Do Food Covers Remind You Of Childhood Summers?

The old-school favorite is back and trending.

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It’s summertime in the South, the eating (and living) is easy. While picnic goers, hikers, campers and sports fans are nibbling on food; bugs are too. My grandmothers had the perfect solution for perennial picnic pests: the outdoor food cover. The old-school favorite is back and trending, and it should be no surprise why—inexpensive and portable, an outdoor food cover is a tent solution that’s easy to use and brings back childhood memories.

I remember every detail of the outdoor food covers my grandmothers used, as much as familiar checked tablecloths and picnic baskets. As they sat out food, it was my task to unfold the covers and place them carefully over each offering. I loved placing them as much as putting a pastel umbrella in my Shirley Temple drink. Their covers were pastel-colored with ruffles like delicate summer lady parasols, but for potato salad and fried chicken. Instead of protecting against sunburn, outdoor food covers protect food and beverages from bugs, dust, and dirt.

I’ve seen modern versions of food covers at department stores but knew the trend was mainstream when I saw them next to plastic tablecloths at a dollar store. I tossed a few in my cart because of that nostalgic childhood feeling; but also as an adult, I now know about their functionality as much as their style. I know my grandmother didn’t spend very much on her food covers. As you explore outdoor food covers, look for the right size, functionality, and style pattern for your table.

I’m looking forward to using my outdoor food covers all summer to protect food and add a bright spot to the table in honor of my grandmothers.

What Is An Outdoor Food Cover?

An outdoor food cover is designed to place over your food on serving or individual plates and containers. The covers help to keep the food protected against bugs and pests like ants, wasps, and mosquitoes and from blowing away. While my grandmothers’ food covers were pastel mesh; today’s options come in many materials like wicker, bamboo, plastic, metal, mesh, polka dot, gingham, rattan, and abaca fiber like this one from Food52. They’re typically tent-shaped but also can be all kinds of shapes, rectangular, domed, or round. A more modern change to food covers is the ability to telescope them open. My grandmothers’ versions were designed to be sat over a plate or container and then removed for access, either temporarily or for the rest of the meal.

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Why We Love Food Covers

Outdoor food covers may have peaked originally at the same time as a lot of other kitchen cover-ups like electric burner covers and microwave food covers. But now those items are also back; I found them both in department and dollar stores too. Why do people love these in their kitchens and during meals? The simple answer: convenience and a hint of style. Whether you’re using covers to have less clean-up or less bugs, covering your food (inside or outdoors) makes sense. Outdoor food covers making a comeback plays into that functionality while winking at the past.

Why Use A Food Cover?

As a kid, my grandmothers brought out their food covers for picnics and other special meals we were eating outside, and occasionally inside when they left the screen door open. I’ve always thought food covers were for picnics and outdoor Easter dinners when it’s warm enough to eat outside on decks. Today’s food covers have expanded usages. Hikers and campers bring them along to shield their food on trails. Food covers have been spotted next to folding chairs at kid sporting events and outdoor concerts. Imagine an outdoor baby shower with pastel outdoor food covers to protect the meal. 

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There are many benefits to using an outdoor food cover inside and outdoors, such as:

  • Easy storage

  • Inexpensive

  • Minimal maintenance

  • Decorative—can add pops of color to a themed table.

  • Can help maintain the original food temperatures and keep dust or debris away from food.

  • Weighted food covers can help food stay put.

  • The biggest reason is perhaps the most obvious, especially in Southern states with enormous mosquitos: food covers can protect your food against bugs and flies.

Where To Buy Food Covers

The food covers I found at the dollar store are great for disposability. If you leave them at a park or a campground, there’s no big investment. For a romantic picnic or rustic outdoor wedding, you might want to splurge a little on food covers that match your theme or even get crafty with them. My grandmother had hers for years and it always signified it was outdoor dining time or a special occasion when she pulled them out.

Outdoor food covers come in all sizes. As you shop, consider if you’re going to use serving pieces or a charcuterie board, which may mean you need larger covers. You can also serve items under multiple food covers.

How To Care For Food Covers

We always look for functionality—if you’re using food covers outside, keep that in mind. Covers that can be wiped down or machine/dishwasher washed are always the easiest option. For quick prep, keep your clean outdoor food covers stored with your other picnic items and serving pieces.

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Read the original article on Southern Living.