Goodcooking.com Cookbook Review---






Good Day for a Picnic Good Day For A Picnic, Simple Food That Travels Well: Jeremy Jackson
214 Pages, Hardcover
2005 HarperCollins Publishers $22.95 US

Reviewed for Good Cooking by Kevin Madden, December 2005


Perhaps the best part of Good Day For a Picnic by Jeremy Jackson is the inviting photo on the cover of a young couple with a picnic basket on a beautiful sunny day. The title and cover indicate that this book will be a straightforward instructional tool for assembling a picnic; however after a thorough skim of the book it didn't seem simple to create some of these dishes that do not travel all that well without proper storage containers and coolers which are never discussed in the text.
The introduction to the book is written with much unexpected and witless humor. The author attempts to regale the reader with stories and historical tidbits of "gorging outdoors". Nothing in the title or on the cover would lead one to believe that this will be a funny book about picnics. I was expecting a celebration of dining outdoors with helpful information as to how one can simply and successfully enjoy the picnic experience. Instead, I found unnecessarily complicated recipes such as Biscuits, Berries, Honey and Cream. In this recipe there is no recipe and Jackson devotes the entire page to instructing us how to put berries on biscuits and directs us to the two biscuit recipes that are on other pages.
As with the introduction, the names of dishes lack a cohesive style. It is unclear if these picnic items are meant to be elegant, fun, or painfully plain. An example of this is "Chiffonade Salad with Herbs Aplenty" (page 56). Here Jackson takes a cooking term, chiffonade, which is not yet a widely used term in most American households and then creates the word aplenty perhaps to soften the seriousness of Chiffonade.

The recipe for "Flavorful Chicken Pieces" (page 140) is another example of possible confusion. It might be more user friendly if the dish's name included the flavors that make the chicken pieces so full of flavor, which in this recipe happens to be simply parmesan, salt and pepper. He might want to consider changing this recipe to Parmesan Chicken Pieces.
I made a nice picnic menu by combining Radler, Chiffonade Salad with Herbs Aplenty and Classic Egg Salad. It was not difficult to prepare these items and everything tasted fine. There are more innovative recipes but these paired nicely and achieved my goal of quickly preparing a simple picnic.

The book is organized into chapters of beverages, salads, main dishes and desserts. This organization is fine but it wasn't exactly easy to leaf through all the text to come up with possible combinations. The concept of this book is very appealing, but it would be greatly improved by adding some features that would make it even simpler to put together a picnic such as creating menus ahead of time. A shopping list for these suggested menus could further enhance the book's accessibility and overall usefulness. It could be taken one step further by adding a chapter about good picnic equipment such as thermoses, blankets, and baskets. In addition to the format changes, I would suggest that Jackson rethink some of the self revealing humor (such as his confession to enjoying Busch Light on page 22), and match the style of the cover with the content of the book.

RADLER
MAKES 2 SERVINGS 

This probably doesn't even qualify as a recipe, I'll admit, but was so snackingly refreshing and summerlicious it deserves a whole page of its own. The story goes like this: in 1922, an innkeeper in Bavaria didn't have enough beer to accommodate the bicyclists and other guests, so he cut the beer with lemon-lime soda, and it was a hit. He named it "radler," which means "cyclist."
So, is this the German equivalent of Gatorade? Kinda. The beer tempers the sweetness of the soda, and the soda mellows the bitterness of the beer. and the result is fruity and light tasting and has half the alcohol of beer (In my experience, trough, it's so good I drink twice what I should, so be warned. I like it with pale American beer (full honesty moment: Bush Light); But by all means, experiment with different brews.

12-ounce can cold lemon-lime soda 
12-ounce can cold beer

Pour equal amounts of the soda into the bottoms of 2 large glasses, then top with equal amounts of beer. No stirring required.

CHIFFONADE SALAD WITH HERBS APLENTY
SERVES 6

I think I invented this salad because I love my chef's knife so much. It's just darn fun to chop things, and the ribbons of lettuce and mere threads of mixed herbs make a pretty salad with flavors that mingle and meld more than in most green salads. If you're blessed with, your own herb garden, this is the salad to make in the middle of summer when you have more herbs than you know what to do with. The more herbs. the merrier.

Chiffonade is just the French term for something cut into thin ribbons. The easiest way to do this is to roll several lettuce (or herb) leaves together in a snug package and then chop them crosswise-thus making several ribbons at once. Cutting the lettuce, and herbs so thin makes them a bit more susceptible to oxidation, so for the best taste, dress this salad immediately and serve it within 30 minutes of making it. (In other words, this isn't the salad to make; if you need to drive 4 hours before getting to the picnic site.) Once you have your ingredients ready, it only takes a few minutes to do the chopping and dressing.

1 bunch romaine lettuce, cut into finger-wide ribbons 
2 Belgian endives, cut into ribbons thinner than the romaine 
1 cup watercress, cut into ribbons thinner than the romaine 
2/3 cup, more or less, mixed fresh herbs such as cilantro, basil, thyme, mint, chives, parsley, cut into very thin ribbons or finely chopped 
Olive oil 
Freshly squeezed lemon juice 
Salt and pepper. 

Toss the greens and herbs, then drizzle with olive oil, lemon ,juice, and salt and pepper to taste. For this salad, I prefer to keel) the dressing pretty light. Serve the salad as soon as possible, tossing it again briefly Just before serving.

CLASSIC EGG SALAD 
MAKES 3 SANDWICHES 

4 hard-boiled eggs
2 to 3 tablespoons mayonnaise, or to taste
1 to 2 tablespoons prepared mustard, if desired Salt and pepper to taste

Put all the ingredients in a small bowl and chop until you reach the desired consistency. I use a knife and fork-the knife cuts, the fork blends. For a large batch of egg salad, you can chop the eggs in a food processor very briefly-before stirring in the other ingredients.

EGG SALAD ADDITIONS AND PARTNERS---thinly sliced fennel, baby arugula, tomato slices, sprouts, capers, finely chopped chives, sunflower greens, chopped sweet pickles, cucumber rounds, crisp romaine, lettuce leaves, raisins (my favorite!) serve on toasted English muffins, serve in pita bread.