10 picnic basket essentials


A picnic spread out by Micah and Rosemary Orliss before an outdoor movie screening at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. 

(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

For the disorganized or those who are list-challenged, the idea of putting together a splendid picnic — or any picnic at all — can be challenging. You can forget the forks, the napkins, the potato salad or even, God forbid, the wine. You always forget something. To ensure that outdoor meal away from home is a success, we’ve put together a short list of picnic essentials. 

1. A blanket big enough to spread out the meal and fit all the picnickers too. Bring an extra in case somebody gets in a huff and wants to go off by himself or herself.

2. A sturdy corkscrew that also functions as a bottle opener. Nothing too precious. It could be one of those simple waiters’ corkscrews sold at most wine shops. If you’re thinking Swiss army knife, make sure you remember where you put it. (I’m still regretting the one I somehow left in a park in Chianti.)

3. Plastic or acrylic wine glasses. These are inexpensive and can be used again and again rather than thrown away. The best are from the brand Govino, made from BPA-free polymer and available at most wine shops and many retailers. They’re stemless, with a good bowl shape and an indentation for your thumb.


4. Maldon salt and a pepper grinder. If you don’t already know this flaky British salt, you should. It’s easy to carry in a small baggie or other container. A little of this salt, crumbled over a salad or on anything else can go a long way to saving the day. The same with freshly ground black pepper. Bring along a small pepper grinder filled with good peppercorns.

5. Hot sauce. Food too bland? (Because for some people, it always is.)  Out comes the Sriracha or Tapatio. You might consider some harissa too.

6. Fruit knife or folding knife. Use it to cut cheese, slice a salami or divide a sandwich in two. 

7. Small light cutting board. Nothing fancy, maybe one of those 8-by-10-inch hard plastic ones.


8. Disposable cutlery and plates. Although you can find plastic stuff at any supermarket, check around the next time you’re at a cookware store for eco-friendly versions. There are all sorts of biodegradable, compostable options these days for everything from utensils to cups, bowls and plates.

9. Espresso in a thermos. When you wake up from that picnic-induced snooze, you’re going to want a shot of caffeine. 

10. Trash bags. And last but not least, these will make cleaning up after yourselves much easier.

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