There are lots of ideas as to why food taste better when eaten outside. Some think it has to do with the simplification of cooking out of doors. Since we generally eat better when we eat simply, the food taste better. Perhaps.
Others think it might be that we engage all the senses on meals taken al fresco. Life outside is usually more dynamic that indoor settings. When we are out of doors, we tend to be on alert to more going on around us and this means using all our senses. This makes sense. (pun intended) In addition, outdoor elements can add to the intensity of a meal by breaking down food on a molecular level and increasing the aromas that make our mouth water. A fine line when serving potato salad, but I can see the logic in this.
One theory that “neatly packages” all of these other theories into one bunch, is that eating food outside generally stimulates memories of foods eaten outside during childhood. Our fondest food links are most likely to be traced back to our youth. Neighborhood block parties, preschool snacks on the playground, brown bag lunches at summer camp with friends and family camp trips have all created positive food connections in our brain that read delicious.
This is more a testimony to nature & the company we keep than to the food. As tender youths, we used to eat cans of hormel chili and little beanie weanie’s with our dear adopted uncle, Jim, during our weeks long stays in the tiny Northeastern town of Troy, Oregon. His two room house in the center of town had a simple, wooden porch overlooking a green yard with a giant, shade tree. Those cans of chili still tasted good to me right through my college years. This, I’m certain, had everything to do with first eating that fare outside on a warm summer evening, and very little to do with the actual quality of the canned food.
Eat Like a Local
Fast forward to 2015 when Caleb and I are planning a three week dream trip to France. We felt encouraged by Rick Steves to picnic for most meals; reducing time spent at restaurants and minimizing expenses, while maximizing exposure to French beauty and the local food market experience.
I found one of those nifty picnicking backpacks on Craigslist for twenty bucks along with a simple blanket that folds neatly into its’ own bag. We set out to dine al fresco everywhere we ventured: the lush Loire Valley, on the sidelines of the Paris Roubaix cycling race in Northern France, throughout wine country in Burgundy and while exploring Paris. (In Lyon we mostly skipped the picnicking and dined in Bouchons. If you go there, you should too!)
Of course, the food tasted amazing. We were in France. But, we can say that we got an entire sensory experience with every meal. From shopping the local markets, then preparing our daily picnics and selecting the scenic locale to sit and dine while watching France go by in all it’s glory.
In addition, locals would pass by us, smile and say “Bon Appetite!” We felt like we fit right in and it seemed to us that the French were downright cheery. In fact, one memorable picnic in Burgundy ended with a local couple on an evening stroll inviting us to finish our epicurean experience with bottles from their personal cellar in the village down the road. They wanted to practice their English in anticipation of a trip they had planned to visit the United States in the coming months, and we wanted to practice drinking good wine in adorable French villages. A real win-win. The memories of the ancient grape vines, the sunset over the French country side, the spread of pate’ & cheese along vivacious Jean Pierre and Marie are stored tight in the minds of the entire group. Memories made possible by eating outside.
Which leads me to butter. It’s probably true that everything taste better when eaten outside. It is a solid truth that everything taste better with butter. Ha! Here is a great way to eat more butter and it bakes beautifully outside. So eat it outside, with a child and start making some good, real food memories that last a lifetime!