Al Fresco Meals Across Time and Space

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Long after humans made living indoors commonplace we still carry the strong desire to commune with nature in one way or another. Whether through gardening or exploration, we crave being outdoors, and that often has meant bringing our meals with us.

The origin of the word “picnic” is unclear. It first appeared in an English dictionary in 1748, and it probably derived from the French pique-nique.

A 17th-century French pique-nique may have been what we now think of as a potluck. In the 18th century, its American counterpart may have been more like a salon gathering. By the 19th century, though, it had become common for Americans to hold these events outside.

National Geographic’s Becky Little has compiled this set of photos spanning both a century and the globe. Despite the diversity of locations – the foothills of Lijiang, China to the deserts of California and Iraq or the fields of Greece, Siberia or Romania – the picnic is a universal.

Tell us about your most memorable al fresco meal!

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