Bright-colored Tupperware strewn across picnic tables, open bottles of frostily chilled Sierra Nevada, the smell of smoky grilled foods wafting through the warm air — it’s summer at last and time for those outdoor summer potlucks, picnics and barbecues to commence.
While sharing food with friends is arguably the best way to pass the lazy days of summer, there is some etiquette that should be followed when bringing your dish to the communal table. Follow this simple do’s-and-don’ts guide and graze on good eats all summer long.
Do: bring serving utensils. Come mealtime, it will make the whole assembly line flow so much easier.
Don’t: bring anything that needs to be eaten in a bowl. Gazpacho, ice cream, or any other runny or saucy dish is nearly impossible to eat otherwise.
Don’t: add tomatoes to any bread-based foods (i.e. sandwiches) ahead of time. Otherwise the bread will absorb the liquid and turn to mush. Instead, pop the tomato in some Tupperware, bring a pocket knife and slice it up before you sit down for lunch.
Don’t: be the person who always brings the condiments, the KFC or the bland party trays from the grocery store. That plastic box filled with dehydrated baby carrots and an unproportional amount of ranch has never been, and will never be, a hit. If your crunched for time, the Internet will surely give you some quick ideas on what to bring.
Do: bring salads. They are the backbone of all picnics and potlucks. Grilled zucchini tossed in pesto, cherry tomatoes and fresh (not canned!) corn doused in olive oil and herbs, cucumbers thinly shaven and marinated in a sweet vinegar — the options are endless. Volumes can be multiplied with the addition of cooked grains or pasta. As long as you bring some sort of salad — and don’t drown it in mayonnaise — someone will thank you.
Don’t: (continuing on with salads) dress any leafy green salad before you get there. Otherwise, you’ll only arrive to unveil a soggy bowl of lettuce. Save the dressing until just before serving to ensure your greens stay crisp and spritely.
Don’t: bring anything loaded with cheese or cream. Cream-based foods are heavy and less appealing when it’s 100 degrees outside, and melted cheese that has been cooled into a dense single mass is never fun. Ever.
Do: bring dessert and let it be pie. Unlike cakes and cookies, which risk sweating in sweltering temperatures, pie can withstand the elements and is delicious warm or cold.
Don’t: leave a mess. No one likes seeing your food trash strewn about like an open garbage can. Also, don’t forget to label the things you brought so that they are not mixed up and lost forever in someone else’s kitchen cabinet.
Grace Kerfoot can be reached at [email protected] or @gracekerf on Twitter.