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Eat Outside Day

It's the last day of August, and the end of summer is only three weeks away. That sounds like a good enough reason to have a day dedicated to eating outside. Eating outside, or eating alfresco, dates back to the middle ages, when hunters ate outside before beginning their excursions. Picnics, which have historically been eaten in pastoral settings, first became popular in the 18th century. The word "picnic" was first used in English in 1748, and picnicking in the parks of France became popular after the revolution of 1789. During the first major battle of the Civil War, the First Battle of Bull Run, picnickers who had come to watch the battle had to run back to Washington D.C., as the expected Union victory did not come to be. Picnicking gained in popularity in the 20th century, when public transportation and automobiles allowed people to more easily escape to bucolic surroundings. Barbecues, which often consist of cooking on grills in backyards, were another pastime that gained popularity in the 20th century.

Pleasure gardens were another venue where eating outside took place. A form of these public gardens existed in Ancient Rome, and many were opened in England in the 18th and 19th century. They also appeared in major cities in the United States in the 18th century, and had various attractions, including food. Usually light snacks were eaten, especially ice cream. A similar, but smaller type of outdoor venue for eating, was the tea garden. Following the Civil War, beer gardens became popular. They were based off German beer gardens, and flourished on the outskirts of town, until the prohibition era.

Around the turn of the 20th century, the first outdoor cafes opened in the United States. They were modeled after Parisian cafés, which had been in existence since the 17th century. Some rooftop restaurants also opened in larger cities in the United States around the same time. Another important popular outdoor attraction around the turn of the 20th century that featured food was Coney Island. Charles Feltman is credited with inventing the hot dog there, and he built a restaurant with outside seating, taking inspiration from pleasure gardens and the beer gardens of his homeland. He eventually built an outdoor dining area that was lined with maple trees and staffed with singing waiters. By the 1920's, the subway line reached Coney Island, and Feltman's business boomed. One of Feltman's workers, Nathan Handwerker, opened Nathan's Hot Dogs in 1916, and it still is in business at Coney Island today. And guess, what? They have outside seating!

How to Observe

Celebrate the day by eating outside! Have a picnic or a barbecue with your family or friends! Go to a restaurant that has outdoor seating. Maybe you even live close to one of the best outdoor dining restaurants in the country. If you find yourself in New York City, go to Nathan's!

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