Cal Humanities

"Part of resilience is finding joy, finding beauty, finding love."

— George Takei, Actor, Author, Director, Activist

"Part of resilience is finding joy, finding beauty, finding love."

— George Takei, Actor, Author, Director, Activist

A picnic blanket with some fruit, bread, a book, and a sun hat.

Picnic Recommendations from California Humanities’ Staff

July is here, and that means it is picnic season! As the temperatures warm and the sun shines longer throughout the day, many staff members are excited to go out and picnic at their favorite spots with family and friends. This blog post shares some of our favorite picnic locations and recipes, past and present. 

Kirsten Vega – Program Associate 

Here are a couple of picnic recipes I recommend: The Chickpea Salad and this resource on quick meals for camping trips from one of my favorite vegetarian cooks, Heidi Swanson. In the San Francisco Bay Area, a picnic spot that I enjoy is the Quarry Picnic Site in Tilden Regional Park.  

Beth Segura-Operations Coordinator 

I think the best picnics are made from a Charcuterie-style spread of food or snacks, including cheeses, olives, spreads and dips, tomatoes, berries, and summer fruits like nectarines and, of course, a nice baguette or sourdough roll. This way, people can make their own sandwiches or just graze. I also like to pack cold sparkling water, like Topo Chico or Pellegrino. Lastly, I love to walk down to Lake Merritt, which can get crowded during the warm weather, but it’s nice to have a picnic alongside the Oakland community! 

Sheri Kuehl-Director of Development 

My family favorite is a fun carving project. Turn your favorite melon into a basket for fruit salad, fill it with fruits, top with fresh mint, and voila! 

Cherie Hill – Communications Manager 

A place I discovered and fell in love with while living in Richmond is the Keller Beach at the Miller/Knox Regional Shoreline in Point Richmond. This site is part of the East Bay Regional Park District and includes a small beach with access to the bay for swimming and fishing, hills with hiking trails and scenic views, benches, and playgrounds. The park is mostly used by locals, so it is easy to find parking and open space at the beach, especially during the week. During the pandemic, I would have lunch on the sand, swim, and relax, and it was uber convenient because I did not have to cross any of the Bay Area bridges to enjoy it. 

Big trees and a blue lake.
Musky Lake

Julie Fry-President & CEO 

Les Madeleines de Proust: Picnic Edition 

Some French friends recently introduced me to the phrase “la madeleine de Proust,” which is something – a taste, an aroma, a sound – that takes a person back to nostalgic childhood memories or emotions from the past. It comes from French author Marcel Proust’s book Swann’s Way, in which he mentions the small cake (a madeleine) dipped in tea that his mother gave him. You can read more about it in this Penguin Books article: More than cake: unravelling the mysteries of Proust’s madeleine. One of my madeleines de Proust is the humble peanut butter and jelly sandwich; the flavor of the jelly wasn’t important, but I remember being particularly fond of Concord Grape. Every summer during my childhood, my family went camping among the many lakes and trees of Northern Wisconsin, and those weeks were full of special flavors we didn’t usually have the rest of the year: popcorn that my dad made over the campfire, orange candy circus peanuts, my mom’s special sliced potatoes and onions wrapped in foil and cooked on the grill. But the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches she made for me to take on solo picnics represented the freedom of growing up. A special treat, once I was old enough, was to take a packet of sandwiches with me to walk on the forest trails or around the lake, and I can still remember the taste – and the related feeling of independence – alongside the smell of pine trees and the crunch of their needles underfoot. 

*cover image courtesy of pexels-анна-галашева

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