01 August 2012

The Farmers Market Picnic

Photo and Food By Elizabeth Miller

It may be tough to believe, what with the persistent cloudiness and impenetrable coolness in the air, but it is picnic season in Portland. Those familiar with the climate of the Pacific Northwest know that picnic season here does not require unlimited sunniness and temperatures soaring into the 90s. If it’s not raining and the ground isn’t still soggy from nine months of unstoppable showers, followed by two months of sunless skies, it’s time for a picnic.

I can get a little obsessive about picnics sometimes, crafting the perfect salads and sandwiches to cart to the perfect spot that I scouted out months previous (like I said, I am a big fan of picnicking). What is sort of astonishing about my love of picnics, however, is the fact that, up until this week, it never occurred to me that Portland Farmers Markets are basically tailor made to supply both picnic goods and picnic spots. Two markets take place in actual parks, and every other market is within walking distance of a park or two, providing easy access to convenient picnicking. You can hit the market, lay out a blanket, and start your picnic without having to walk more than a couple of blocks.

Even if you’re a fan of eating outside while leisurely sprawled out on the grass, but not a fan of assembling the goods one might need for a picnic, the farmers market had got your number. Ready-made empanadas and sandwiches require no effort in order to be enjoyed, and, if you’re in the mood to make things feel really summery, who’s to say that a basketful of fresh fruit can’t suffice as a meal?

Truth be told, even if you don’t go ready-made, it’s fantastically simple to throw together a picnic meal at the market. A loaf of crusty bread, a bit of cheese, crisp vegetables, some smoked or cured meats, and a selection of fruit are my definition of a perfect picnic meal, and there are dozens of vendors at the market who can supply those components. Even a simple baguette and a jar of luscious preserves can serve as a picnic, and, finished off with a pastry or two, it’s the type of meal that not only satisfies the need to picnic, but also every childhood dream that you ever had about what it would be like to be an adult.