Good Day For A Picnic, Simple Food That Travels Well: Jeremy Jackson
214 Pages, Hardcover
2005 HarperCollins Publishers $22.95 US
Reviewed for Good Cooking by Kevin Madden, December 2005
Perhaps the best part of Good Day For a Picnic by Jeremy Jackson is the
inviting photo on the cover of a young couple with a picnic basket on a
beautiful sunny day. The title and cover indicate that this book will be a
straightforward instructional tool for assembling a picnic; however after a
thorough skim of the book it didn't seem simple to create some of these dishes
that do not travel all that well without proper storage containers and coolers
which are never discussed in the text.
The introduction to the book is written with much unexpected and witless
humor. The author attempts to regale the reader with stories and historical
tidbits of "gorging outdoors". Nothing in the title or on the cover
would lead one to believe that this will be a funny book about picnics. I was
expecting a celebration of dining outdoors with helpful information as to how
one can simply and successfully enjoy the picnic experience. Instead, I found
unnecessarily complicated recipes such as Biscuits, Berries, Honey and Cream.
In this recipe there is no recipe and Jackson devotes the entire page to
instructing us how to put berries on biscuits and directs us to the two
biscuit recipes that are on other pages.
As with the introduction, the names of dishes lack a cohesive style. It is
unclear if these picnic items are meant to be elegant, fun, or painfully
plain. An example of this is "Chiffonade Salad with Herbs Aplenty"
(page 56). Here Jackson takes a cooking term, chiffonade, which is not yet a
widely used term in most American households and then creates the word aplenty
perhaps to soften the seriousness of Chiffonade.
The recipe for "Flavorful Chicken Pieces" (page 140) is another
example of possible confusion. It might be more user friendly if the dish's
name included the flavors that make the chicken pieces so full of flavor,
which in this recipe happens to be simply parmesan, salt and pepper. He might
want to consider changing this recipe to Parmesan Chicken Pieces.
I made a nice picnic menu by combining Radler, Chiffonade Salad with Herbs
Aplenty and Classic Egg Salad. It was not difficult to prepare these items and
everything tasted fine. There are more innovative recipes but these paired
nicely and achieved my goal of quickly preparing a simple picnic.
The book is organized into chapters of beverages, salads, main dishes and
desserts. This organization is fine but it wasn't exactly easy to leaf through
all the text to come up with possible combinations. The concept of this book
is very appealing, but it would be greatly improved by adding some features
that would make it even simpler to put together a picnic such as creating
menus ahead of time. A shopping list for these suggested menus could further
enhance the book's accessibility and overall usefulness. It could be taken one
step further by adding a chapter about good picnic equipment such as
thermoses, blankets, and baskets. In addition to the format changes, I would
suggest that Jackson rethink some of the self revealing humor (such as his
confession to enjoying Busch Light on page 22), and match the style of the
cover with the content of the book.
MAKES 2 SERVINGS
This probably doesn't even qualify as a recipe, I'll admit, but was so
snackingly refreshing and summerlicious it deserves a whole page of its own.
The story goes like this: in 1922, an innkeeper in Bavaria didn't have enough
beer to accommodate the bicyclists and other guests, so he cut the beer with
lemon-lime soda, and it was a hit. He named it "radler," which means
So, is this the German equivalent of Gatorade? Kinda. The beer tempers the
sweetness of the soda, and the soda mellows the bitterness of the beer. and
the result is fruity and light tasting and has half the alcohol of beer (In my
experience, trough, it's so good I drink twice what I should, so be warned. I
like it with pale American beer (full honesty moment: Bush Light); But by all
means, experiment with different brews.
12-ounce can cold lemon-lime soda
12-ounce can cold beer
Pour equal amounts of the soda into the bottoms of 2 large glasses, then top
with equal amounts of beer. No stirring required.
CHIFFONADE SALAD WITH HERBS APLENTY
I think I invented this salad because I love my chef's knife so much. It's
just darn fun to chop things, and the ribbons of lettuce and mere threads of
mixed herbs make a pretty salad with flavors that mingle and meld more than in
most green salads. If you're blessed with, your own herb garden, this is the
salad to make in the middle of summer when you have more herbs than you know
what to do with. The more herbs. the merrier.
Chiffonade is just the French term for something cut into thin ribbons. The
easiest way to do this is to roll several lettuce (or herb) leaves together in
a snug package and then chop them crosswise-thus making several ribbons at
once. Cutting the lettuce, and herbs so thin makes them a bit more susceptible
to oxidation, so for the best taste, dress this salad immediately and serve it
within 30 minutes of making it. (In other words, this isn't the salad to make;
if you need to drive 4 hours before getting to the picnic site.) Once you have
your ingredients ready, it only takes a few minutes to do the chopping and
1 bunch romaine lettuce, cut into finger-wide ribbons
2 Belgian endives, cut into ribbons thinner than the romaine
1 cup watercress, cut into ribbons thinner than the romaine
2/3 cup, more or less, mixed fresh herbs such as cilantro, basil, thyme, mint,
chives, parsley, cut into very thin ribbons or finely chopped
Freshly squeezed lemon juice
Salt and pepper.
Toss the greens and herbs, then drizzle with olive oil, lemon ,juice, and salt
and pepper to taste. For this salad, I prefer to keel) the dressing pretty
light. Serve the salad as soon as possible, tossing it again briefly Just
CLASSIC EGG SALAD
MAKES 3 SANDWICHES
4 hard-boiled eggs
2 to 3 tablespoons mayonnaise, or to taste
1 to 2 tablespoons prepared mustard, if desired Salt and pepper to taste
Put all the ingredients in a small bowl and chop until you reach the desired
consistency. I use a knife and fork-the knife cuts, the fork blends. For a
large batch of egg salad, you can chop the eggs in a food processor very
briefly-before stirring in the other ingredients.
EGG SALAD ADDITIONS AND PARTNERS---thinly sliced fennel, baby arugula, tomato
slices, sprouts, capers, finely chopped chives, sunflower greens, chopped
sweet pickles, cucumber rounds, crisp romaine, lettuce leaves, raisins (my
favorite!) serve on toasted English muffins, serve in pita bread.