People who live on Anna Maria Island have more occasions than most to pack up some food to go. One of the most obvious and appealing reasons to pack a picnic is to take it to the beach. Whether it’s to eat at one of the picnic tables at island beach parks, or to enjoy on a blanket under an umbrella, there is nothing more pleasant that eating at the beach.
Several times we have spontaneously thrown our supper into a large tote bag, and driven to Bay Front Park to eat at a table. Last year, this was where we enjoyed Christmas dinner, followed by a long, leisurely walk around the top of the island. Once, on New Year’s Day, we took a small brunch to the beach and enjoyed it on a park bench. Part way into the meal, an elderly man wandered over and asked if he could join us. The three of us sat side-by-side on the bench staring at the Gulf. We offered him a cookie, which he accepted.
Another island activity that often calls for packing a picnic is boating. Whether it’s sandwiches, or supper, there’s nothing as pleasant as eating a nice meal on the water, especially if the weather is pleasant. And if the weather isn’t pleasant, good food might be even more of a welcomed addition to the day. One day last summer we were sailing in Tampa Bay and the afternoon storms were worse than expected. We lowered the anchor and heaved to. As we sat below wincing at the lightning strikes, I was glad that I could offer some good food to help pass the time and distract us. We enjoyed Cuban and turkey sandwiches, watermelon, mango, grapes and brownies. If it had turned out to be our very last meal, at least it would have been a good one.
Speaking of bad weather, another occasion on which food is packed up and taken is that of hurricane evacuation. It’s important to have instant food and water available on the road or at a shelter. Even if one stays home, the situation can become more like camping, as power and water service is lost. The bin of supplies is worth having prepared with careful thought.
The geology of an island tends to nurture a sense of community. Especially in a warm climate, islanders tend to be outside a lot and to know each other well. For this reason, when hardship strikes an island resident, it is common for friends and neighbors to offer support. Often this is through gifts of meals. One time we were pleased to participate in a very organized plan, in which were to take a family a full dinner on a particular day. Other islanders were scheduled for other days. For several weeks, while an illness was being endured, the family could count on a stream of meals to help get them through the difficult time.
For whatever the reason, it’s quite easy to find or create a meal to go on Anna Maria Island. Many restaurants offer take-out food. And Publix is a convenient source of prepared foods that travel well.