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[Photo by Helena Lopes from Pexels]

National Picnic Month is coming to a close, but we’ve still got over a month of summer left, which hopefully means we’ve got at least another month of warm weather and perfect picnicking conditions. That got us thinking, like it always does, about some of our favorite literary characters and their optimal picnic spreads and locations. Would they opt for a day in the park or a blanket on the beach? Snackable hors d'oeuvres or full-course meals? Keep reading to find out.

 

Warren, Petula, and Sketchy from the Warren the 13th series (by Tania Del Rio and Will Staehle)

Bellboy Warren needs some decompression time, but we all know he’s a bit of a workaholic. Beatrice would have to convince him (communicating via card with a picnic basket illustration) to take a break with his friends Petula and Sketchy. On one of their pitstops, maybe on the water’s edge of a cool lake or the outskirts of a whispering wood, the three could set out a blanket and enjoy some sandwiches or a hearty stew with fresh buns to dip—all prepared by Chef Bunion, of course. There’d probably be some milk or orange juice, as Chef Bunion wants Warren and the kids to grow into healthy adults (or mollusk monsters) . No matter what the main course, there would be a heaping stack of pudding cookies, and not one spoonful of bland oatmeal.

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Ari & Hector from Bloom (by Kevin Panetta; illustrated by Savanna Ganucheau)

Picnic date! Although Ari’s been in the baking business since birth, Hector would take over preparing the picnic spread, as he takes his culinary and confectionery dreams seriously. The two would probably casually sit on rocks lining the beach or settle with their feet off a free dock, and dig into an assortment of Greek and Samoan pastries. There’d be flaky spanakopita (spinach pie), buttery tiropita (triangular pastries, typically filled with cheese and eggs), and keke pua’a (bao steamed buns, usually filled with pork and onions and flavored with soy sauce and garlic). There’d be small desserts ranging from masi samoa (coconut shortbread cookies) and baklava (layered pastry with nuts and syrup), but the pièce de résistance would, of course, be the ravani cake—the “most Samoa-y Greek food” as Hector puts it. And if they didn’t ingest enough sweets, they’d walk along the pier and grab milkshakes to top off the night. 

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Sal, Sam, and Fito from The Inexplicable Logic of My Life (by Benjamin Alire Sáenz)

Those hot Texan days aren’t always ideal for picnic weather, but who says you have to picnic during the day? Sal, Sam, and Fito each need their own time to get away, and an evening picnic would be perfect for them to detach from the world for a moment and de-stress with one another. They’d probably drive out to a more remote area, maybe sit on the hood of their car or the bed of a truck (yes, like in Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe), and watch the stars. Mima taught Sal well, and he’d prepare countless tamales, filled with an assortment of meats and veggies for ideal snackage. Vicente would send them off with fresh fruit (and maybe some Tajín seasoning) and a cooler filled with soda cans to last them the night.

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The Book Club from The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires (by Grady Hendrix)

Some monthly book clubs meet at a restaurant once a year to spice things up, so it makes sense that Patricia, Grace, Kitty, Slick, and Maryellen would take their true-crime book club out to the park for some fresh air. Grace would bring a finely stitched tablecloth to place over a picnic table, and no way would they forget at least one wine bottle and their signature book club glasses. After they settle somewhere shady (and a bit secluded, so no bypassers overhear them discussing brutal killings), the group would lay out their snack contributions from cheese straws and homemade dips to fruit salads and homemade cookies. They’d throw in more intricate appetizers like deviled eggs and stuffed mushrooms, but really the focus would be what it always is: murder.

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Wedge and Mabbot from Cinnamon and Gunpowder (by Eli Brown)

These two enjoy a finely crafted, multi-course dinner together each Sunday, and pirate captain Mabbot is definitely the kind of woman who’d enjoy a classy picnic on the beach with her favorite chef Wedge. After docking somewhere more reclusive, Mr. Apples would carry down Mabbot’s throne-like chair, a quaint table with a mini tablecloth, another chair for Wedgwood, wine glasses, fine cutlery, the whole shebang. The meal would obviously be of Wedgwood’s creation, there’d be at least three courses, and all dishes on the table would be nothing he’s ever created for Mabbot before. That means no tea-smoked eel ravioli or braised pheasant with dandelion greens and no mango tarts or pickled hominy à la mer. Whatever Wedge makes, it’ll probably include some fish or conveniently hunted land animal, distinct ingredients from lemongrass to miso paste, and require the use of coconut milk, the select fruit available, and brandy. 

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Lady Crystallia and Frances from The Prince and the Dressmaker (by Jen Wang)

Best friends Sebastian and Frances could plan a whole girls’ day out, similar to their spa day and weekend getaway in the story. Sebastian would don his Lady Crystallia persona, decking out in the latest and greatest from dress designer Frances, and Emile could accompany. The three would settle on an ornate blanket, maybe on a public lawn, and discuss the latest fashion trends over sliced turkey in gravy, roasted carrots and potatoes, freshly baked bread, and other assorted delicacies. For dessert, they’d enjoy some mini cream puffs or fruit tarts, and to finish off their day, a steaming cup of chamomile tea.

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