It started with a loaf of bread, a hunk of cheese and an anthill. The first two were basics for a successful picnic. The third was not. Within minutes of picking up the bread (The Sir George, Jugiong, NSW) and cheese (at the nearby Long Track Pantry), lunch seemed ready to roll. But pretty soon it became apparent that the best spot for an al fresco feast was shared by ants, and we were ill-prepared. And without a knife, we were reduced to standing under a tree and breaking up our bread and cheese by hand.
Hence the following list of things, which now live in the car for every road trip, and keep a hungry traveller ready for everything from a farmers’ market visit to an impromptu picnic or a last-minute holiday rental where the kitchen is poorly provisioned and the local shop keeps eccentric, extremely limited hours.
What stays in the car
- A collapsible cooler bag Takes up no space when empty and flattened, but will expand to take two dozen oysters and a whole flathead as required.
- An ice pack Slip it into a freezer each night you’re on road so it’s ready for the next day. Leave a reminder note on the dashboard or doorway so you don’t forget it when leaving. It can simply be a frozen water bottle – as it thaws, the water comes in handy for washing picnic dishes. A ziplock bag can stand ready to hold ice or leftovers.
- A good small knife Bread can be torn apart but cheese, tomatoes and salami are trickier. So, too, spreading peanut butter.
- Plates, cups and cutlery Great for on-the-road food prep and sandwich assembly. A couple of all-purpose cups, forks and spoons means you don’t have to drink that wine you bought from the bottle.
- Wet wipes For doing the dishes, and wiping hands that have pulled apart supermarket roast chooks, a go-to road dinner.
- A picnic rug, ideally with a waterproof side Not just for picnics on riverbanks, but for laying across park benches or tables where seagulls have preceded you.
- A shopping carry-all For plastic bag-free towns, of which there are now many, including Aireys Inlet, Victoria.
- Matches For holiday rental barbecues, open fires, mosquito coils and candles.
- A corkscrew/bottle opener Just in case you forget to check whether the great reds you bought while walking the Coonawarra wine trail had corks or screwtops.
- And insect repellent and sunscreen Because it’s ‘Straya.
Lemon and a couple of garlic cloves are useful ingredients to have on hand when you’re on the road. Photo: iStock
What only comes on board when we are packing for a holiday
- Olive oil A small bottle allows you do a tray bake, make a salad dressing, toss through pasta, fry eggs or drizzle onto bread.
- A lemon For the oysters, roast chicken, salad leaves, fresh fish.
- Garlic Just a clove or two for whipping up dinner in those remote self-catering spots.
- Salt and pepper It’s surprising the number of holiday rentals that don’t have it. Also, for sandwiches made on the road.
- Pasta A single pack of spaghetti (we’ve got the garlic and olive oil already) can make dinner when you’re unexpectedly self-catering. Especially with…
- A can of tuna Perfect for a sandwich or pasta.
- Vegemite, peanut butter, Nutella For those motel buffets where someone has cleaned out everything bar the apricot jam.
- Muesli or breakfast cereal Just enough to feed you for those early getaways or at an unexpected but irresistible self-catering stay.
- Baking paper A few sheets make for an easy clean up and quick getaway. Also helpful for whipping up a favourite holiday-rental dinner, chicken Aphrodite.
- Coffee and/or tea It can be very nice to have your favourite types at hand. We’ve also been known to pack a plunger or small coffee machine. A friend always travels with her favourite cup, too.