Upicnic | Challenges and Solutions of Picnicking in NYC

Challenges and Solutions of Picnicking in NYC

BY THE UPICNIC TEAM
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5/17/2016

 

I am from Tuscany, my parents have always been enthusiastic advocates of good food, authentic food, home-made food – so much so that we used to make our own bread, cured meats, sausages and all kinds of vegetables and fruit preserves using everything we raised in our garden. We shared every meal together as a family (yes, lunches too), because eating “outside” meant we wouldn’t get to eat what mom made (and yes, that was a big deal, because her food is amazing).

Fast forward 10 years and a million miles across the Atlantic. Here, in New York, everything is fast, convenient and lacks the communal-love and sharing-with-family component I cherish – eventually though, I grew accustomed to grabbing breakfast somewhere and eating it on the train ride to work. Skipping lunch because I was too busy on emails. Having cheerios for dinner before passing out on the couch. Shared, home-cooked meals became an occasion rather than the standard.

I felt a void inside me. Something that was pushing for change. Many of my friends, who had not come from a food-enthusiastic family background like mine, did not understand what the big deal was.

One of them, on the other hand, as Mediterranean as I am, did feel that void as much I did - spoiler alert, he's Upicnic's co-founder. So, yes, Alp and I started eating together all the time for no reason other than…well, because you should not eat by yourself. When the weather got warmer, picnics became a natural extension of our eating together - and provided us with endless options of locations, picnic spots, picnic food ideas, and fun games to play outside. Picnics also gave us the opportunity to invite more people to share food with us and join in on our picnic experience.

Everybody's fed; everybody's having fun; everybody's happy. Well, I wasn't - here's what sucked about those lovely picnics: Alp and I were stuck doing all the work. I was cooking for an ever-changing number of people with a thousand different food preferences; and Alp was hauling games, coolers and blankets around the lovely MTA system. We trying fixing the system, but it never worked.

So if you want the skim on everything that's wrong with picnicking in New York, here it goes:

1- Prepared food sucks: really think about your options around most parks - bodegas (tasteless), Whole Foods (overpriced), cart vendors' hot dogs & pretzels (gross), random fried stuff and burgers (unhealthy).

2- Pot-luck also sucks: it's not that your friends can't cook (though that's probably part of the problem), it's that they will cook the fastest and cheapest thing they can think of. They will not consider packaging. They will not portion it. They will not bother thinking that their food will be eaten in a 100 degrees weather with a limited water supply (hint: chipotle-laced paella does not qualify as good picnic food).

3- Games and sports gear need to be stored: hats off to you if you have empty closet space. Nobody in the rest of New York does. Though, if we did, we'd still probably not want to sacrifice it to the picnic gods of baskets, waterproof blankets and lawn games.

4- You have to carry everything: haul a filled up cooler up and down subway stairs and you will fully understand what the phrase "muscle spasm" refers to. There are also not enough Ikea bags in the universe to carry all the non-food-related gear you need.

5- Nobody ever brings the basics: dude, where are the napkins? Did we bring a garbage bag? Of course not - and why would you, since all that stuff is basically impossible to find or replace around any NYC park.

6- Blankets need to be washed: and dried - and if you've ever tried to do that with a blanket that has a waterproof layer you know that it's simply not going to happen. And because this is NYC I challenge you to find space in your apartment to lay more than 1 blanket to air-dry.

So there you have it - everything that is wrong with how New Yorkers go picnic. The problem is, we are New Yorkers, and we do love to go picnic. So why can't we be smart about it?

That's why Alp and I started Upicnic - so New Yorkers can easily go picnic, truly enjoy their picnic experience, make memories with the people they love, and actually relax for a change.

Family-time, love-time, sharing-time. These are very real needs in NYC, and we created Upicnic to fulfill those needs, because through our picnic experiences people can share quality time together, maybe throw a frisbee around, play card games, or simply take late afternoon naps after sharing a sandwich and cookies.

Because it doesn’t matter what you eat or where you eat it; it doesn’t matter what sport you play or where you play it; it doesn’t matter when or where you choose to relax – as long as none of that feels like a chore, and you never do any of that alone.

 

 

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