The other evening I was lamenting that my favorite activity of the warmer weather, picnicking, was to be had no more until next year. It became a Saturday ritual to visit the farmer's markets in the area, pick out the most appetizing local fodder, and enjoy it on a blanket with friends and family in a scenic locale. Though it's true the warm weather has flown the Canadian coop, I realized that we don't have to stop this great weekend tradition of gathering outdoors with family and enjoying home-grown flavors: you might even find the Winter version more charming!
My family tried one a few weekends ago, and while it was cold and we forgot a few things (who brings wine and no corkscrew?!), we had a fantastic time and that's what matters. Here are a few things to prep, a few things to eat, and a few things to bring on your own Winter picnic:
PREP: We selected our location first so that we knew how far we needed to walk, and that we were permitted to make a fire. We decided to hike in to one of our favorite Provincial Parks that is closed for the season as it has easy trails, large wood planked picnic tables, and great views.
EAT: What is available locally is obviously seasonally determined in Canada due to temperature changes, but that doesn't mean we should cease trying to shop in our neighborhoods during the Winter months. It's important to support farmers and artisans in our community year round! A day or two before, my Mom and I gathered (proudly) all Okanagan products for our feast. *blue cheese from Upper Bench Winery & Creamery in Naramata, B.C.*
EAT: Some delicious items to bring during this season would be rustic loaves and crackers, assorted nuts (I gathered some walnuts courtesy of the tree in my courtyard), cheeses, preserves, late harvest fruit, pickled selections, game meats and sausages, kettle corn, red wine or craft beer from your area, and a fun sweet treat like different flavored artisan marshmallows. *Wine from Upper Bench Winery in Naramata and Mission Hill Winery in West Kelowna*
BRING: Make a list of what utensils, tools, and dishes you want to bring, then check it off as you pack up. If you look closely at this photo, proof exists that if one tool is forgotten (a corkscrew), then another may take it take it's place in times of great need (the blunt end of a screwdriver). Necessity is the mother of invention, and great aunt twice removed to wine drinkers. I think.*reserve pinot noir from Mission Hill Estate Winery*
BRING: We chose to bring heavy ceramic dishes, mugs, and boards to put food on and drink in. The weight of them ensured nothing toppled over if a breeze came up, and they kept other objects like the blankets and tables clothes in place. We also made like it was our dining room and brought cloth napkins, and a giant table runner. Because, plaid.
PREP: While the food was gathered and packed before hand, we decided that we would cut anything we needed at the actual site, and that the fire was going to do any and all of the cooking. This could be changed by prepping hot items at home like soup or chilli, but it was actually great to roast up whatever we wanted in little bits with sticks over the fire. Sort of like an outdoor fondue! The fire always works for heating up water for coffee and tea, mulling wine in a pot, and the classic marshmallow roasting (see below; maple syrup on er'thing).
BRING: Men. The male portion of my family hauled the firewood down in a wheelbarrow, chopped wood, and made a mean fire for us all whilst wearing plaid, beards, and Canadian tuxes. Jokes aside, the wheelbarrow was really helpful not only to bring supplies down for the fire, but then to carry any waste or recycling back up to the truck. Remember if you have a fire, to plan a way to put it out when you leave, and bring garbage/composting bags to ensure you leave the spot you used looking pristine!
BRING: Ways to keep warm. Dress in layers, have waterproof footwear, and have fingerless gloves with the flap over top to more easily grab or use tools without taking them off completely. I brought a light bench from my deck and covered it with sheepskins and blankets. Later, we moved the bench closer to roast food and would drape the warm blankets around us if we needed to move away from the fire for a bit. I also brought a crate and several baskets as they contain everything for carrying to and from the site, but also served as rests for plates, cups, and our trusty lantern.