I have nothing against picnics, it is just that if you aren’t bringing a bologna sandwich and a bag of chips, what else is there? Not that there is anything wrong with a bologna sandwich, but when you are a cook–and your kid is inevitably going to invite other people who know you are a cook–if all you ever pack is a bologna sandwich, it starts to look suspicious. If I am feeling like the sun has burned a hole through the creative center of my brain, I break my food knowledge into basic regional groups to jar my memory back to life. From the south you could pack cold fried chicken, cornbread, a corn salad with onion, red bell pepper, cayenne, and lemon, and a black eyed pea salad with garlic, fresh parsley, bits of smoked ham, mixed with a long grain white rice simmered with a little olive oil, salt and a bay leaf. Dessert could be a three layer coconut cake or fresh peaches thrown a grill and doused with gran marnier.
From Greece, you could do a big Greek salad with cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, olives, red onion, feta and romaine, with stuffed grape leaves that you can buy from the deli, and sliced lamb from the night before wrapped in flat breads with a cucumber yogurt sauce and some chopped salad.
In Italy, I have seen them cut a dome shaped loaf of bread (usually a parmesan cheese bread) and slice it cross wise. Between each layer they spread mayonnaise and thinly sliced salami. Why not push the envelope; take a round loaf, cut it cross wise, and between each layer, squeeze in a little something different. For the first layer, thinly sliced chicken breast, fresh tomatoes, and dressed arugula, the next could be thinly sliced salami with provolone, chopped black olives and roasted red peppers, and the last could be a very thin omelette with a very thin layer of wilted spinach (squeezed well after cooking and dressed with olive oil), or sauteed zucchini, or even sauteed mushrooms. As you finish each layer, stick toothpicks all around the top, to keep everything together. Wrap it well in wax paper or foil, and make your final cuts into wedges when you get there. For dessert, scoop out the flesh of a watermelon with a melon baller, and then put all of the watermelon in its new cute form back into the rind with strawberries and blueberries.
Or you could always just pack a few bucks and buy whatever looks good when you get there.