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The Definitive Guide to Surviving Picnics

A lot of people have many questions about picnics, and most of them are about what kinds of plates and cups you should bring. If you’re worried about plates and cups, you’re going to have a horrible picnic.
June 29, 2015, 5:00pm
Image by Yuliya Tsoy

Editor's Note: MUNCHIES receives an avalanche of questions about food and cooking every week, so we've rolled up our sleeves and enlisted the help of the mysterious Internet food blogger, Shit Food Blogger, to give us a helping hand. Twice a month, Shit Food Blogger is here to answer all of your culinary questions in his brand new column, Shitty Food, from the totally tasteless to the most thoughtful that would make Alain Ducasse blush. Drop us a line at munchies@vice.com with the subject line "Shit Food Blogger" for a chance for him to respond to your earth-shattering kitchen queries.

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Y'all had lots of questions about picnics, and most of them were about what kinds of plates and cups you should bring. If you're worried about plates and cups, you're going to have a horrible picnic.

Ina Garten packs everything in Chinese takeout containers for her picnics. You think you're better than Ina? Cuz you're not. Trust me. Picnics didn't exist until Ina decided that she would give them to us, because she loves us that much. The rest of us will walk away from picnics realizing that we're incapable of doing the work required to achieve our dreams.

Picnics force us to realize our inadequacies, the gap between hope and skill. But Ina could be standing on a beach that has been engulfed in flames from an oil tanker spill, and not only would she not be harmed, but her entire soul would consume the flames and she would have that fire inside of her for eternity and she would become immortal in that moment, saving all her friends (especially T.R.) and her husband, Jeffrey (probably). Ina would laugh infectiously and aggressively while offering us more of her three-bean salad like nothing ever happened. Think about that next time you're worried about your bullshit plates and cups.

Now, let's dig into your best questions.

I've done Mason jar salads and Mason jar cupcakes, and everybody loves them. What can I do to raise my picnic game? Sno-cones are the ultimate picnic item. They're impossible to pull off on a hot summer day. Some people call them sno-balls or shaved ice. I'm talking about the ones served in paper cone cups and topped with neon syrups filled with artificial flavorings.

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I have a recurring sex/food/literary fantasy that someone will love me enough to reenact the scene in Pride and Prejudice where Mr. Darcy comes through the misty English countryside at sunrise with a picnic basket full of sno-cones one day. If anyone is into Jane Austen cosplay and has one of those Snoopy Sno-Cone machines that I had when I was a kid, please contact me. I will make it worth your time.

Can you suggest the best places to picnic? I've had picnics in parks, by rivers, and on top of mountains, but I'm looking for more. First, go fuck yourself. "I've picnicked on top of mountains." Christ, you must be the biggest fucking asshole in the world. "I'm getting bored with my picnics by the river. Where's the hot new place to picnic?" You are everything that's wrong with everything.

But I'm gonna pretend you're not an asshole and give you this advice …

Anywhere that you're eating or drinking, you could picnic. Stop trying to turn your life into a series of bigger and grander moments and get small. Get immediate. The best place in the world to picnic is wherever you are right now.

My partner doesn't like to go on picnics. His dislikes them so much that I can see him physically react when I suggest that we go on one—he starts to twist his body into a near-fetal position and then adamantly refuses to go. He says he hates them, but he can't give me a clear explanation for why. Is there something wrong with him? He's got other issues—concerning body hair, an awkward and repetitive sniffing when his mother calls, and an inability to crack eggs without getting shells in the bowl—but I can deal with all of those. But this picnic thing is weird, right? Honestly, I'd be pissed about the eggshells more than the picnics. Body hair can be removed. Mothers die. But his inattention and unwillingness to learn a proper and repeatable technique for cracking open a goddamn egg suggests that you're dealing with damaged goods and you would be better off leaving him.

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To answer your question: Yes, his picnic aversion is weird, but I think we can try to understand it and help him overcome it. Picnics require you to sit and talk with someone. But without the ritual and trappings of the expected dining experience, picnics force us to show up as our pure selves. There is no table we can use as an emotional shield. Facing another human being straight on while eating is terrifying. I don't want anyone to look me in the eye without some form of physical barrier in between us.

The even bigger problem with picnics is that there is no one in charge. No one is orchestrating the event of eating, and the lack of hierarchy is terrifying and exhausting. There is no waiter to say, "Hey guys, how's your evening going? Is this your first time dining with us? Because if so, let me explain our small plates to you. They're great for sharing." That waiter is saving us with the endless nattering that he knows is his job and is going to protect us as diners. They're bathing us in nonsense, a lovely shower of verbal white noise that cradles us and communicates to our unconscious minds, saying "I got this. These tapas are a refuge. These refills on iced tea are a salve. You are safe."

So your partner is scared that you're going to find out he is flawed. He's going to have to look directly into your eyes with no emotional protection. And he knows that you're looking deep into his soul and realizing that there is nothing there worth loving. And he's going to lose you.

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Picnics mean losing you.

That's why you have to start small and safe. Take him on a picnic, but never tell him. Grab your favorite container of ice cream. Or get two beers. Or a can of tuna.

Get something small to eat or drink and make it something you both love. And grab him by the hand and lead him somewhere you both can sit (it doesn't have to be on the ground, but sit somewhere new, like on the kitchen counter or the bed or your dog's bed; I don't care) and say: "We're going to play a game. And it's called 'The Best Time I Ever Had.' Because I love you and I bet there are more incredible things you have done and experienced in your life that I don't know about. And because I love you, I want to know the best times you ever had living your life so far. So tell me about the best time you ever had laughing."

Or singing. Or dancing. Or traveling. Or being quiet. Or dreaming. And then listen to him.

And have some ice cream. Or beer. Or tuna. And offer him some. And then ask him another question. Listen, have some tuna, give him some. And do this until the tuna is gone. Make him remember that you asked him questions and you listened and fed him tuna. Because you love him. Do this two more times from start to finish.

And that is how you help someone learn to love picnics.