Eating outdoors can be one of life's greatest pleasures - whether it's a picnic at the beach or dining in your own back yard.
The art of picnicking began in the 18th century. A "picnic" meant a meal at which each guest contributed a different course - much like today's potluck supper. However, by the late 18th century, picnics had a new meaning: people eating cold and hot dishes outside.In the 19th century, picnics became an opportunity for respectable Victorian ladies and gentlemen to mingle with one another.
Even into the 20th century, picnics have continued to evolve as the traditional menu has been expanded to include new - and sometimes unusual - dishes.
You'll find plenty of suggestions for outdoor dining on the patio, at the park, or the beach in Jeanette P. Egan's "Picnics" (HP Books, Price Stern Sloan, $8.95).
Egan divides her "Picnics" into six chapters: About Picnics, Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter and All Seasons. About Picnics provides information on essential picnic equipment and food safety. The following chapters contain recipes suitable for holidays, picnicking at the beach or at the park, backyard cookouts, brunches and breakfasts.
For example, Egan's menu for a Labor Day picnic includes barbecued pork sandwiches, potato salad, coleslaw with raspberry vinaigrette and sour cream chocolate cake.
What is her favorite time of the year for a picnic?
"I particularly love picnics in the fall," she says, "because the leaves are so many beautiful colors, the air is crisp and the leaves crunch under your feet. But I like eating outdoors anytime - even in winter. Hot, hearty soups and beverages can make winter a festive season for picnicking."
BARBECUED PORK WITH TANGY BARBECUE SAUCE
1 rolled pork shoulder roast, about 4 pounds
Freshly ground pepper
1 can (15 oz.) tomato sauce
2 cups ketchup
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
2 teaspoons hot pepper sauce
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
Season roast with salt and pepper; bake about 11/2 hours at 350 degrees or until meat thermometer reaches 170 degrees.
Meanwhile, to make barbecue sauce, combine ingredients and simmer over low heat about 45 minutes.
Let roast stand 20 minutes; remove strings and slice. Finely chop; combine with hot sauce and serve on crusty roll. Makes 6 servings.
JOHN'S MOM'S POTATO SALAD
2 pounds potatoes
1 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup sweet pickles, chopped
1/4 cup pickle juice
3/4 cup mayonnaise
3/4 cup plain non-fat yogurt
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Peel and dice potatoes; drain and cool slightly. Stir in celery, onion and pickles, blending with potatoes as you stir. Drizzle pickle juice over mixture. Stir in mayonnaise, yogurt and mustard. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until chilled. Makes 6 servings.
COLESLAW WITH RASPBERRY VINAIGRETTE
3 cups green cabbage, finely shredded
2 cups red cabbage, finely shredded
1 carrot, shredded
2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar
2 tablespoon seasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon water
1/4 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
Combine cabbages and carrot in medium bowl. Toss with vinaigrette. Cover and refrigerate until chilled. Toss again to combine before serving. Serve chilled or at room temperature. Makes 6 servings.
For dressing, combine all ingredients in small jar with a tight-fitting lid; shake to combine.
SOUR CREAM CHOCOLATE CAKE
1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 cup boiling water
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
11/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
11/4 cups dairy sour cream
Sour Cream Chocolate Frosting:
1 package (12 oz.) milk chocolate chips
1/4 cup butter or margarine
3/4 cup dairy sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla
About 4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease a 9-by-13-inch pan.
Combine cocoa with a little of the water to make a paste; stir in remaining water and set aside to cool. Sift dry ingredients together; set aside.
Beat butter or margarine until light and fluffy. Beat in sugar, then eggs, one at a time. Add cocoa mixture and vanilla. Blend in flour mixture alternately with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour.
Pour into prepared pan; bake about 35 minutes. Cool and frost.
For frosting, melt chocolate and butter together over low heat. Cool slightly, then stir in sour cream and vanilla. Beat in enough sugar to make frosting a good spreading consistency. Makes 12-15 servings.