Picnics & Potlucks

Gear up for summer gatherings

Picnics & Potlucks

Cheers to the potluck and its delicious history!

“Luck of pot” may sound like an Irish saying but the word potluck dates back to when uninvited guests would show up hungry at mealtime and were fed whatever was simmering in the family pot. Today the term describes a gathering where each invited guest contributes a favourite dish to be shared by the whole party.

For all of you history buffs—the word first appeared in writing in the works of 16th-century playwright and satirist Thomas Nashe. In his piece Strange News, Nashe says, “I’ll be your daily orator to pray that that pure sanguine complexion of yours may never be famished with pot-luck.”

So that you may never be famished with pot-luck, try your hand at one of these classic picnic recipes. The menu serves four, but if you are feeding a bigger crowd, just double the recipes. For a more organized potluck picnic, delegate one to two recipes per family attending.


Mixed Bean Salad courtesy of Mairlyn Smith’s Healthy Starts Here (Whitecap, 2011).


Picnic packing 101

1. The number one rule for food safety is to keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. Whether you use ice packs or ice cubes, you need to keep all of the foods in your insulated cooler bag cold. I like to freeze 100 percent pure fruit juice in Tetra Pak packaging to use as part of my cold source. They keep the food cold and thaw out by mid-picnic, becoming an icy cold drink for the late afternoon or early evening.

2. Pack the food that needs to stay cold into an insulated cooler bag, then layer your cold source between the containers, ending up with a cold source on top. Cold air is heavier than hot air and falls, keeping all of the packed food cold and safe.

3. Store the cooler in the coolest place at the picnic site and never in the car. The best place is in the shade, covered with a blanket.

4. Wicker baskets are really cute, but never store your perishable food in them. You need an insulated cooler bag for that job. I keep my wicker basket packed with nonbreakable dishes (I like compostable bamboo dishes), cutlery, serviettes, a face cloth in a plastic bag, a first aid kit, a roll of toilet paper, bug spray, hand sanitizer, sunscreen, and bags for garbage, recycling, and any compostable items such as apple cores.

5. Don’t overpack food for your next picnic. Pack just enough food that you know you’ll eat. Food that’s left over and has been out in the sun needs to get the heave-ho when you get home. You can’t see or smell bacteria so be smart—don’t taste it, just pitch it.

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