“Aarrghh! There are ants in the picnic basket!’ is a shriek that is not unfamiliar to me. And my usual response has always been “So? They’re on a picnic as well. Besides, they’re a great source of protein so it’s ok if you munch on a few. Think of them as sprinkles on your egg salad sandwich” to very disgusted and incredulous looks from my fellow picnickers. What they cannot process is whether I meant what I said about eating the ants or that they would readily eat them in order to eat my sandwiches.
I have landed up being the sole elected caterer of all the picnics and why not? I believe it’s not a picnic without two important and non-negotiable elements. A wallow in the nearest pond, river, pool, sea or the least suspect water body and a fabulous, fabulous picnic lunch. No bag of chips and a couple of vada paos and a banana in a baggy for me. No sir, that does not a picnic lunch make. That poor feast is what one gives a guy on his armoured car ride to prison.
I like picnics where I can take my paneer tikka roll and wade out to the nearest rock or go perch up a shady tree or just be handed my meal while I float around the water comfortable in my inflatable tyre tube… I like a lunch that is not fussy and doesn’t require a dozen implements to serve or to eat. And one that most definitely leaves a cleaner environment behind. No scattered plastic forks and plates, or wads of tissue paper and cups.
So, leave the complicated puri bhaji, pulao curry type wet meals alone. Unless they’re being professionally catered and served hot. Do you really want to eat cold, limp oily, puris or a soggy pav bhaji on your day out? Would you eat them like that at home? Sure, these are easy to make in one giant batch for a large group of people but, seriously? Cold, congealed biryani?
Instead, plan your picnic food to be low on oil and spice because the hot sun, long drives and heaving seas won’t be kind to you after that kind of food.
Try making single serve stuff like sandwiches and wraps, individual portions of cold casseroles, individual pizza slices or pita pizzas. On the Indian front too, make light tikka or vegetable rolls, stuffed parathas or vegetable theplas. Maybe you can sandwich them with cheese or a condiment. Take a stuffed Bombay toast or stuff some poi or a pita pocket with masala chana. Make a large but non drippy salad that can even be handed out in like a san choy bow. Pack a hamper with light, convenient but hearty meals that are perfect for active, hot and tiring days out with friends. An ice locker of beer, bottles of summery coolers, loads of yummy goodies, an inflatable tyre tube to buffalo yourself in and you’re good to go!
Go forth, pork out and make merry! But please, please be responsible for your garbage. Do not leave your trash behind. Carry empty garbage bags and carry your trash back with you to a responsible drop off point. I’m assuming you’re educated since you’re reading this so please behave like you are.
Remember to pick up all the plastic, paper, polystyrene, glass, tin foil, cling wrap scrap you have used and bag it back. And yes, please do not leave leftover and spoilt food out for animals to find. Dig a deep enough pit and bury it. If spoilt food is bad for you, it’s bad for the animals. And no, they are not starving in the wild. Sharing your sandwich with the ants is good enough.
While, I’m begging you to pick up your own garbage, I don’t imagine too many people have a heart big enough to go one step further and pick up after the pigs who have been there before them. There is no shame in collecting garbage, anyone’s garbage, to keep a shrinking bit of paradise green for a little bit longer. I do it and trust me; little things do make a difference. You’ll sleep better tonight and your kids will thank you tomorrow.