How to Picnic Without Poisoning Anyone

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There's a very brief window of time here in Houston during which we can enjoy dining al fresco, and that window will very soon be closing. But even more than mosquitoes and humidity, nothing ruins a good picnic like food poisoning.

While it's certainly possible, with lots of good planning and freezer packs, to take any kind of meal on a successful picnic, it seems wise to play it safe and stick to basic, low-maintenance foods. Who wants to stress about timing and leftovers while on a picnic anyway?

Best to avoid: soft cheeses, lunchmeats or anything made with mayonnaise, all of which tend to become dangerous funky, dangerously fast. Substitute hard cheeses like cheddar, cured meats such as salami, and mustard or pesto in place of mayo. In general, foods that don't need to be kept very cold or very hot are you best bet.

Other picnic tips:

Think ahead: If bringing cans or other pre-packaged items, be sure you also pack a way to open said cans. Better yet, open them ahead of time and dump the contents into some Tupperware containers. And since half the fun is eating with your hands, err on the side of finger-foods.

Don't forget: lots of napkins, any necessary utensils, and a wine key/bottle opener, so as to avoid having to drive to a gas station to buy yet another and/or seriously maiming yourself while trying to open a bottle of wine with a pocket knife (I have scars and now keep a cheap wine opener in my car for this very reason).

My favorite happy hour picnic: sharp green olives, Manchego cheese, Marcona almonds, sliced Spanish ham, a chilled bottle of Albariño, with a shared bar of dark chocolate.

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