Style: Relaxed elegance for a fall picnic
Sometimes you just have to escape to a quiet spot in nature and drink in. Especially in the fall, when Mother Nature is particularly showy in her dress.
Where we live in the Midwest, we are blessed with all types of terrain to explore. I grew up in a historic river town on the banks of the Missouri River, with steep stone bluffs, covered in trees, breaking down to the water in dramatic sweeps. All around us are heavily wooded forests that are brilliant in the fall. Of course, there is lots of open prairie, filled with native grasses and sunflowers, lit up like fire in the fall evening light.
There is no better way to experience nature near you than to pack up your car with a movable feast and go for a fall picnic. It could be as simple as finding a secluded spot in a nearby park, as adventurous as exploring the country lanes on the outskirts of your community or as ambitious as a road trip to a state or national park.
We escaped to my friends Beth and Mike’s home out in the country, with its acres of peaceful woods and pastures. Mike let us commandeer his vintage Triumph TR6 to add a bit of romance to our alfresco picnic for two on a path through the forest.
I learned in France that the simplest meal can be out-of-this-world delicious if you select the right ingredients. So we packed our wicker picnic basket with fresh baked artisan breads, apples fresh picked from Beth and Mike’s orchard, an assortment of gourmet cheeses and chilled champagne. We filled a little vintage-inspired plaid Thermos with coffee to perk us up for the drive home.
Fall can be a rainy season in the Midwest, and the ground is often damp and muddy. So we decided to forgo a picnic blanket and instead packed a petite bamboo table and canvas campaign chairs. Warm plaid blankets were close at hand in case the weather became a bit chilly.
When I dine outdoors, I love to use my best china and crystal and silver because it feels especially indulgent and unexpected to sip from a champagne flute and eat from an antique plate when you are in a rugged setting. It’s a bit thrilling to break the made-up rule that you can’t really use your prettiest things, that they need to be locked away in a china cabinet for “special occasions.”
This fall, steal a moment to forest bathe or lose yourself in a wide open space far from the madding crowd. Dust off your picnic basket and fill it with everything you’ll need to set an indulgent spread. Swing by a gourmet market and pick up a simple but tasty feast. Put your favorite beverages on ice. And go explore.
This column was adapted from Mary Carol Garrity's blog at nellhills.com.