After so many months of being cooped up indoors, all I want to do is spend time outside, soaking up the sun. I'll be wearing 50 spf sunscreen and a hat, but you get the idea! I love to go to the beach with a picnic or spend the day in someone's back yard for a fire and a cookout. Somehow the everyday stuff of eating is just so much better outside. I was inspired by a recent article in the New York Times Magazine called "Into The Wild" to make the most out of our first picnic of the season: Summer Sound at Tanglewood. The article is a little over the top but this quote caught my attention:
"Picnics might be the one activity that Victorian officiousness improved, because the only difference between “picnicking” and “eating outside” — which for most of history was just “eating” — is the pleasurable collision between human refinements and the places and energies in the natural world that have, so far, escaped them."
And it's not just enjoyable to relax and eat outside surrounded by the energies of nature, it's also necessary for your health! There's that dose of Vitamin D you've been missing since last October and just being outside, even if it's not sunny, can give your brain a boost. Spending time in nature can help you clear your mind, so skip the afternoon coffee and take a walk outside to get energized by the life all around you.
According to this article by the Huffington Post, "Spending time in nature has been shown to lower stress levels," says Seattle-based environmental psychologist Judith Heerwagon. "Just looking at a garden or trees or going for a walk, even if it's in your own neighborhood, reduces stress," she says. "I don't think anyone understands why, but there's something about being in a natural setting that shows clear evidence of stress reduction, including physiological evidence -- like lower heart rate."
The lawn at Tanglewood this past weekend was full of families and friends enjoying a cloudless sunny day full of music, dancing and of course, good food. I bet most of them were unaware that whiling the day away outside was doing good things for their overall health!
Drinks: the one thing you really must keep cold for your picnic, so plan ahead to keep your drinks refreshing. We packed some beer Dana brewed in a stainless steel insulated growler, which works for any beverage, even carbonated ones!
Eats: On a picnic, anything goes as long it can be served cold-ish. I decided to try to assemble an outdoor feast featuring some of the best foods made right here in Berkshire county. First stop, the Downtown Pittsfield Farmers Market. Fresh produce makes for colorful, healthy salads. Here's one of my favorites:
- 1/4 cup whole milk yogurt or mayonnaise (or a mix of the two)
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar or Fire Cider
- salt, to taste
- 5 cups raw broccoli (florets and stems), chopped
- 1/4 cup raisins
- 1/4 cup roasted, salted sunflower seeds
Mix the yogurt/mayonnaise in a small bowl with the vinegar or Fire Cider and salt.
In a separate bowl, combine the broccoli and raisins.
Add the dressing to the broccoli and raisins and toss well to combine. Top with the sunflower seeds. Best when made several hours ahead of serving!
Whether you are going to a full day event or just taking a 20 minute lunch break, food is best served outdoors this time of year. Now that the Downtown Pittsfield Farmers Market is happening on the Common every Saturday, you can shop and picnic all in one place. See you out there!