What is it about eating outdoors that is so captivating? Maybe it takes us back to our hunter-gatherer period when we paused at a bush and chomped on berries or rubbed two sticks together and roasted meat in a forest clearing, on the savanna, or maybe in front of the cave where we would sleep. Regardless of the source of enjoyment, eating outdoors, whether at a restaurant, on our own decks, or in a local park is one of the great joys of summer. As the days pass, I’m reminded that we have little time left for the pleasure before the nights cool down to uncomfortable outdoor temperatures, at least here in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Although the barbecue is not central to European culture at it is here, European restaurants and cafes were ahead of ours with outdoor dining. As soon as weather permitted, restaurant and café owners dragged tables and chairs onto the sidewalks and into the piazzas where patrons could enjoy the sunshine, the views, and one another. We now have plenty of opportunity to do the same in our own towns and cities.
Picnics provide another opportunity to dine outdoors. Summertime brings us out to parks for family reunions, birthdays, or camping holidays. We unfold tablecloths, separate stacks of paper plates at place settings, lift the covers off bowls of salads, cheeses, fruits, and desserts, and take our places on the benches, and smell the roasted meats, hot from the barbecue. The trees provide shade, and the party begins.
I recently attended a wedding rehearsal party in a Sonoma backyard. Ivy crawled up the siding of the home, and flower beds were jammed with color. Two long tables lined up off to one side with strings of lights stretching above. Someone played an accordion which could hardly be heard above the din of happy conversation. When the food came off the grill, bees arrived at the tables along with the guests. Nobody cared. As the evening cooled, women pulled shawls and sweaters over bare arms.
Apart from special occasions, any night of the week is an opportunity to eat outdoors in the summer, provided that you’re not crowded into a city apartment with no access to stars. You’ll prepare the barbecue, set the table, and bring side dishes from the kitchen. If yours is a later weekend supper, you’ll be lighting candles at dusk as temperatures diminish and the crickets begin to chirp, which you night not even notice without a lull in the conversation.
At least on weekends, you can eat breakfast on the balcony, the morning still cool and the coffee hot. Enjoy!