The newest trend in picnic food seems to be nonpicnic food, but there's still much to be said for the good old-fashioned, picnic sandwich.
Not that there's anything wrong with an elegant outdoor picnic. And nonpicnic foods are often elegant since they can be almost any interesting dish, attractively and colorfully arranged, that can be carried to the picnic site.
But the diversity of the sandwich makes it the classic picnic food. And one of the best things that adds to its diversity is the wonderful variety of breads now available.
There are bagels and baguettes; Boston brown breads; crusty or soft buns and rolls with seeds of caraway, sesame, fennel, poppy; onion breads and herb breads. There are loaves of whole-grain pumpernickel and wheat. There is oatmeal bread and cornbread, as well as dozens of ethnic breads, including the handy pita bread with built-in pockets.
Sandwiches are not only convenient to carry and easy to eat, they're ideal picnic food because they can be made ahead of time.
But unlike other sandwiches, those for picnics must be especially refreshing and capable of being transported without deteriorating. Since they're eaten out of doors, where appetites and taste buds seem for some reason to be at their sharpest, picnic sandwiches should be especially tasty and well seasoned.
We can thank American ingenuity for the assortment of thermal boxes and ice chests that make it possible to carry all the picnic treats without fear of the food being soggy on arrival.
Remember to pack moist fillings, salad greens, and special foods in separate plastic bags or boxes to keep them well chilled and fresh until ready to be eaten.
Take along paper plates, napkins, knives, forks, and spoons, if needed -- as well as unbreakable glasses, salt and pepper shakers, and a bottle opener. Add a large knife, if one is needed to cut wedges of cake or long loaves -- and a thermal containerof ice, if needed for beverages.
Here are some new twists on classic sandwiches.
The still-popular peanut butter and jelly takes on a lively new dimension with what is fast becoming a standby, the addition of crisp bacon and sliced banana. Bacon and Banana Sandwiches 4 slices whole-wheat or firm, white bread 4 tablespoons crunchy peanut butter 4 to 6 strips bacon, crisply cooked and drained 2 small bananas 1 to 2 tablespoons fruit jelly
If desired, toast bread and let cool. Spread 2 slices with peanut butter and arrange bacon on top. Peel bananas and slice lengthwise, place on top of bacon. Spread your favorite fruit jelly on remaining 2 bread slices, and place jelly-side-down on bananas. Makes 2 servings. Curried Ham on Rye 1 3-ounce package cream cheese, softened 1 tablespoon mayonnaise 1/2 teaspoon each curry powder and Dijon mustard 2 drops hot pepper seasoning (optional) 2 tablespoons finely chopped sweet pickle 1/4 cup finely diced celery 1/4 cup chopped green onions 1 1/2 cups finely diced, cooked ham Salt and pepper Soft butter or margarine 8 slices dark rye bread
In small bowl beat together cream cheese, mayonnaise, curry powder, mustard, and hot pepper seasoning until smooth.
Add pickle, celery, onions, and ham and mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate at least an hour or overnight. Transport in a cooler. Assemble, wrap in plastic, and take to picnic spot, or butter bread ahead and add filling at picnic. Makes 4 servings.
On a hot summer's day when meats and heavy foods seem out of order, have a picnic of sandwiches made of fruit or nut bread and simple but good-tasting fillings, suggests Anita Borghese in ''The Great Sandwich Book'' (Rawson Associates Publishers Inc., 630 3rd Avenue, New York, N.Y. l0017. $7.95).
Breads can be made ahead of time and refrigerated, or prepared weeks ahead and kept in the freezer. Here are some of the Borghese fruit and nut bread recipes. Zippy Edam Sandwich Pecan bread or similiar bought bread Soft butter or margarine 1/4 cup grated Edam cheese, firmly packed 1 teaspoon lemon juice 1/4 teaspoon curry powder
Slice bread thinly and butter it. Combine Edam, lemon juice, and curry powder and use for filling. Close, cut in half, wrap individually in plastic wrap, and transport in thermal carrier or ice chest. Makes 1 sandwich. Ginger Pumpkin Sandwich Pumpkin Bread Soft butter or margarine 1 3-ounce package cream cheese 1 or more tablespoons milk or cream 1 teaspoon finely chopped crystallized ginger
Slice bread thinly and butter it. Cream the cream cheese and add enough milk or cream to make it spreadable. Mix in ginger. Spread as thickly as you like on bread. Close, cut in half, wrap individually in plastic wrap and transport in cool container. Peanut Butter Lemon Banana Bread Sandwich Banana Bread Soft butter or margarine Peanut butter Lemon or lime marmalade
Slice bread thinly and butter it. Make sandwiches, spreading bread first with peanut butter, then marmalade. Close sandwiches, cut in half, wrap individually in plastic wrap, and transport in cool container.