup roasted red peppers
Kosher salt and pepper
Slice the baguette in half, width-wise. Then slice open both halves, without cutting through the bread. Layer the meats, one at a time across the length of the sandwich. Then layer the cheese and red peppers. Drizzle the sandwich with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and sprinkle it with salt and fresh ground pepper. Wrap it in foil, shove it in a brown paper bag and throw in some napkins or paper towels. Don’t forget to pick up a bottle of red on the way.
Portaging food from your kitchen to the great outdoors, although precarious, can be a pleasant undertaking, if done properly. Only bring items that can be eaten or thrown away. No one wants to haul dirty Tupperware home. Pack foods that can be eaten with your hands; sandwiches are ideal. Using a knife or fork is far too civilized for eating on the ground, don’t you think? And finally, always bring a bottle of wine and an opener. Hemingway taught me that a bottle of wine at noon ensures a nice
afternoon nap in the sun.