Separate but together: Packing two picnics for Mother's Day

Two sets of prepared meals are set to be packed up for a socially distanced Mother's Day picnic. (Katie Workman via AP)

Every milestone or holiday that comes and goes in quarantine feels like a pinch. We Zoom, we FaceTime, we wish each other well on social media, we send cards and gifts. And now it's Mother's Day, and we wish we could do more.

Luckily, I live near my mom, and she has a backyard ample enough for us to sit the proper 6-plus feet apart. So this year, I’ll be packing two “baskets” for one socially distanced picnic.

I’ll leave her packed picnic on her doorstep, having prepared it with gloves and mask and wiping it down according to CDC guidelines. Then later, we’ll meet her around back. She can bring her food out, and we can bring ours.

Some tips for a socially distanced picnic:

Be considerate when arranging seating. When we all visit my mom outside, we make sure we’re not sitting in our group of four as she sits 6 feet off to the side; we all sit 6-plus feet apart, so everyone feels included.

Keep the food simple. You are there to see each other, and that’s the essential thing.

There are no “right foods” to bring to a picnic, but there are things to avoid. You want sturdy food that requires little preparation at the picnic itself. Pack items that are perfect at room temperature, and are either finger or fork foods.

Some of my favorite picnic foods are salads: bean salads; grain salads; green salads; pasta salads; egg salads; chicken salads; or tinned fish salads, like salmon salads or tuna. Or sandwiches, from a BLT to pulled-pork sandwiches to a vegetarian sub.

Other good portable foods include quiches, cold chicken and poached salmon. Wedges of frittata are nice if you can pick them up by hand.

More side options are mixed vegetable salads and slaws. Potato salad is a classic.

And there’s nothing wrong with packaged snacks — my mom has a deep, abiding love for potato chips, and if I packed a bag of those and a little stack of oatmeal cookies with a thermos of hot coffee, she would be a happy camper.

Pack drinks, too. You can stick with water, juice or soda, or put together a mocktail or cocktail; fill a bottle for you and a bottle for her. Don’t forget dessert: Skip the messier layer cake and fruit pie and go instead with brownies, bar cookies or drop cookies.

Put the appropriate number of disposable plates, utensils, serving utensils, napkins, cups, etc., in each picnic container, all sealed in another plastic bag. Add a garbage bag to each container, too.

Bonus activity: If you have little kids in your group, ask them to prepare a skit, a song, a dance, something that would please your mom. Think about videotaping it to send her later.

Emphasize safety: Make sure everybody keeps their distance ALL the time and doesn’t touch the same items.

And if Sunday isn’t sunny and warm, just pick another day.

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