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This past winter seemed to linger on for far longer than it had should have.  Even as recently as early May, much of the country was experiencing frosts at night.  Planting had to be delayed and harvests are behind schedule in many areas.

Despite all of this, the end of the school year and onset of summer schedules are impossible to ignore.  Picnics in hand, we are drawn to beaches and parks in droves.

When stored in a high quality cooler, food can stay safely chilled for hours without condensation from ice or damage from dry ice.  Take the time to prepare the right amount of food for your meal.  Running out of food mid-meal is always discouraging, but having too many leftovers make cleaning up time consuming.

While on the topic of cleaning up, make sure to bring plenty of napkins and towels.  If you prefer disposables, foil wrapped wet napkins are very efficient for washing hands when not near running water.  Cloth napkins and damp washcloths in resealable bags are good for cleaning up without creating garbage.

Heavy duty plastic ware is only marginally more expensive than flimsy plastic and worth the extra expense.  Lightweight metal utensils are sturdier and are not substantially heavier.

Ideally, food should be prepared in advance so that it can be grilled or eaten directly out of the cooler with minimal work required on site.  Produce is easily packaged while cubed, cheese is generally available pre-sliced and meat should be cut into individual portions for ease of handling.

For a picnic, an Italian sandwich is filling, tasty and easily served.  This easy to prepare sandwich serves several people.

Purchase a fresh crusty ciabatta or Italian bread from a bakery.  Slice the top third of the loaf off and set aside.  Remove some of the bread from the center to make room for the fillings.  Spread pesto or aioli over all cut surfaces of the loaf.

Layer the fillings generously in the hollowed-out bread.  For meat choices, prosciutto is an Italian classic, as are salami and copocollo.

Vegetarian sandwiches are equally delicious with extra cheese in place of the meat.  After the meat is placed in the loaf, stack dry cheeses such as mozzarella cheese, provolone or even a thinly shaved pecorino.

The cheeses and meats can be followed with sweet or pickled roasted red pimento peppers, sliced olives, mesclun and thickly sliced ripe tomatoes.

Cracked black pepper, sea salt or kosher salt, balsamic vinegar and a fruity extra virgin olive oil will season the sandwich without overpowering the flavors of the meats and vegetables.

The loaf can be cut into individual portions and wrapped or the loaf can be wrapped whole and sliced when served.  Use brown paper or wax paper, then saran wrap for a double layer that protects the sandwich against moisture.

A light, bubbly wine cooler is a refreshing choice to go with Italian sandwiches.  If alcohol is not permitted, a spritzer from white grape juice and seltzer is also thirst quenching.  Don’t forget to bring cool water to drink, especially as the weather gets hotter.

Taking the time to prepare an attractive lunch is no more difficult than putting together bologna and mustard on sliced bread.  Making an Italian sandwich is a fun choice for a summer picnic.