Picnic Pleasure

There is something about going on a picnic that defines the essence of summer. Growing up we picnicked a lot at the picnic table at the back of the yard under a big cherry tree. We picnicked except when the cherries ripened, and the birds feasted on the tiny, sweet cherries producing an awful mess. After “cherry season” we scrubbed that picnic table of cherry pits and cherry juice, and it became ours again.

Picnics come in every form many times producing nostalgic memories. The other day I witnessed (from a distance of course) a memory being made under an arbor in a beautiful wildflower garden*.

A grandmother and her two little granddaughters were sharing a simple lunch of lemonade and sandwiches. As grandmother poured the lemonade, she pretended it was exotic lemonade from a far away land made with the most special lemons ever grown. The sandwiches were made with bread from a royal bakery. The bread was spread with the sweetest strawberry jelly prepared from brilliant red strawberries and with peanut butter made by squirrels who were the only squirrels who knew how to collect the most perfect peanuts.

No doubt these little girls will forever remember this picnic. (I will!) Many happy memories of food travel with us through life. Why does food hold such power in our memories and why are picnics special?

Picnics can be little or big events, spontaneous or planned with the intention to do something different and special, a moment in time shared with special people, maybe in a unique location and most often outside. Summer doesn’t have to have first dibs on the picnic idea. A “winter” picnic shared in front of the fireplace is always a good venue.

Chances are you remember picnics from childhood or a maybe special one touched with romance. What often makes a picnic memorable is that it promotes psychological happiness, nostalgia and positive relationship memories. The setting, the food, the people or person you were with was rich with pleasure. The moment produced a sense of comfort and happy feelings that triggered the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine is about motivation, reward, and pleasure allowing your brain to remember and store positive feelings.

Plan a picnic. Invite your person or people. Find a basket- a basket is essential for ambience. A cooler doesn’t add much to the scene but is essential. Plan a menu- simple or elaborate. Select a picnic spot.

Kids love themes. Try a Peter Rabbit picnic with beloved “stuffed rabbits” and of course, carrots. Have a date night picnic no matter what your age is. Start the weekend with a breakfast or sunrise picnic.

Let your summer be blessed by a picnic.

*Should you want to find the wildflower garden, you must make a trip to Wayne, PA and treat yourself to the Chanticleer – A Pleasure Garden. www.Chanticleergarden.org

Recipe Tip

PICNIC CHICKEN SALAD

This recipe works well using a rotisserie chicken cut in bite-size pieces.

Combine 5 cups of chicken pieces with 1 cup of small grapes or larger grapes cut in half, 1/2 cup sliced celery, 1/3 cup finely chopped green onion, 1/3 cup finely chopped sweet pickle, 1/3 cup lightly toasted slivered almonds, and 1/3 cup dried cranberries.

Make a dressing of 1/3 cup mayonnaise mixed with 1 tablespoon sweet pickle juice. Stir into chicken mixed. Season with salt to taste.  Servings: 4

Serve with cantaloupe wedges.

Written by: Mimi Cunningham, Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist, Diabetes Educator

Mimi Cunningham is a dietitian-nutritionist living in Eagle, Idaho. Her nutrition specialty is diabetes education and management. She loves writing about embracing healthy eating as fun plus a route to good health. She serves as a member of the Idaho Foodbank board of directors addressing food insecurity as a challenge to good health for Idaho children and adults.

On behalf of Smart Strategies for Successful Living, our sincerest appreciation goes to Mimi Cunningham for her contribution to our community website and commitment to healthy living and aging.