After a successful introduction and first date, Bill (who is now my husband but at that time was just another nice guy) asked me out for a second time. Looking to avoid the sometimes overzealous wait staff and loud-talking patrons at the local eateries, he planned the perfect get-to-know each other date: the picnic.
Our romantic lakeside menu consisted of chicken salad on croissant, a small pasta salad, a bunch of grapes and a bottle of wine complete with glass stemware. (He actually brought a white and a red given that he didn’t know my preference at the time — how sweet!)
The afternoon was divine, but luckily Bill had more than romance on his mind and was savvy enough to follow some basic food safety tips. If not, my dreamy memories might be replaced with those of me curled over a commode barfing up my chicken salad.
Sorry guys, the romance part is on you. But I can offer some basic guidelines to ensure that your lunch and picnic (Happy Picnic Week!) will remain bacteria free.
9 Food Safety Tips for a Picnic
1. Start cold. Prepare food in advance and give it time to thoroughly chill in the refrigerator. It’s safer and easier to keep perishables cool once they are at the correct temperature.
2. Size counts. There’s no need to tote your 150-quart Coleman when the nine-quart size will suffice. Packed to the brim, a full cooler will maintain the proper temperature longer.
3.They’re washable. I’ll bet it’s been a while, so give your cooler a good bath first.
4. Ice, ice baby. Keep bacteria in check by maintaining a temperature below 40 degrees. Use a heavy duty insulated cooler and plenty of ice.
5. Keep it clean. Grab a pack of those anti-bacterial moist towelettes for a quick swipe before you eat and for sticky hands after.
6. Can’t touch this. When grilling out, keep uncooked food away from the cooked stuff and never partially cook anything.
7. Turn up the AC. Keep the cooler up front in the car, closer to the air conditioner. A hot trunk will only tax your cooler and melt your ice.
8. Keep it separated. Consider two coolers, one for food and one for drinks. The lid on the drink cooler is opened more often, especially in a crowd.
9. We’re having a heat wave. If the temperature is above 80 degrees, pack your food away after an hour. Anything longer and you risk getting salmonella.
Be safe and turn on the charm. The picnic is a sure fire way to win her heart.
Let’s hear those romantic picnic stories! —Karen