One of my all-time favorite outdoor meals took place while skiing in Norway. It was on a winter retreat my junior year in high school, a year I spent as an exchange student in Sweden. One day, after a morning of cross country skiing, our group stopped and had a picnic on our downturned skis that we’d placed on a shelf of packed snow. I opened my backpack and took out the mid-morning snack that had been prepared before leaving our lodgings. Even though it was 45 years ago I vividly remember the steaming hot chocolate I drank from a plastic thermos cup. And cheese and cucumber sandwiches never tasted better than that day on a snowbank in Scandinavia.
There are some who would tell you that food just tastes better outdoors. And I’m inclined to agree. There’s something about sharing food, laughter and conversation outside that makes me feel so alive. And keep in mind that I am not an outdoorsy person.
It’s easy to enjoy alfresco dining when the weather is pleasant. What’s not to love? Whether it’s a cookout in a friend’s backyard, a picnic at a park or coffee and pastries at a sidewalk cafe, the very air of casualness enhances the experience.
At the farm we’ve mostly held our ticketed outdoor meals in the spring and fall. Our thinking was that it was too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter. However, in the past year I’ve been reminded that with a little extra planning guests can enjoy an outdoor dining experience most any time of the year.
Last November we hosted a private dinner for a local business. Since it was a chilly evening, I assumed the guests would be anxious to leave as soon as dinner was finished. Wrong. They laughed, talked and took selfies around the fire pits long after finishing the entree. They made fancy s’mores from a dessert board we created especially for them. The guests came dressed for the weather - with coats, hats, some in gloves and a few with blankets draped around their shoulders. It was such a fun evening, and not just for our guests, but for us as well.
In late June we hosted our first ticketed brunch. I was very nervous that our guests would be hot. My husband Houston installed a misting system in the boughs of the oak tree that would serve as shade for the diners. It quickly became apparent that it wasn’t needed. After wetting down the ground, we prepped the tables and set up a large fan a few yards from the dining area. It was a perfect, sunny morning. Our guests and the chef were comfortable and everyone had a great time.
It’s been great to reflect on the successes of these outdoor meals as we make plans for new events this fall and winter. I’m excited about the experiences and memories we’ll be creating.
This piece first appeared in Sherry’s column, Finding Myself in a Small Town, in the August 12, 2023 edition of the Corsicana Daily Sun.