“We didn’t want to feel lonely,” he said, gesturing to the crowd growing around him, “so we just kept inviting more and more people.”
Ms. Morales, 54, a party planner who makes custom decorations, knows the importance of advance work. She had cooked a big platter of macaroni with ground beef the night before, and woke up extra early to make her arroz con gandules, generously seasoned rice with pigeon peas. She picked up trays of grilled chicken ordered from a nearby restaurant and set all the food out family-style, nudging guests to remove the lids and help themselves as they arrived.
“I don’t bother serving everyone,” said Ms. Morales, who keeps her picnics casual, with no set eating time — an arrangement that works especially well for her grown children and their toddlers. “We don’t need to wait for everyone to eat, and we don’t need to all sit down at the same time. That’s the best part.”
Marnie Hanel is a journalist in Portland, Ore., who wrote the 2015 book “The Picnic: Recipes and Inspiration From Basket to Blanket” with Jen Stevenson and Andrea Slonecker.
“It’s a classic way to entertain,” Ms. Hanel said in a phone interview, “but it also addresses a lot of modern obstacles to entertaining.”
Ms. Hanel first embraced picnics when she lived in an apartment in New York City. “It’s no coincidence that’s where I started,” she said.
Like the Moraleses, and so many others in small apartments, Ms. Hanel didn’t have the luxury of private space, so she turned to the city’s public space.